Dusting it up with the Ayatollah

“A cloud appears above your head; A beam of light comes shining down on you, Shining down on you. The cloud is moving nearer still. Aurora Borealis comes in view; Aurora comes in view.” – Flock of Seagulls, I Ran

There seem to be storm clouds out there on the horizon; on multiple fronts. We’ve talked in the past about the impending collapse of the euro. Tonight, we move to Iran. Things are, umm, tense.

There’s history between Iran and the U.S. – and it’s not all pleasant. We won’t go all the way back to WWII and the Muslim Brotherhood’s sympathies for Hitler and Nazism. For most American’s the high point of tension (so far) with Iran is obviously the hostage crisis. They’ve spent many years backing various terrorist organizations (especially Hezbollah). We backed Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. The whole Shia/Sunni flail pits Iran against our main oil supplier – Saudi Arabia. Plus, we have always supported Israel; who current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to wipe off the face of the map.

Iran has been pushing quite clearly to develop nuclear weapons, most likely to bolster the existence of the regime in the face of international pressure to open up and improve human rights. Israel clearly can’t let this go unchecked. Sometimes when people say they want to kill you and all your people, you have to take them seriously. They’ve slowed things down a bit with clandestine work, but it seems as though things may go hot.

With this backdrop, the U.S. recently “lost” a top secret reconnaissance drone over Iran. We adamantly deny that it was shot down – but we don’t deny that they have it. They’ve actually posted pictures of the drone with little-to-no damage. This gives rise to the theory (I first saw it over at www.debka.com) that the Iranians stole it in a cyber attack and landed it in their own country. It’s an interesting theory to say the least.

Whether this has any veracity or not, it seems clear that the pace of things is picking up. This could have very serious implications for the U.S. and the world. The regime may lash out if attacked, and they have some power to do so. Further, they have the implicit backing of China, which gets much of its oil from Iran. They can possibly shut down the straights of Hormuz, causing serious shocks to world oil prices. Just to name a few issues.

So what should we do? (Whether “we” is the royal we, we the Christian folk, or we America.) Some thoughts …

First, I hold that the proper role of government is organized defense of individual liberties. This includes national defense. I am more than willing to accept broad-sweeping arguments about necessary actions for national defense. Note that I am not willing to accept any argument or any actions a president might undertake. But if a country is developing a nuclear weapon and you have reason to believe that they might use it against you, then you have ample rationale to take action. This holds even if the reason they are developing the weapon is in response to decades of bad foreign policy on the part of your own country.

On that front, I think there is plenty to disagree with about U.S. foreign policy. When we’re in countries, wars, and conflicts that don’t have anything plausible relation to national defense there will always be unintended consequences. Perhaps some of these are seen in the anti-american vitriol across much of the Muslim world.

With that, I’d like to take down some of the “false dichotomy” arguments of the neocon right. There is this notion running around right-wing circles that a policy which eschews foreign entanglements is tantamount to isolationism. This is crazy – especially for “conservatives”. That somehow America must either be the world’s policeman and enforcer of freedom and justice for every man (especially if they have oil in their country) or we must be isolationists. These cases are not exhaustive.

Further, to even intimate to these folks that American foreign policy has some impact on foreign response is tantamount to “blaming the victim”. Let’s pull that thread.

If a beautiful girl walks down the street naked in a bad part of town, the chances that she will be raped are higher than if she were fully clothed and locked in her apartment. If she is assaulted, it is not her fault. It is the fault of the assailant. No questions asked. However, it is also not an unrealistic or improper statement to simply note that she would have not been in such peril had she changed her course of action. It has to be the case that she can be simultaneously (i) not at fault and (ii) affected by her own actions.

The same holds true for nation states. It has to be the case that the U.S. can (i) not be to blame for terrorist attacks against itself and (ii) can possibly have stoked anger that led to said attacks with its foreign policy.

So what will happen?

I’m not sure, obviously. The common view of “isolationists” is that the best solution for Iran is an internal uprising to oust the regime. This is surely the best solution, but may not be reasonable. We certainly can’t wait forever. Besides, if the current administration had hoped to pursue this avenue, then surely they would have come out with support for the popular uprising in Iran only a few years back.

I doubt we’ll see an invasion, America really doesn’t have an interest in that now. We may see an Israeli attack, but hitting Iran will not be easy – especially hitting them in any way that either slows the nuclear advance or destabilizes the regime. Given that, we may see nothing much happen as the anti-Iranian sides limp along hoping for “sanctions” to make a difference. Whatever happens, the stakes are high, and serious people on all sides are working hard to manage the outcomes … at least we hope so.

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