Thursday, April 13, 2006

Of Lunatics and Nukes

Iran has been occupying my thoughts a lot lately. Lunatic leader, nuclear ambitions, sponsor of terror…..there’s quite a bit not to like about these guys. The truth, if you really want to know it, is that I’m still a little pissed about the whole hostage thing too. I was and continue to be a big fan of R squared, but one of his few mistakes was that he never made Iran pay for what they did, and in the Middle East letting your enemies get away with transgressions is a big deal.

At least as a partial result we are now treated daily to yet another lunatic Iranian leader making boastful proclamations about his countries coming eminence and other even less rational thoughts. Well good for him and his wretched people I suppose, but the whole thing is begging for a solution from my point of view.

As the world’s pre-eminent power the United States once again finds itself between a rock and a hard place. I have to say I’m really beginning to miss the old days when we had the Soviet Union to kick around. I mean ok, yes they were evil, but man those Ruskies sure could put the fear of death (or at least communism) into people. This had the beneficial affect of keeping our cowardly allies in line, and limited the appeal of the American left to only the most fevered of our populace.

The result, of course, was that when we needed to take action against some uppity back water dictator, our allies if not actually engaged in the action, at least didn’t fight us. Sadly, those days are over and times are significantly changed.

The odd thing for me is how different this uni-polar world is from what I expected it to be. At the height of the cold war, While I never fully expected that when we won the world would come together like that old Coke commercial and “sing in perfect harmony”, I did believe that there would be much more alignment in interests. Admittedly this was a bit naïve, but I still think that there was good reason to believe that such a world was possible; it was in everyone’s interest from an economics and business point of view.

As we now know this was wrong, and the world we live in is quite different. Our “allies” and I use the term loosely, are not generally supportive of the U.S. and in many cases actively undermine our agenda. My lefty friends blame the Bushies, but this is just as naïve as my harmonic vision. Our allies view the world as a zero sum game in which every U.S. gain is another loss for them, this is an extraordinarily wrong point of view but the tend to hold it with a death grip. There are exceptions, the most notable one being England, but for the most part this zero sum belief is the single greatest motivating factor behind our allies’ lack of support.

We see the result of all this in the games we’re now playing with Iran. It’s almost sad really, because there is very little that we can do. Iran knows full well that we really do not want to take action against them and incur the cost in lives and treasure that an attack would require. Our allies are happy to leave the job to us, because they know that if push comes to shove we will take action and incur all the cost while they reap the rewards, with the added benefit of getting to complain about our “unilateralism” on top of it all. So we’re kind of stuck.

There is good news though and it is this. Unless I’m way off here, there is no way in the world that Iran, or any other Middle Eastern society is capable of producing nuclear weapons. The process for enriching uranium, assembling the weapons and deploying them without blowing the country up is simply beyond the reach of their scientific and manufacturing know how. Think about it, these are countries that by and large need help getting oil out of the ground. Develop nuclear weapons? I don’t think so.

The truth is Saddam was terror’s last, best chance for developing a real live nuclear bomb and thanks to the U.S. that threat has been largely eliminated. I suppose Iran could assemble a dirty bomb, but could any number of groups out there, sovereigns or otherwise, and there is really very little we can do to stop it, except through counter-terrorist operations.

With that said then, I’m not sure that it makes sense for us to pay much attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. By all means we should let the U.N. and Europeans negotiate till the cows come home, but most of this saber rattling that we’re doing is, in my view, counter productive. We’re not going to attack, and Iran isn’t going to blow up anything more than a decent portion of their own populace.

Which isn’t to say that we should completely ignore them. What we should be doing is following a campaign with four basic thrusts:

First we need to control and stop, to the extent that we can, terrorism being exported from Iran into Iraq. While it’s painfully clear that we are not very good at sealing borders, we do need to make sure that Iran is aware that there is a cost to fomenting trouble in Iraq. This work should take the form of commando attacks against the country such as I outlined here(well I outlined it somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can find it!). Reagan made the mistake of letting Iran off the hook a generation ago, and we are now repeating it.

Secondly we need to be infiltrating the country and working with opposition groups to organize civil disorder against the regime. Given the pathetic state of our CIA, this may be unrealistic, but these guys have got to start earning their keep and I can’t think of a better cause.

Third, we need to ensure that any terror coming out of Iran does not strike within American or English borders. Unfortunately, we can’t cover the world so this probably will leave Europe exposed. Good thing they’ll be negotiating!

Finally, we need a contingency plan for securing Iran’s oil fields. As I outlined in this post, Iran’s fields are geographically isolated into a relatively small portion of the country with the happy coincidence of being near Iraq. Should Iran suddenly be in a position, willingly or otherwise, to not produce oil for the world market we must be in a position to move in and pump the oil ourselves.

So there you go. Another day, another of the world’s problems solved. I’ve got to go walk the dog now.

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