Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Walrus and the Carpenter and Iran

Perhaps the most lamentable aspect of the Bush administration has been the opportunity cost of its misdirected, fist-first foreign policy. Bush and his Machiavellians blew the chance to unite the world behind America after the 9/11 attacks. Now, thanks to the Lewis Carroll class insanity of Dick Cheney, John Bolton and their flock of neoconservative clams, the United States is fumbling away a golden opportunity to turn Iran into a valuable ally.

Much is being made of Dafna Linzer's article in yesterday's Washington Post titled "U.N. Inspectors Dispute Iran Report By House Panel." The report came from the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Bush liegeman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan). According to Linzer, it "chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons."

The House Intelligence Committee report was written by a single author, a staffer named Fredrick Fleitz. Linzer describes Fleitz as having "a hard line position on Iran." That's not at all surprising considering that Fleitz is a former assistant to John Bolton, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and who played a key role in establishing the Bush administration's policy of rejecting direct talks with Iran.

It's obvious by now to anyone who isn't a card-carrying member of the autistic political right that Cheney and his chamberlains are trying to pull the same kind of intelligence bake sale on Iran that they pulled on Iraq. The neocon cabal's assertion that it somehow knows more about Iran's nuclear intentions than the CIA and the other U.S. intelligence agencies would be laughable if not for the fact that the Cheney-bots have already displayed an uncanny talent for selling air conditioners to Eskimos.

We don't know what Iran's real nuclear program intentions are. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei insist that their country has no interest in developing nuclear weapons. Dick Cheney and John Bolton insist that pursuit of weapons is the whole point of Iran's nuclear program. As far as we know, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei haven't lied to us yet, which is a megaton more than we can say for Cheney and Bolton.

Nonetheless, we would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran out of hand. But we'd be even more foolish not to see through the sleight of hand the big oilmen in and around the Bush administration are pulling to take our attention away from the real stakes in this game of Realpolitik.

Iran may benefit to some extent by possessing nuclear weapons, but owning a handful of big cahunas won't achieve their political aims. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, but it isn't a regional superpower and never will be. Iranian leadership understands that nuclear energy is the new coin of the global realm, and that if Iran can develop an independent, robust nuclear energy industry by the time the oil bubble bursts, it will be the king of the Middle East region for a long, long, long, long time. It may, if the cards fall right, even become an economic peer of the United States, the European Union, and China.

Reality Politics

The term "Realpolitik" was coined by 19th century German writer and politician Ludwig August von Rochau. In a nutshell, Realpolitik is a foreign policy model in which states maintain a realistic balance of power that allows them to pursue their individual national goals while maintaining a relatively peaceful world environment. At the other end of the foreign affairs spectrum is a philosophy often referred to as "ideology" (and sometimes called "fundamentalism" or even "fanaticism"). The ideology approach has historically led to militaristic nationalism and self-defeating use of armed conflict to pursue strategic aims (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo).

Realistic states thrive by attracting allies, isolating their enemies, and convincing everyone else to stand out of the way. Historically, ideology driven states have alienated allies, united their enemies, and made enemies of states that would otherwise have been happy to play a wallflower role.

American neoconservatism as practiced by the Bush administration is clearly a worst-case variation on the ideologue model. We've lost all our allies, united our enemies, and no one has to be convinced to step aside while we augur ourselves into oblivion. The rest of the world has sniffed the coffee, and it's wide-awake enough to see how oafishly America has squandered its hard earned status as sole superpower. The Unites States spends as much or more on armed force as rest of the world combined, yet our pathetic misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrate for all to see that military power is no longer an effective tool of foreign policy.

Iran's leadership at present practices a blend of the two political policy styles. It exploits fundamentalism as a means of consolidating domestic and regional support, and it pursues a realistic approach by playing larger powers against each other to its own advantage. Right now, Iran is forming a strategic energy partnership with Russia and China that threatens to elbow the U.S. out of the Middle East altogether.

If the neoconservatives took a sane, realistic approach to foreign policy, they'd be elbowing Russia and China out of the picture. They'd be sitting at the table in bi-lateral talks with Iran right now saying, "Hey look…"

"We appreciate what you hope to accomplish, and we know you need help from a big guy to accomplish it. Tell you what. You don't want any of that Chernobyl and China-boy crap. Ditch those Commie losers. You want the good stuff, and you can only get it from us--at least, in the quantities you need. So if you agree that we can look at every damn thing you're doing with nuclear power, then by golly, we'll help you become the biggest thing in your part of the world since Alexander the Great.

"However, comma, if you ever cross us up by trying to develop nuclear weapons under our nose, or try to use them on Israel or anybody else, we'll smoke your sorry rear ends like an El Producto and turn your sand lot of a country into the world's biggest solar panel."

That would be the sane, realistic and safe approach to take. Unfortunately, the yahooligans who run this country are neither sane nor realistic, and they sure as hell aren't safe.

In fact, the greatest dangers America faces are the hatters and hares in charge of it.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous10:19 AM

    This post is something I have been thinking about. Right now the US has a Sunni-centered foreign policy. Our chief large allies in the ME are Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    What would happen if we became more balanced and did something along the lines you suggest with Iran? The best way to win hearts & minds would be an infusion of American stuff into the hands of Iranians. Flood 'em with McLamb burgers, iPods, Lexus, all that consumer crap. I think over time, the people won't be able to help themselves to start speaking out against their true "leaders", the ayatollahs (not their president).

    I think at one point they did something like this by electing Khatami (sp?), who was a moderate by their standards. But the US axis of evil bluster made them rally to the defense of their fundamentalist leaders.

    The next 2 years will be decided by the next 2 months. If Dems manage to grow some balls and take over the house or senate, they can put a brake on the administration. Then maybe we can do some triage for the next two years. If repubs win, then all bets are off.

  2. You've made a good point about the axis of evil bluster. Fundamentalism begets fundamentalism. And fundamentalist leaders like nothing better than maintianing a relatively low level but endless war.