Monday, May 08, 2006

Balance of Power in the Next World Order

Not only is the Next World Order already here, we're already seeing a typical example of how power plays will be executed in it.

Last week, the New York Times carried a story by Nazila Fathi titled "Iran Threatens Retaliation if Attacked."

The main story concerns warnings by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran will respond "two fold" to an invasion of Iran. That's the scare noise that makes the story sell (and don't think Khamenei doesn't know that), but the more germane aspect of the Iran situation is at the bottom of Fahti's article.
Iran has been relying on the vote of two its economic allies, China and Russia, at the Security Council meeting, hoping they would use their veto power to stop any punitive measures against it.

Moscow has helped Iran build its first nuclear reactor in the southern city of Bushehr and Iran has extensive oil deals with China.

Earlier in the Next World Order series, we discussed the emerging multi-tiered matrix of major powers, balance powers, regional powers, wild cards, and others. As the Iran nuclear saga unfolds, we see a loose economic and energy coalition forming between a major power (China), a balance power (Russia) and a wild card seeking to achieve the status of a regional power (Iran). Russia stands to profit by assisting Iran in develop its nuclear program. The more Iran can draw on nuclear power as a source of energy, the more it has to sell to China, a nation aggressively developing its industrial and infrastructure base. Russia and China already have a dozen or so other dope deals going on on the side, including a mutual dislike of the idea of the United States dictating terms to the rest of the world on every issue under the sun.

On the other side of the fence we have the declining hegemon (U.S.) that has alienated it's traditional allies in the European Union. Even the prime minister of our traditional balance power friend England has informed Mister Bush that it will not support any military strike on Iran.

Next World Diplomacy

We've thrown the diplomatic process on Iran into the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China hold all the high cards. All they have to do is say "no." And how are convincing them to play along with us? Vice President Dick Cheney accuses Russia of being a "bully" and young Mister Bush blames China for the spike in oil prices.

And who's our man in the UN we're relying on to smooth all the bruised feelings and broker a bargain? John Bolton. Calling Bolton a "diplomat" is like calling a Doberman a lap dog.

But say, by some miracle, the U.S. manages to convince China and Russia to vote for sanctions against Iran. Iran's already ahead of that contingency: they'll just drop out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Teaty. The treaty contains a provision for signatories to withdraw by giving the UN and other treaty members three months notice.

Then what do we do? North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003, and admitted up front that they had developed nuclear weapons. Iraq still insists that it has no interest in having nuclear weapons. We've promised North Korea we won't attack them. How do we justify keeping an attack of Iran on the table?

The Bush administration could pull the Israel card, citing Iran's bellicose rhetoric regarding the Jewish state. But Iran's threats against Israel are pure trash talk. Nearly a thousand miles separate Tehran and Tel Aviv. Iran is not capable of effectively projecting conventional sea, air or land power that far. There's no conclusive evidence that Iran's new Shabat 3 ballistic missile actually works, or if it does, that it can reach or accurately target Israel. But even if it can hit a target in Israel, what kind of warhead would it carry? An envelope full of anthrax? That will do less harm than a car bomb would. Even if Iran actually is pursuing a nuclear weapon, it won't have one for many years, and if it ever does manufacture one, the consequences of using one on Israel would be devastating.

(And don't buy the nonsense that says Iran's leadership is crazy. They're crazy like North Korea's Kim Jong Il is crazy--like a fox.)

Next World Congitive Dissonance

The greatest failing of the neoconservative philosophy is that we've become so reliant on armed force as our primary tool of foreign policy we're nearly incapable of competently employing diplomatic and economic leverage. And as our expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrated, military action has become a profoundly counter-effective means of conducting policy. Every time we pull the trigger, we shoot ourselves in the foot.

One hopes that the Bush administration has at long last learned the fallacies of its core ideology. But those hopes could well be in vain. We're already hearing the same kinds of rhetoric from the White House that we heard during the run up to the Iraq. Calling Iran our biggest challenge. Comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler. (Remember when Saddam Hussein was Hitler?) Drawing conclusions about Iran's intentions based on negative proof (they're not telling us everything, therefore they must be developing nuclear weapons.)

We're also hearing about hoping to solve the problem through diplomatic efforts through the UN. But as we've discussed, the odds of those efforts are stacked on the side of probable failure.

If they fail, the Bush administration can say, "we tried the diplomatic route," and blame the UN because diplomacy didn't work. That will be a hard position to sell, though, considering that President Ahmadinejad has now sent Mister Bush a letter thought to be an overture for direct Iran-U.S. diplomatic talks.

We'll see what happens, but if the administration is as hell bent for leather to pull the trigger on Iran as they were on Iraq, they're going to pull that trigger. If they do, lamentably, this time, they'll shoot off something far more precious than a toe.

And it may be that end of American neoconservatism will not end with another Watergate, but another Waterloo.

Not with a whimper, but with a bang.


The Next World Order Series

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

Part VI: Body Count

Part VII: Order in the Next World Order

Part VII; The Cost of War and Peace in the Next World Order


  1. They already did shoot off something more precious than a toe: Valerie Plame

  2. We have yet to see how precious she turns out to be. I'm not going to get excited about the Karl Rove business until Fitz actually does something.

  3. That was my point, she didn't get to do her job.

  4. My late uncle, avid poker player, retired Air Force, lamented U.S.-Soviet relations back in the 1970s: "Hell, they could take us without firin' a shot! They know we won't fight a nuclear war, and now we can't fight a conventional war, not anymore...!"

    But I'm sure he'd never dreamed it would come to this state of affairs.

  5. I'd update your uncle's admonition to this: "we can fight a conventional war, but nobody wants to fight one with us."

  6. Uncle Clarence studied some WWII history with regard to the Russians vs. the Germans (how little credit the Russians get in America for their role in Germany's defeat), too. He liked to be contrarian with gung-ho patriotic flag-wavers by pointing out those troublesome facts.

    Oh, and I left out avid quail hunter. I'd love to have heard his opinion on the Cheney "hunting" incident.

  7. Yeah, they kept Hitler occupied and attrited his forces while the other Allies gathered strength for the invasion of Europe.

  8. Uhm, the Soviets accounted for over 3/4ths of German casualties. That is no "minor" role. The later invasions were basically a mop-up operation. Once the Soviets cut off most of Germany's strategic supplies (especially *OIL* when they recaptured the Romanian oil fields in late 1944), Germany basically was out of gas -- literally. If Operation Overlord had failed, the result would have been the same insofar as the Nazi empire goes -- it was on the verge of collapse anyhow -- the only difference would have been that all of Europe, rather than just the eastern part, would have ended up under Soviet control and had Communism imposed on it.

    -Badtux the History Penguin