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Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

When I heard the events in Iran were the “Green Revolution,” I was very skeptical. Green is the color of political Islam. It’s the dominant color on the flag of Saudi Arabia and the headbands of Hezzbollah. It’s bad enough these color revolutions are supposed to capture our imagination without occasioning much in the way of inquiry. But a green one in Iran?!?

I’m glad I’m not alone. Abbas Barzegar notes that Ajad probably won the election, and mass demonstrations have been had by both sides. In other words, don’t believe the hype.

Diana West shares my view that Mousavi’s tenure as Iran’ prime minister in the 1980s were not exactly the country’s salad days, particularly from the perspective of the US. I know, I know. It’s democracy! It’s people power! What’s 241 Marines killed in Lebanon when we’re talking about people with faux hawks using Twitter!!! West reports to great effect that in the recent presidential debate in Iran–a first–the supposedly great guy Mousavi faulted Ajad for not executing the British sailors that supposedly drifted into Iranian waters. Be careful what you wish for.

Richard Spencer over at Takimag.com notes that the neoconservatives’ romantic passion for democratic revolution is totally immune to facts and recent events in Iraq among others. It’s a very adolescent and distinctly unconservative impulse that gets carried away by street demonstrations and does not consider what in fact is being sought. Burke’s central and important insight was that change can make things even worse in what is presently a bad regime. Consider the demonic French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the pointless street violence in France every generation or so. This situation is particularly galling because no matter who wins, this is a stolen election because the Islamic authorities must preapprove parties and candidates to even run in Iran.

The whole event, particularly the credulous western response, is surreal. It’s a sign of the way Bush has corrupted conservatism that so many self-described conservatives now think that democracy in the Third World is the be all end all without regard to the content of the leadership or the nature of their claims to legitimacy. It’s as if we’re getting excited by some election in the Soviet Union as a watersheld, where minor issues of emphasis and personality were the only real objects of debate, and such elections (even if hotly disputed) were effectively meaningless.

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There is a ritual every few years–it was Ukraine first, then Lebanon, then Georgia–where the stirrings of a mass movement in some Third World dump reminds the neocon right of the moral clarity of the Cold War, where nationalists and popular movements such as Poland’s Solidarity were brutally supressed by communist regimes and their security apparatus. In those times, the moral example of the defiant people remained an inspiration to us all and a reminder of the indefatigable human spirit. Today we’re supposed to be seeing that in Iran.

I can’t get too pumped about what’s going on in Iran. Perhaps on balance Mousavi would be better for the United States and the Iranian people. It’s hard to say. But lots of angry people in the streets does not mean he’s a great guy with a great plan to support a more liberal and decent regime in Iran. Muqtadr al Sadr used to get the crowds out too. Indeed, so did Khomenei. It’s just as likely, considering the people and history involved, Mousavi would spend much of his energy oppressing his erstwhile oppressors if elected. This is the way politics runs in the Third World.

We are talking about an Islamic poltical party in an Islamic state. Almost no one talks about how Mousavi ran the show in Iran in the 1980s as Prime Minister when Iran was America’s mortal enemy, and his track record then–when Iran was supporting kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon and attacks on US ships in the Gulf–is chiefly why the Iranians like him. Why should we think his vague anti-corruption platform means we’ll have a friendly regime there? Why do neocons lose their judgment every time some “color revolution” comes down the pike?

I view events in Iran no so differently from the elections in Iraq. Even though the elections were fairly run in Iraq (which may not have happened in Iran, but I can’t be sure unlike so many breathless commentators), nearly everyone voted for sectarian parties in Iraq and also in Iran. It’s Saddam vs. Sadr vs. Badr kind of stuff. There’s no reason to get too pumped about who wins in these kinds of elections, because the problem in Iran and Iraq too is not the elections or the lack of them. The problem is the underlying anti-modern, anti-liberal, pro-sharia viewpoint of the electorate that is rooted in the dominant understanding of Islam itself. I don’t see anything Mousavi or any other Iranian politician has said that will reverse that fundamental aspect of Iranian society.

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The War Nerd has a good column (as always) about how the Navy’s commitment to big budgets and unlikely conventional wars leaves our forces vulnerable to low-tech attackers in speed boats. This is familiar territory; it’s how the Spanish Armada was routed, and it was the means by which the USS Cole was successfully attacked. It’s the same thinking that led our Army to develop Crusader artillery pieces for billions, while it neglected the light infantry and civil affairs units necessary for occupying Iraq.

He writes:

See, the Navy brass always plans for a neat, clean hi-tech war. Their real investment isn’t the Phalanx or Aegis but the operations rooms deep in the hulls where flabby desk jockeys just like me sit at little screens. Those screens are supposed to show a few dots, nice fair-fighting Soviet surface ships and subs. That’s how the Navy wants to play the game. Seeing their beautiful screens clogged up by a bunch of goddamn cheap speedboats full of Revolutionary Guards, not to mention hundreds of “boxes” that might turn out to be mines, ruins everything.

You might wonder, if you were real, real naive, why the Navy hasn’t tried to learn from what van Ripen did to them six years ago in the same waters. Well, the truth is that no big, well-funded armed service learns or changes until it absolutely has to, which usually means when it starts to lose a war. And of all services, navies are by far the most stubborn, old-fashioned, snobby, retarded of all. I don’t mean the submarine force, which is pretty much God. I mean the brass in their ridiculous floating targets, aka carriers, frigates, tankers and other dive-sites-in-the-making.

Rumsfeld intoned that “you go to war with the Army you have.” But the time for redevelopment of the military based on likely threats is now. There’s nothing wrong with aircraft carriers, but the future wars will likely remain low tech, unconventional, messy, and require large numbers of troops duking it out, since we don’t have the stomach to leverage our air power to massacre civilians in order to get the enemy to comply. Consider the conflicts since Vietnam: Grenada, Somalia, Panama, and now Iraq. These wars do not require high tech, so much as wily troops grounded in operationally training geared to low intensity conflict.

From Iraq to Iran and China too, everyone has learned there’s no good reason to take on U.S. forces head on. Rather, our enemies aim to achieve parity by sucking us into morally and tactically confused environments, where combatants wear civilian clothes and try to provoke massacres. This technique has remained the best way to defeat technologically sophisticated first world powers since WWII. It worked in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Kenya, in Indonesia, and in South Africa. The jury is out in Iraq, but the only reason things are turning out is because the “good guys” consist of disaffected factions of former terrorists, former sheiks and their henchman fighting irregulars in the same irregular way to which they are accustomed.

World War II isn’t going to happen again. Everyone knows they’ll lose that game against the United States, which spends more than Russia and China combined on defense. Since no one wants to lose to us, our potential enemies worldwide are learning from the playbook of the Viet Cong and the Iraqi resistance. The out-of-touch would-be defense contractor managers at the Pentagon, however, are only learning how to mouth the right phrases of transformation, even as they develop F-22 fighters and plan for digital battlefields. Real improvement will only come from the development of the human skills of the war-fighter: language skills, tactical intelligence gathering, cultural awareness, civil affairs skills, and small unit independence. Of course, these kinds of skills don’t lead to six figure jobs at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

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The NIE reported this week that Iran had ceased its nuclear weapons programs in 2003. Many commenters, and most of the participants in the Democratic debate, took this as proof positive of Bush’s bad faith. That may well be true, but consider the timing. As I recall, something rather controversial happened in 2003, and one of its stated aims was to impress would be terrorist-supporting, WMD-pursuing neighbors of Iraq to stand down. I’m just sayin’.

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I wasn’t as upset over this Ahmadinejad business as some others. I believe in the principle of free debate and think there is some value in this dangerous man’s exposure to frank questioning. On the other hand, I think there are people who should be excluded from free discussion, not least because they reject the principle of free discussion, are ineducable, are dishonest, are aligned with our enemies, or are actual enemies who will benefit from the opportunity to disrespect the United States. Consider Kruschev’s American tour, where he announced he would surpass us. Not a good thing. On balance, I would not have invited him to Columbia if I were Dean Bollinger, but I don’t think the Dean’s decision was indefensible.

I think it’s weird, though, once you extend an invitation to someone and then receive pressure for that decision, that you react as cravenly as Dean Bollinger, who berated Ahmadinejad in front of the audience and made himself (the dean) look like a bad host and an opportunist. Among the ancients, inhospitality was considered one of the worst crimes and rightly so. In this instance, it had the unfortunate effect of making the slippery Ahmadinejad appear to be the victim, when instead his stupid words should have been allowed to speak for themselves after a formal, though civil, introduction.

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