January 11, 2007

The Foreigner’s Gift

I’m still writing The Siege of Ain Ebel. And Iraq is back in the news.

I don’t have anything brilliant, original, or even interesting to say about the Bush’s Administration’s controversial “surge” in and around Baghdad. I am, however, reading a brilliant, original, and interesting book.

Fouad Ajami made himself slightly famous when he published The Dream Palace of the Arabs. (His older book Beirut: City of Regrets is also quite excellent.)

His newest book, The Foreigner's Gift, was released last summer by the Free Press. It is about, as he puts it, the Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq.

Ajami is a Shia from South Lebanon, and he is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He is of and from the Arab world. He is also an American. Lebanon acts as a sort of bridge between the Eastern world and the West. So does Fouad Ajami. He writes as both an insider and an outsider, so to speak. Or, perhaps I should say, he writes from inside America and from inside the Arab world simultaneously. He sees things in Iraq that most Americans do not and cannot, and he dedicates an entire chapter to what he calls “The Liberator’s Bewilderment.”

I have only read the first third or so of this book. So rather than vouch for it per se, I will publish an excerpt from the beginning. You can decide if you would like to read the rest.
Those nineteen young Arabs who assaulted America on the morning of 9/11 had come into their own after the disappointments of modern Arab history. They were not exactly traditional men: they were the issue, the children, of disappointment and of the tearing asunder of modern Arab history. They were city people, newly urbanized, half educated. They had filled the faith with their anxieties and a belligerent piety. They hated the West but were drawn to its magnetic force and felt the power of its attraction; they sharpened their "tradition," but it could no longer contain their lives or truly answer their needs. I had set out to write a long narrative of these pitiless young men -- and the culture that had given rise to them. But the Iraq war, "embedded" in this cruel history, was to overtake the writing I was doing.

A war fated and "written," maktoob, as the Arabs would say, this Iraq war turned out to be. For the full length of a decade, in the 1990s, the anti-American subversion -- and the incitement feeding it -- knew no respite. Appeasement had not worked. The "moderns," with Bill Clinton as their standard-bearer, had been sure we would be delivered by the marketplace and the spread of the World Wide Web. History had mocked them, and us all. In Kabul, and then in Baghdad, America had taken up sword against these troubles.

"The justice of a cause is not a promise of its success," Leon Wieseltier wrote in the pages of The New Republic, in a reassessment of the Iraq war. For growing numbers of Americans, the prospects for "success" in Iraq look uncertain at best. Before success, though, some words about the justice of this war. Let me be forthright about the view that runs through these pages. For me this was a legitimate and, at the beginning, a popular war that issued out of a deep American frustration with the "road rage" of the Arab world and with the culture of terrorism that had put down roots in Arab lands. It was not an isolated band of misguided young men who came America's way on 9/11. They emerged out of the Arab world's dominant culture and malignancies. There were the financiers who subsidized the terrorism. There were the intellectuals who winked at the terrorism and justified it. There were the preachers -- from Arabia to Amsterdam and Finsbury Park -- who gave it religious sanction and cover. And there were the Arab rulers whose authoritarian orders produced the terrorism and who looked away from it so long as it targeted foreign shores.

Afghanistan was the setting for the first battle against Arab radicalism. That desperate, impoverished land had been hijacked, rented if you will, by the Arab jihadists and their masters and financiers. Iraq followed: America wanted to get closer to the source of the troubles in the Arab world. It wasn't democracy that was at stake in Iraq. It was something more limited but important and achievable in its own way: a state less lethal to its own people and to the lands and peoples around it. Iraq's political culture had been poisoned by a crude theory of race and a racialist Arabism that had wrecked and unsettled Arab and Muslim life in the 1980s and 1990s. The Tikriti rulers had ignited a Sunni-Shia war within and over Islam. They had given Arabs a cruel view of history -- iron and fire and bigotry. They had, for all practical purposes, cut off the Arab world from the possibility of a decent, modern life.

It is easy to say that the expedition in Iraq is the product of American innocence. And it is easy to see that the American regent, L. Paul Bremer, didn't find his way to the deep recesses of Iraqi culture. Sure enough, it has proven virtually impossible to convince the people of Fallujah to take to more peaceful ways. It is painfully obvious that at the Abu Ghraib prison some of America's soldiers and military police and reservists broke the codes of war and of military justice. But there can be no doubting the nobility of the effort, for Abu Ghraib isn't the U.S. war. With support for the war hanging in the balance, Abu Ghraib has been an unmitigated disaster. But for all the terribleness of Abu Ghraib and its stain, this war has not been some "rogue operation" willed by the White House and by the Department of Defense. It isn't Paul Wolfowitz's war. It has been a war waged with congressional authorization and fought in the shadow of a terrible calamity visited upon America on 9/11. Sure enough, the United States didn't have the support of Kofi Annan or of Jacques Chirac. But Americans can be forgiven a touch of raw pride: the American rescue of Bosnia, in 1995, didn't have the approval of Boutros Boutros-Ghali (or of the head of his peacekeeping operations at the time, the same Kofi Annan) or of François Mitterrand either.

My sense of Iraq, and of the U.S. expedition, is indelibly marked by the images and thoughts that came to me on six trips that I made to that country in the aftermath of the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein. A sense of America's power alternated with thoughts of its solitude and isolation in an alien world. The armies and machines -- and earnestness -- of a great foreign power against the background of a big, impenetrable region: America could awe the people of the Arab-Muslim world, and that region could outwit and outwait American power. The foreign power could repair the infrastructure of Iraq, and the insurgents could wreck it. America could "stand up" and train civil defense and police units, and they could disappear just when needed. In its desire to redeem its work, America could entertain for Iraqis hopes of a decent political culture, and the enemies of this project could fall back on a bigotry sharpened for combat and intolerance. Beyond the prison of the old despotism, the Iraqis have found the hazards and uncertainties -- and promise -- of freedom. An old order of dominion and primacy was shattered in Iraq. The rage against this American war, in Iraq itself and in the wider Arab world, was the anger of a culture that America had given power to the Shia stepchildren of the Arab world -- and to the Kurds. This proud sense of violation stretched from the embittered towns of the Sunni Triangle in western Iraq to the chat rooms of Arabia and to jihadists as far away from Iraq as North Africa and the Muslim enclaves of Western Europe.

In the way of people familiar with modern canons of expression -- of things that can and cannot be said -- the Arab elites were not about to own up in public to the real source of their animus toward this American project. The great Arab silence that greeted the terrors inflicted on Iraq by the brigades of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi gave away the wider Arab unease with the rise of the Shia in Iraq. For nearly three years, that Jordanian-born terrorist brought death and ruin to Iraq. There was barely concealed admiration for him in his native land and in Arab countries beyond. Jordan, in particular, showed remarkable sympathy for deeds of terror masquerading as Islamic acts. In one Pew survey, in the summer of 2005, 57 percent of Jordanians expressed support for suicide bombings and attacks on civilians. It was only when the chickens came home to roost and Zarqawi's pitiless warriors struck three hotels in Amman on November 9, 2005, killing sixty people, that Jordanians drew back in horror. In one survey, conducted a week after these attacks by a public opinion firm, Ipsos Jordan, 94 percent of the people surveyed now said that Al Qaeda's activities were detrimental to the interests of Arabs and Muslims; nearly three out of four Jordanians said that they had not expected "at all" such terrorist attacks in Jordan. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's own tribe now disowned him and broke ties with him. He had "shamed" them at home and placed in jeopardy their access to the state and its patronage. But even as they mourned their loss, the old habits persisted. "Zionist terror in Palestine = American terror in Iraq = Terror in Amman," read a banner held aloft by the leaders of the Engineers' Syndicate of Jordan who had come together to protest the hotel bombings. A country with this kind of political culture is in need of repair; the bureaucratic-military elite who run this realm have their work cut out for them. The Iraqi Shia were staking a claim to their country in the face of a stubborn Arab refusal to admit the sectarian bias at the heart of modern Arab life.

It would have been heady and right had Iraqis brought about their own liberty, had they demolished the prisons and the statues on their own. And it would have been easier and more comforting had America not redeemed their liberty with such heartbreaking American losses. There might have been greater American support for the war had the Iraqis not been too proud to admit that they needed the stranger's gift and had the United States come to a decent relationship with them. But the harvest of the war has been what it has been. In Kurdistan, Anglo-American power has provided protection to a people who have made good use of this new order. There is no excessive or contrived religious zeal in Kurdistan, and the nationalism that blows there seems free of chauvinism and delirium. There's a fight for the city of Kirkuk, where the Kurds will have to show greater restraint in the face of competing claims by the Turkomans, and by the Arabs who were pushed into Kirkuk by the old regime. But on balance Kurdistan shows that terrible histories can be remade. In the rest of the country, America rolled history's dice. There is a view that sees Shia theocracy stalking this new Iraq, but this view, as these pages will make clear, is not mine. Iraq may not provide the Pax Americana with a base of power in the Persian Gulf that some architects and proponents of the war hoped for. America can live without that strategic gain. It is the Iraqis who will need the saving graces of moderate politics.
Read the whole thing.

I'll be back with more from South Lebanon shortly.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 12:24 AM
Comments

Fuad was the one of those who told Bush that Iraqis will receive American troops with flowers. Questioning his knowledge of the region.

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 04:39 AM

Michael,
Please go back to main subject: Lebanon!

Posted by: GK at January 11, 2007 05:23 AM

"It wasn't democracy that was at stake in Iraq. It was something more limited but important and achievable in its own way: a state less lethal to its own people and to the lands and peoples around it." And we accomplished that goal by April 2003. The President has never satisfactorily explained to us why are we still messing around in Iraq today. After Saddam was gone we should have withdrawn immediately and let the Iraqis sort out their own affairs. The millions of Americans who initially supported the war and now want to leave are not "defeatists", as far we're concerned America won - three years ago. Bush has now spent 4 years trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of that victory.

Posted by: vanya at January 11, 2007 05:31 AM

He writes as both an insider and an outsider, so to speak.

Yes, but does he speak Arabic? Everybody knows if you don't speak arabic you're just an ignorant hack and should shut up.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 06:03 AM

Fuad was the one of those who told Bush that Iraqis will receive American troops with flowers.

Most Iraqis did. It's your sunni buddies who didn't. And they are a small minority of Iraqis. They're only mad cause their Saddam gravy train is over and their scared the shiias will do to them what they did to the shiias for 30 years.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 06:10 AM

Thanks for that excerpt, I will definitely be looking that book up!

I've just discovered this site and have enjoyed reading about Lebanon. I will continue to read in the future so long as you're continuing to write. Thanks for the information.

~Matt

Posted by: Matt at January 11, 2007 06:15 AM

Most Iraqis did. It's your sunni buddies who didn't.

The Iraqi Shia do seem much happier with the way things have worked out, don't they? After all, the forces loyal to al Sadr are essentially running the government at this point, and seem likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, unless partition occurs.

While the posted excerpt from Ajami focuses on the justice of the war in Iraq, I myself am a bit more concerned with the outcome.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 07:40 AM

Carlos,
not resisting the occupation does not mean they were happy with it.

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 07:52 AM

Hey, Mike! You do what you want. You have rather good judgement and I for one appreciate your efforts. No one that I can find has published about the ME from the persepctive you have brought. As for Ajami: He is interesting and makes good points (in your excerpt); but he had a tendency to overwrite. As Jeffry Jones (as Joseph II) said to Tom Hulce (as Mozert): Too many notes.

While I can't tell from the short piece you printed here, it seems that Ajani focused on the collision between the Arab world and the West in recent times. Does he discuss the long, long history of Muslim attacks on the West (Barbery Pirates, but way predating that as well)? If so, what's new?

Posted by: Seymour Paine at January 11, 2007 08:21 AM

And since Sunnis are about %40 of the country, you cant say Iraqis welcomed them with flowers.

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 08:31 AM

And since Sunnis are about %40 of the country, you cant say Iraqis welcomed them with flowers.

I can understand why you'd try to inflate that number. But sunnis are only 35%. They are a minority in Iraq and withheld the flowers only because they were sad to see their sunni apartheid state dissapear. Now the fools are attacking U.S. troops-- their best hope against the shiaas they fear so much. Morons.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 08:46 AM

Motshakeram Carlos! Glad some Americans are now on board with the Shia! Hope to see your posts in support of Hizbullah and Iran as well.

Posted by: Mehrdad Razempour at January 11, 2007 08:57 AM

Yea, sunnies were the ones who mainly opposed the US, but it didn't take long for even the shia to turn against the US.

From pools i've seen 70% of the population supports attacks on US troops

Posted by: NM at January 11, 2007 08:58 AM

Glad some Americans are now on board with the Shia! Hope to see your posts in support of Hizbullah and Iran as well.

I have no problem with the shiaa. Though I do with Hezbollah and Iran. That's because I am able to distinguish between the three. You can't?

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 08:59 AM

"and withheld the flowers..."
Ok. This is what Fuad Ajami did not know. My original point.

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 09:02 AM

NM, any links to those polls showing %70 welcoming the invasion?

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 09:05 AM

Yea, sunnies were the ones who mainly opposed the US, but it didn't take long for even the shia to turn against the US.

NM,

it's one thing to oppose, and quite another to try to ignite civil war. Even though shiaas "turned" against the U.S., the violence against U.S. and government forces isn't coming from them. It's coming from the sunnis. They are the one's trying to ignite civil war.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 09:08 AM

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003410658

I was mistaken, seems it's 60% and not 70%, but in any case a majority nonetheless

Posted by: NM at January 11, 2007 09:24 AM

40 percent of Iraqis are Sunnis. But half of the Sunnis are Kurds.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 09:26 AM

CIA factbook: 32% - 37% of Iraqis are sunni.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 09:28 AM

Okay, perhaps there are fewer Sunnis than I thought.

Anyway, half the Sunnis are Kurds, and very nearly 100 percent of those are more pro-American than Americans.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 09:33 AM

Then we are talking about perhaps as little as 15% of Iraqis who did not extend flowers to the U.S. troops at liberation. The rest couldn't have been more thrilled.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 10:04 AM

Damn Michael, that excerpt is GOOD! I don't ordinarily comment but… I echo the accolades other readers bestow on you. That you're exposing us to treasures like Fouad Ajami does us a double good service. I hope my own work is an adequate reflection of the original light you shine. Truly inspiring!!

Posted by: Scott Moshen at January 11, 2007 10:05 AM

Then we are talking about perhaps as little as 15% of Iraqis who did not extend flowers to the U.S. troops at liberation. The rest couldn't have been more thrilled.

Sadr himself danced a little jig, I hear.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:11 AM

Sadr himself danced a little jig, I hear.

And when we go after Sadr, watch how he will become the new hero of the Left, just like Saddam. They tell me he died very bravely.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 10:28 AM

And when we go after Sadr...

You won't go after Sadr. And he's no hero of mine, nor will he be. He's a thug, and from all reports, a simpleton.

Both your statements are simple fantasy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:33 AM

I see you believe that there were a lot of flowers raining from everywhere except from Falluja and few other places..
Not all Shiites danced for the American troops. NM posted a poll saying 57% had a favorable view of the invasion at some time. Now 57% is not a vast majority. And now all Iraqis want the US out except of course the puppets.

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 10:33 AM

He's a thug, and from all reports, a simpleton.

DPU,

the Left canonizes all thugs who become American targets. Just you watch.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 10:35 AM

That's good, "Lebanon acts as a sort of bridge between the Eastern world and the West."

And just to the south Zionist Israel acts as Herzl's "rampart" of the Western world "against" the East.

Posted by: The Other Alan at January 11, 2007 10:37 AM

...the Left canonizes all thugs who become American targets.

There is as much accuracy in that as saying that the right idolizes all thugs who declare their fealty to America.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:39 AM

...besides, it's irrelevant. He won't become an American target.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:42 AM

There is as much accuracy in that as saying that the right idolizes all thugs who declare their fealty to America.

Not so far from the truth. Because to the Right, being pro-American covers a multitude of sins, while for the Left being anti-American covers a multitude of sins.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 10:47 AM

Alawna, in the journal Foreign Affairs Ajami also said:

"There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no "hearts and minds" to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favor to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq's oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power."

Posted by: Kevin at January 11, 2007 10:50 AM

And now all Iraqis want the US out except of course the puppets.

You mean they all want the civil war to deepen and the sectarian killing to fill mass grave after mass grave?

Fuck no.

Here's how it works, you ask most Iraqis if they want more American troups in their neighborhood and they'll say "Yes!" "Please!" "That the only thing that brings peace."

But the same people will tell you that they're "against the occupation"

They contradict themselves. The wish for peace comes from their personal sanity. The call to expel the infidel comes from the mosque, from pious hatred (you're required to hate and fight the infidel, God's enemy you know) - it comes from group think "we all say so"

In the middle east people may be sane and want peace and freedom, but they don't allow their sanity to rule. An illusion rules. A phantasm, a fiction of group will rules. It's not really the group's will, only democracy can determine actual group will, but everyone knows what is expected of them. Insane, self destroying, self humiliating, bigotted, and oppressive ... the communal face is the face of insanity. It's poison

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 10:51 AM

Not so far from the truth.

Only if one concentrates on the individuals with the arguments that are easiest to knock down. Nutpicking from the ideology on the other side is easy, but lazy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:53 AM

Here's how it works, you ask most Iraqis if they want more American troups in their neighborhood and they'll say...

I'm amazed by the easy familiarity that many here have with the mindset of most Iraqis.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:54 AM

I'm amazed by the easy familiarity that many here have with the mindset of most Iraqis.

Joshua summed it up quite well because the Iraqis are being polled on this. For one question they will respond no to occupation, and for another question they will say it's too early for U.S. to withdraw. They're schizoids.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 11:01 AM

DP you asshole! I didn't make that up! I heard it on NPR, I think someone high in the British command said that.

Didn't I tell you not to talk to me?

You're an asshole. Don't bother me.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 11:01 AM

Boys, don't make me pull over this car!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 11:14 AM

You're an asshole. Don't bother me.

First of all, I believe there was a request from our host for a reasonable tone, and for politeness. I don't think my comment warranted spittle and name-calling.

Secondly, if you're going to express opinions on-line, it's probable that people are going to have opinions about what you wrote. It's unreasonable to expect only people that agree with you to respond.

If you can't live with that, I suggest you go elsewhere, or appeal to the host to have me banned, as you've been doing with others. In the meantime, it's inappropriate for you to rule who can and cannot respond to your comments on someone else's blog.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 11:16 AM

Yes Kevin every single person on earth knew that Arabs will oppose the invasion, they knew the foreign affairs of the US unlike most Americans. I talked about his view on Iraq not on Arabs. Any way, Ajami is a pioneer of few Arab Zionists and Arab-American neocons; what he writes matter most for those who look for such articles.
Moreover he writes a lot but when confronted with counter arguments, he keep his mouth shut(Aljazeera with Juan Cole).

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 11:17 AM

Good censorship Michael. What a creepy hypocrite you are when you make blanket statements and can't take a rejoinder. It tells me you're living in some world of questionable reality.

Posted by: The Other Alan at January 11, 2007 11:22 AM

DPUG, the same could be said to you, methinks.

The simple truth here could be made a parallel from Los Angeles. Everyone distrusts the police, because they are seen as corrupt (I'm creating a fictitious world where the LAPD is not in fact corrupt), but the presence of the police generally lowers the violence and killing in the area.

Who wants a Pakistani, Indian, Russian, or German patrolling the streets of Los Angeles, New York, or Philadelphia? On the other hand, if the other option was that your neighbor would put a molotov cocktail through your window, I think you'd grin and bear it.

Also, DPUG, bear in mind that the Iraqi people are stuck in the bipolar state of being a recovering post-authoritarian people in a chaotic nation. Bear in mind that it is the want of Arabic culture to exaggerate mercilessly ("This taxi is mine, and rivers of blood will flow before I relinquish it!"), and you have a situation where the comments may not exactly reflect any sort of reality.

Oh, and I'm certain that Sadr danced a little jig, he could finally carve out an empire of his own.

Posted by: Berkeley Non-Conformist at January 11, 2007 11:24 AM

DPUG, the same could be said to you, methinks.

I'm not sure what you're referring to, BNC. Perhaps you could precede your comment with what I said for reference?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 11:26 AM

Oh, and I'm certain that Sadr danced a little jig, he could finally carve out an empire of his own.

Or possible one for Iran.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 11:27 AM

Good censorship Michael.

It's not censorship to police one's own comment section. Anyone confusing it for that might need to re-examine what the meaning of the term.

And, for the record, MJT has many commenters who regularly disagree with them, with savagely well-thought arguments and stellar logic.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 11:30 AM

And many typos and grammatical errors. Sorry about that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 11:31 AM

Alan, you're banned for violating my comments policy. If you post again, your comments will be deleted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 11:37 AM

Michael you may want to read also from those who criticize Ajami:

http://tinyurl.com/yzxgb6

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 11:38 AM

Who wants a Pakistani, Indian, Russian, or German patrolling the streets of Los Angeles, New York, or Philadelphia? On the other hand, if the other option was that your neighbor would put a molotov cocktail through your window, I think you'd grin and bear it.

You're all trying to hard to make sense of the middle east as if there were no deep differences between the cultures there and our own.

There are. You have to watch and understand it from its own behavior and attitudes, not by drawing analogies to our own. Assuming that people think reasonably in the middle east always leads to drastic misunderstandings.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 11:38 AM

"Assuming that people think reasonably in the middle east always leads to drastic misunderstandings"

If this is in fact correct, than why on earth are US soldiers dieing to create a state that's not even remotely possible?

Posted by: NM at January 11, 2007 12:21 PM

If this is in fact correct, than why on earth are US soldiers dieing to create a state that's not even remotely possible?

We're constantly being reminded that the terrorists don't represent the muslim people, that they are a tiny minority of extremists. Yet in Iraq the same people tell us that they do. Who decides for the Iraqi people, the insurgents/terrorists? or the millions of Iraqis who risk their lives to vote. I say the latter.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 12:33 PM

Just so we're all clear here, Alan was banned for introducing himself as a rude and insulting individual.

Long-time commenters in good standing (like Josh and DPU) get some slack when insults get bandied about.

Slack has to be earned, and calling me a "creepy hypocrite" on your first day here just demonstrates that you have nothing constructive to add and I don't want you around.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2007 12:34 PM

You're all trying to hard to make sense of the middle east as if there were no deep differences between the cultures there and our own.

It wasn't too long ago that opponents of the Iraq War suggested something along those lines, they were labeled racist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 12:35 PM

Who decides for the Iraqi people, the insurgents/terrorists? or the millions of Iraqis who risk their lives to vote. I say the latter.

Sure. And it should be remembered that the terrorists, as represented by al Qaeda in Iraq, are a small and largely marginalized group there at this point. The insurgents, whom I would assume are represented by the remnants of the Baathists, are also a relatively small group. The militias, on the other hand, represent a much larger base of the population, and these are the ones likely to cause the failure of democracy there.

As a solid proportion of the population risked their lives to vote for political forces either allied to or representative of Islamist miltias, I have to wonder if you'll stand by "the latter" even if it results in a Iranian client state hostile that implements fundamentalist Sharia and that is hostile to the US.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 12:40 PM

It would be ironic if ultimately, the U.S.( in recognition of the fact that they have let the Shia jinn out of the bottle, that would ultimately pave the way for Iranian hegemony), they will have to do a deal with the Baathists and hand the keys to them as they are closing the door behind them, in order to put a block on the Iranians and to facilitate their withdrawal from Baghdad to the Republic of Kurdistan without getting their asses too shot up as they try to leave.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 11, 2007 12:44 PM

It wasn't too long ago that opponents of the Iraq War suggested something along those lines, they were labeled racist.

I knew it was fucked up, but I also had (and still have) faith in human sentience. That we can reason and change our culture when the opportunity arises and the need is great.

The question is what does it take to create an opening for sane discussion and what does it take to keep that opening viable. Unfortunately if the opposition to sane discussion is violent, then it requires force to defend the space for speech.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 12:46 PM

The militias, on the other hand, represent a much larger base of the population, and these are the ones likely to cause the failure of democracy there.

If Iraq fails in its bid to become a democracy it will be because of the ongoing violence. To the best of my knowledge the violence is predominantly coming from the insurgency, not the militias. The militias are a reaction. If the militias disarm, the insurgency will remain and so will the violence.

I have to wonder if you'll stand by "the latter" even if it results in a Iranian client state hostile that implements fundamentalist Sharia and that is hostile to the US.

It's their right to vote for whoever they want, like the palestinians voted for Hamas. And if they elect sharia then that's their business. It doesn't affect me. But I feel no obligation to support a government that is anti-American, even if it was elected democratically.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 12:48 PM

To the best of my knowledge the violence is predominantly coming from the insurgency, not the militias.

That would be incorrect. al Qaeda seems to be taking the occasional action against the Shia, but an enormous numbers of civilians are being killed in a tit-for-tat manner by the militias.

The militias are a reaction. If the militias disarm, the insurgency will remain and so will the violence.

This, too, would be incorrect, IMO. Militias formed very quickly after the invasion, and were particularly strong in the south, where there is very little in the way of insurgency and al Qaeda members would be lynched in they showed their faces.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 01:00 PM

Yes Kevin every single person on earth knew that Arabs will oppose the invasion, they knew the foreign affairs of the US unlike most Americans. I talked about his view on Iraq not on Arabs. Any way, Ajami is a pioneer of few Arab Zionists and Arab-American neocons; what he writes matter most for those who look for such articles.
Moreover he writes a lot but when confronted with counter arguments, he keep his mouth shut(Aljazeera with Juan Cole).

So when Ajami speaks of the "Arab landscape" and the "Arab world", he really means most all Arabs with the exception of the Iraqi Arabs, who will instead unanimously greet an occupying force with flowers and gratitude? That simply doesn't make sense. I am not arguing the case for the war or Ajami's advocation of it. I have from the very beginning viewed it as a strategic blunder. In the lead-up to the war Vice President Cheney asserted, "As for the reaction of the Arab 'street,' the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 'sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans,'" and I assume that this is what you are referring to about the flowers. But Ajami's own words contradict this, and the two implications simply don't mesh. Either Cheney was playing fast and loose with his quotes, or Ajami is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Or perhaps a little of both.

Posted by: Kevin at January 11, 2007 01:29 PM

...but an enormous numbers of civilians are being killed in a tit-for-tat manner by the militias.

DPU,

that's fine. But I've been doing this long enough to know that if I had said Bush and Maliki are going to take down the militias (which they are) you would have responded that it solves nothing because the problem is the insurgency. We go round and round in circles! yippeee!

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 02:02 PM

"So when Ajami speaks of the "Arab landscape" and the "Arab world", he really means most all Arabs with the exception of the Iraqi Arabs, who will instead unanimously greet an occupying force with flowers and gratitude? That simply doesn't make sense."
Actually, it may make sense to you if you listen to some "happy" Iraqis(mostly who came back from exile) calling Aljazeera. When they say Arabs they mean Arabs except themselves. They hate the Arab opinion of supporting the resistance(or insurgency)to an extent that they try to dissociate themselves from Arabs. Most Lebanese Christians do the same. He may well be talking about the Arab reaction in neighboring countries.

"Either Cheney was playing fast and loose with his quotes, or Ajami is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Or perhaps a little of both."

if he meant Iraqis too then I agree. I see no other explanation.

Here is a lengthy article about Ajami:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20030428/shatz

{Once upon a time, Ajami was an articulate and judicious critic both of Arab society and of the West, a defender of Palestinian rights and an advocate of decent government in the Arab world. Though he remains a shrewd guide to the hypocrisies of Arab leaders, his views on foreign policy now scarcely diverge from those of pro-Israel hawks in the Bush Administration. "Since the Gulf War, Fouad has taken leave of his analytic perspective to play to his elite constituency," said Augustus Richard Norton, a Middle East scholar at Boston University. "It's very unfortunate because he could have made an astonishingly important contribution."}

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 02:05 PM

...that's fine. But I've been doing this long enough to know that if I had said Bush and Maliki are going to take down the militias (which they are) you would have responded that it solves nothing because the problem is the insurgency.

Just saving time by filling in my opinions for me? Very thoughtful of you. And it makes it easier to counter my arguments if you simply make them up.

Unless they don't fit. I've been grousing here about the danger of the militias for the last two years, Carlos. And you should know, you've been telling me I fool for doing so for the last two years.

If the Bush administration can find a way to deal with the militias that doesn't cause more problems than they do, great, I'm all for it. But I think that what will actually happen is that US forces will go after the Sunni militias while the Iraqi government gets the Shia militias to temporarily quiet down while they do so.

I now await your posting of the nefarious reasons that I think this, and the left-wing motives that drive me and my evil kind.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 02:09 PM

Once upon a time, Ajami was an articulate and judicious critic both of Arab society and of the West, a defender of Palestinian rights and an advocate of decent government in the Arab world. Though he remains a shrewd guide to the hypocrisies of Arab leaders, his views on foreign policy now scarcely diverge from those of pro-Israel hawks in the Bush Administration

You mean the guy's pro-Israel? Holy crap. Let's start an inquisition. That's just not on.

It's very unfortunate because he could have made an astonishingly important contribution

Very unfortunate indeed. We really need another Israel-bashing Middle Eastern academic.

Posted by: Mertel at January 11, 2007 02:17 PM

I now await your posting of the nefarious reasons that I think this, and the left-wing motives that drive me and my evil kind.

That's an easy one-- because it's BUSH and he's on the Right. It's called Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). But at least we agree the militias have to go! Though you must have me confused for somebody else cause I haven't argued with you in ages. You became hysterical or something like that.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 02:21 PM

Here is Ajami talking:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8906053411802681740&q=FOUAD+AJAMI

Posted by: Alawna at January 11, 2007 02:33 PM

That's an easy one-- because it's BUSH and he's on the Right.</i.

Predictable and sad.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 02:37 PM

and true.

Posted by: Carlos at January 11, 2007 02:50 PM

DPUG, sorry, I was referring to your sarcastic expression of everyone having a connection to the rank and file of Iraqi citizenry. Considering that I'm pretty sure you're Canadian, and not Iraqi, that would also exclude you from any commentary on the war.

As for Josh Scholar comment: People are similar, while our cultures may be different. The point is that NO ONE likes to have non-nationals breathing down our neck.

Ultimately, force may be the only way that we can bring justice of any sort. Years of subjugation and domination by mobster-like organizations doesn't provide fertile ground for democracy and justice.

Posted by: Berkeley Non-Conformist at January 11, 2007 03:02 PM

>>It's very unfortunate because he could have made an astonishingly important contribution

>Very unfortunate indeed. We really need another Israel-bashing Middle Eastern academic.

Heh, you made me laugh.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 03:34 PM

Hello to all the people I encountered before on "From beirut to the Beltway".

Would someone please point me to a non-polemical primer on current situation in Iraq. I would like a better understanding of the post-Saddam chaos and how it has unfolded. i realize that my initial understanding - that the fighting was basically a misguided attempt to eject the US was wrong and that what is really going on is much more complicated. The problem is that I don't quite understand how much is local sectarianism, how much is regional proxy wars (e.g., the hand of Iran or Syria), how relevant is Al Queda, how much is economics and how much is religious.

I will confess that over time the situations in Iraq and Lebanon have turned me into the object of the left wing loony conspiracy theorists - all I care about at this point is the oil. As events have unfolded, it appears that Arabs may have either peace or freedom but not both. In every observed case they live in a brutal dictatorship or they murder each other (unless they are distracted by dreams of murdering Jews). The two great hopes for an actual counterexample, Iraq and Lebanon, are rapidly growing dark. At this point, I am starting to think that U.S. policy should simply be to secure the oil fields and leave the Iraqis to kill or oppress each other as they see fit. I certainly had hope for the post-Saddam Iraq, but I no longer see the point of wasting American lives on the theoretical possibility of Arab democracy that looks more and more remote every day.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 11, 2007 04:00 PM

DPUG, sorry, I was referring to your sarcastic expression of everyone having a connection to the rank and file of Iraqi citizenry.

I see. So where do I say what the average Iraqi would say if asked a particular question? Or say what they're thinking?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 04:03 PM

" but I no longer see the point of wasting American lives on the theoretical possibility of Arab democracy that looks more and more remote every day".

Arab and democracy? I have no idea what the Americans actually thought what was going to happen in Iraq. At this point, one would've thought that wasting American lives is kind of pointless in that cesspool. These people know how to make killing an industry. It went on before the Americans and it will surely go on after they leave. It would appear that whomever is in charge in any of the sub-fiefdoms which are evolving, aside from Kurdistan, will just continue to perpetuate what has gone on before.

This election idea is nonsense. Democracy does not come from election alone. It has to come from an open society where ideas are allowed to be disseminated without oppression or threat.

Come back in three hundred years and see what's going on.
Maybe then, "Arab" and "democracy" could be used in conjunction.
In the interim, it might be wise to continue to play the game of allowing the parties to kill each other so that they don't get into other mischief.

Iraq could be morphed into an Iranian Vietnam. Wouldn't that take care of some significant geopolitical objectives?

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 11, 2007 04:31 PM

ankhfkhonsu:

I did not start out so negative on the prospects of democracy in the Arab Middle East, but I have almost written it off as much as you have. I will say that I think the current U.S. President did believe it was a possibility and, to his discredit, still does (that is not to say that was his sole or even main motivation in going after Saddam).

Nonetheless, I can theorize all day, but I would still like some help understanding the basic facts - the who is who and the what and why of the current chaos in Iraq. Any suggestions on where to look?

Posted by: dontgetit at January 11, 2007 04:40 PM

Iraq could be morphed into an Iranian Vietnam. Wouldn't that take care of some significant geopolitical objectives?

But the stated purpose of the exercise was to remove Hussein's WMDs. Then, when those turned out to be not in existence, the purpose was the democratic lynchpin of the Middle East.

I never gave much credence to those two, because the evidence for the former was pretty sketchy, and the threat of military action seemed enough to get Hussein co-operating with inspectors again. The latter (democratic lynchpin) seemed unlikely, given that democracy requires a fair number of precursors to work, and there more more than a few parties who would want to sabotage the lengthy and delicate process of setting up a democracy.

If we can at last abandon those two carards, then we're left with geopolitical objectives. What would those be, and how would they be met?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 04:46 PM

"canards", not "carards" in my post above.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 04:48 PM

The economic viability of the West (spelled o-i-l) is one dynamic that is not talked about very much. If the whole shit house goes up in flames then we talking some serious problems. It would appear that this goes far beyond Iraq as our gallant Saudi allies and the other autocracies in the Gulf appear to be very vulnerable. The major threat, in my respectful opinion has always been Iran. It appears to be more than capable of destabilizing the entire region.
It's major export industry (other than oil) is their brand of islamic products--as exemplified in their star franchisee, Hizbo. Their fingers are in the terror game and its companion criminal elements all over the world. They make no secret of their global intentions, in fact the apocalyptic version of the mullah gang led by Yazdi whose puppet is the chimp-like president makes the hardcore evangelical xtians look like boy scouts. They are developing nuclear weapons.

Perhaps our fearless leaders are waiting for the first one to drop here? Unfortunately, the economic interests of the French, Russians and the Chinese are causing some problems and allowing a dangerous situation to get more dangerous.

I think you get my drift about the geopolitical interest centered around Iran. As was seen during the 1930s...you only get a certain amount of fucking around time

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 11, 2007 05:11 PM

Don't Get it:

In my mind, my friend, there is not much to get.

Just look at Bedouin tribal behaviour, especially as is so graphically illustrated in the Koran.

Then look at Iraq. Voila. You understand it all.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 11, 2007 05:16 PM

ankhfkhonsu, I read a bit of a review of a book about Mohammad. It suggested that part of the problem with Islam is that Mohammad's tribe wasn't actually one of the tribes that was experienced in raiding and warfare.

My take on this is that Mohammad didn't speak from experience on warfare, and his ravings about fighting were extremely foolish even for the time and place he lived in.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 11, 2007 05:22 PM

The economic viability of the West (spelled o-i-l) is one dynamic that is not talked about very much. If the whole shit house goes up in flames then we talking some serious problems.

That's why it's not going to go up in flames.

Most of the industrialized economies are quite content to let the US shoulder pay the expenses and fill the bodybags in Iraq, but the governments and intelligence services of pretty much every oil-dependent economy are well aware of what is at stake.

It would appear that this goes far beyond Iraq as our gallant Saudi allies and the other autocracies in the Gulf appear to be very vulnerable.

Not as much as you might think. No autocracy survives for long without a reasonably efficient means of keeping the autocrats on top.

The major threat, in my respectful opinion has always been Iran. It appears to be more than capable of destabilizing the entire region.

Yes.

Syria (and Lebanon) are sideshows to the current conflict. Iraq was central to the US-Saddam conflict, but it is now simply a battlefield for the US-Iran conflict.

We can't win a conflict with Iran without fighting Iran. What Bush is doing is treating symptoms of the problem, not dealing with the actual problem.

It's major export industry (other than oil) is their brand of islamic products--as exemplified in their star franchisee, Hizbo. Their fingers are in the terror game and its companion criminal elements all over the world. They make no secret of their global intentions, in fact the apocalyptic version of the mullah gang led by Yazdi whose puppet is the chimp-like president makes the hardcore evangelical xtians look like boy scouts. They are developing nuclear weapons.

I wouldn't count the 'hardcore evangelical xtians' out yet. Nice people, but they can be pretty mean when they're riled.

Perhaps our fearless leaders are waiting for the first one to drop here? Unfortunately, the economic interests of the French, Russians and the Chinese are causing some problems and allowing a dangerous situation to get more dangerous.

No.

They gave the Euros a chance to try their diplomacy and negotiate Iran's nuclear program away. It didn't work, but now the Euros know that. So when the time to move against Iran comes, the Euros will either be onboard or neutral, not obstructionist.

The Chinese benefit far more from their trade with the US than they do from their oil deals with Iran, and they are quite aware that they are still a long way from being able to win a faceoff with the US. It's not hard to predict what they'll do when push comes to shove.

The Russians are a problem. I have a very difficult time understanding how Putin benefits from helping the Persians figure out how to build a nuclear bomb.

I think you get my drift about the geopolitical interest centered around Iran. As was seen during the 1930s...you only get a certain amount of fucking around time

I'm not worried about this.

The track record of western militaries vs non-western militaries is pretty consistent.

Posted by: rosignol at January 11, 2007 05:57 PM

It looks like a good book, but I've got so many on the tbr pile. I wish I could read your excellent blog more often, but I have to waste eight hours sleeping every night...

Posted by: Doubting Thomas at January 11, 2007 06:25 PM

I supported the war to overthrow Saddam and his regime in the hopes that some sort of democracy could follow. I hoped against all hope that a success in Iraq would create a ripple effect of liberalization across the region. How ironic that in order to support the war, I had to put on PC blinders and make believe that, yes, the Arabs are capable of democracy and rule of law, just like others are.

Now I have to be blunt and admit that apart from Lebanon, provided Hezbollah didn't exist, democracy and liberalization in the Arab world is a pipe dream.

Arabs and Muslims and leftists that hate America might feel vindicated now, but make no mistake: The Arab and major parts of the Islamic world are on their own now. We in the West will simply use whoever is in power so long as our interests are met. I personally will never support another adventure to bring civilization to the, well, uncivilized.

Posted by: Zak at January 11, 2007 07:42 PM

"Iraq may not provide the Pax Americana with a base of power in the Persian Gulf that some architects and proponents of the war hoped for. America can live without that strategic gain. It is the Iraqis who will need the saving graces of moderate politics". Everything else outside this 'window' is either prelude or aftermath.

The Iraqis,unhappily for them, are all out of 'saving graces'. It matters little that the Arab Sunnis are literally on their way out of Iraq at the point of a Shia gun. It even matters little that they are determined to pass from History as ignobly as possible, and with as much 'fuss' as they can possibly incite. It matters a little more that the Bush Administration pursued a high-risk geo-political strategy ABYSMALLY , with an abundance of 'ignorance' and a true lack of WILL and therefore waged what someone recently called a 'compassionate war'*, but that too shall pass.

Sometimes even 'confused' presentations make a particularly telling point, and in this case, Syriana had at least one truly excellent insight, namely---

" But what do you need a financial adviser for? Twenty years ago you had the highest Gross National Product in the world, now you're tied with Albania. Your second largest export is secondhand goods, closely followed by dates which you're losing five cents a pound on... You know what the business community thinks of you? They think that a hundred years ago you were living in tents out here in the desert chopping each other's heads off and that's where you'll be in another hundred years,...".

I just don't think it is going to take 100 more years.

Iraq will sooner or later run out of OIL and then its inefficient, corrupt, OIL supported welfare State will collapse. Its only consolation is that it will not be alone in the region, and misery supposedly loves company. Perhaps everyone can dine on 'pride'. Perhaps its more filling than might be supposed. But I somehow think not, for what the area's 'pride' seems to mostly produce is a sense of inchoate despair concealed within a malevolent messianic impulse. Which come to think of it is where we came in, I do believe.

Ah well,---

  • 'compassionate wars' still destroy a lot of things and ruin a lot of lives, but they do so for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, as they are doomed to fail in the final analysis. For this single grievous mistake GWB probably does deserve to be castigated by all. Perhaps he really is a 'uniter' after all.
Posted by: dougf at January 11, 2007 08:03 PM

In the rest of the country, America rolled history's dice.

That's exactly the metaphor I use. The results were not foregone, nor are they yet clear. But the dice needed to be rolled.

Posted by: chuck at January 11, 2007 08:51 PM

If the whole shit house goes up in flames then we talking some serious problems. It would appear that this goes far beyond Iraq as our gallant Saudi allies and the other autocracies in the Gulf appear to be very vulnerable. The major threat, in my respectful opinion has always been Iran. It appears to be more than capable of destabilizing the entire region.

I agree with almost everything you've said, except that I think that Iran is only as interested in destabilization of the ME as far as it enhances their own influence in the region and destabilizes the competition, the US included. And, while their development of nuclear weapons is disturbing on quite a few levels, I think that it has less to do with, say, Israel, and more to do with both enhancing their own reputation and negating the threat of us military action against them (which is only real influence that the US currently has over them).

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 11, 2007 10:17 PM

DPU: And, while their development of nuclear weapons is disturbing on quite a few levels, I think that it has less to do with, say, Israel, and more to do with both enhancing their own reputation and negating the threat of us military action against them (which is only real influence that the US currently has over them).

If so, why all of the bellicose threats against Israel's existence?

Maybe you are correct, but myself and millions of Israelis aren't content to see if you are correct or not.

Posted by: Zak at January 12, 2007 06:43 AM

If so, why all of the bellicose threats against Israel's existence?

Because it's pretty damn good PR for them. Israel seems to be a political rallying point in the Muslim world.

Maybe you are correct, but myself and millions of Israelis aren't content to see if you are correct or not.

I understand completely.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 07:09 AM

To add slightly to what I just said, Iran's power play and political machinations should give some comfort. Any nuclear attack on Israel by Iran would invite an overwhelming nuclear response from both Israel and the US. In short, it would be suicidal. And even a terrorist nuclear attack by "forces unknown" on Israel would paint a big blinking target on Tehran.

It can be argued that Iran's leaders are suicidal, but the fact that they are involved in regional political maneuvering to the extent they are speaks otherwise. There's no point in building one's reputation and increasing one's long-term political influence if one plans on dying in nuclear fire.

That said, development of nukes by Iran still are a bad thing. But I just don't see a realistic way that their program can be stopped.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 07:17 AM

Any nuclear attack on Israel by Iran would invite an overwhelming nuclear response from both Israel and the US.

You're assuming that the attack comes with a reply-paid envelope. It's likely that were Iran to decide to nuke Israel (or Paris, Moscow, London or New York) they would use one of their terrorist proxy groups like Hezbollah. And (as with their massacre in Argentina, or their attack on US and French soldiers in Lebanon) both the terrorists and Iran would then deny any involvement.

Posted by: Mertel at January 12, 2007 07:52 AM

dontgetit:

I would suggest any of the periodic reports of Anthony Cordesman of the Council on Foreign Relations. I have found him to be the most accurate U.S. based commentator in his assessments of the Iraqi situation. His latest installment is called "Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War." The url is http://www.cfr.org/publication/12124/csis.html?breadcrumb=%2Fpublication%2Fpublication_list%3Fgroupby%3D0%26type%3Dmust_read%26filter%3D405 .

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at January 12, 2007 09:22 AM

It's likely that were Iran to decide to nuke Israel (or Paris, Moscow, London or New York) they would use one of their terrorist proxy groups like Hezbollah.

I think you may have skipped over part of what I said. Read the part about "persons unknown". Also, what I said about Iran not being suicidal as a country also applies to Hezbollah as an organization.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 09:35 AM

Sorry, makes that the part about "forces unknown."

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 09:36 AM

"dontgetit:

I would suggest any of the periodic reports of Anthony Cordesman of the Council on Foreign Relations. . ."
Thanks. I have downloaded the article and will read it over the weekend.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 12, 2007 10:25 AM

Also, what I said about Iran not being suicidal as a country also applies to Hezbollah as an organization.

By that logic Al-Qeda would never have performed their suicidal attack on 9/11.

I agree it's possible that Iran is desperate for nuclear weapons has not intention to use them. But it's also possible they would. Frankly I don't think the risk is worth taking. And if you are so sure that they won't use them, DPU, are you prepared to bet your life on it? Or even your money? Would you agree to pay me $1,000,000 if Iran ever used a nuclear weapon?

Furthermore, in this case there is, unfortunately no question of Mutually Assurred Destruction. As Iran has spelled out previously, a successful first strike against Israel could wipe out the country in one blow. And so, provided that Israel doesn't succeed in developing nuclear armed submarines, there is therefore no chance that they could effectively respond. Iran would not be destroyed, yet Israel would. That's why it can't be allowed to happen.

Posted by: Mertel at January 12, 2007 12:50 PM

By that logic Al-Qeda would never have performed their suicidal attack on 9/11.

Al Qaeda certainly hasn't committed suicide, have they?

I agree it's possible that Iran is desperate for nuclear weapons has not intention to use them. But it's also possible they would. Frankly I don't think the risk is worth taking.

Possibly you missed my comment to Zak along those lines.

Would you agree to pay me $1,000,000 if Iran ever used a nuclear weapon?

I'm not sure what the purpose of the question is. I've already stated that I think Iranian nukes are a very bad thing, and that I completely understand the great risk those living near a nuclear-armed Iran. I have children, and I wouldn't want their lives at risk any more than any parent would. All nuclear weapons are bad, and Iran having them is extremely bad, for many reasons.

Furthermore, in this case there is, unfortunately no question of Mutually Assurred Destruction. As Iran has spelled out previously, a successful first strike against Israel could wipe out the country in one blow.

And the US arsenal would just quietly sit there? No. Tehran would be smoking rubble and corpses. Everyone knows that, including the Iranians.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 04:17 PM

DPU: And the US arsenal would just quietly sit there? No.

Sorry, is there a contract, I should say a treaty, to that effect? I note you don't even quibble about party but I do. How about President Buchanan? President General Clark? Depends on how he feels about the New York Money People that day. What will MoveOn.org say? Daily Kos? I think you take a bit too much for granted.

Meanwhile, would you rather wait for that to happen, or prevent it?

Posted by: nichevo at January 12, 2007 04:31 PM

>i?Meanwhile, would you rather wait for that to happen, or prevent it?

Prevent it, obviously. But how?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 04:36 PM

Oops, sorry, messed up the tags in the previous comment. The first paragraph is quoting nichevo.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 04:37 PM

But how?

That's the question of the year, isn't it?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2007 04:39 PM

Israel doesn't succeed in developing nuclear armed submarines, there is therefore no chance that they could effectively respond.

Israel doesn't have to develop nuclear armed launch submarines, she only has to buy them. I believe she recently upped the number of such she owns from three to five.

So, yes, Israel is already armed to get revenge from the grave.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 12, 2007 05:00 PM

And by the way, of course people are going to assume that she bought them from "the Americans". I seem to remember that it was actually a German company that sold the submarines to Israel.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 12, 2007 05:01 PM

And the US arsenal would just quietly sit there? No. Tehran would be smoking rubble and corpses. Everyone knows that, including the Iranians.

You miss the fact that the way middle eastern countries fight is to arm terrorists and deny responsability as in Iraq.

Obviously Iran would develop (or buy) nukes and secretly pass them to terrorists, maintaining deniablility all the while.

The US may not respond given no sure country as a target.

So the question is whether Israel will nuke everyone in the neighborhood just to be sure of hitting the guilty (along with the innocent).

I'm guessing that she's more likely (as we would in the situation) to pick one most likely country and bomb it, pretending to be more sure of guilt than she is.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 12, 2007 05:07 PM

The US may not respond given no sure country as a target.

I'd think that both Pakistan and Iran would be targets within hours based on mere suspicion.

Which reminds me -- I've been as alarmed by Pakistan's nuclear arsenal for several years now, but it seems to elicit yawns from the hawks. Now we have lots of concern about a potential program in Iran that is years away from producing eve a pop-gun, yet still no concern seems forthcoming about Pakistan.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 12, 2007 05:27 PM

I'd think that both Pakistan and Iran would be targets within hours based on mere suspicion.

You can't easily sell that to the public that we hit the innocent with the guilty, just to be sure.

It might be done. And if the Republicans did it, the Democratic base would go crazy and ... well the public might stick with the Republicans or not...

If the Democrats did it, there would be shocked silence, followed by more shocked silence.

I've been as alarmed by Pakistan's nuclear arsenal for several years now, but it seems to elicit yawns from the hawks.

What's getting a yawn is having a complaint with no solution, nor even the slightest hint of a direction that can improve the situation!

We're stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here. There is nothing we can possibly do that won't make the situation worse!

It's not "yawning" to be completely without options. But what is there to do? WHAT?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 12, 2007 08:41 PM

You can't easily sell that to the public that we hit the innocent with the guilty, just to be sure.

After a terrorist nuclear attack on a neighbour? I'm not so sure.

What's getting a yawn is having a complaint with no solution, nor even the slightest hint of a direction that can improve the situation!

But wouldn't that mean that the Iranian nuclear program would elicit yawns as well? There seems to be no solution to that problem either.

Well, there is one, but it isn't pretty.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 13, 2007 08:06 AM

Neighbour? Need many coffees. I meant ally.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 13, 2007 08:07 AM

Well the difference between Pakistan and Iran is that Musharif is better than anyone who is likely to replace him (from the point of American security). He's not GOOD, but he's likely to be replaced by a fucking Osama clone.

But in Iran, Amadinijad is as bad as things can possibly get, so destabling the government could only improve the situation.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 13, 2007 10:03 AM

He's not GOOD, but he's likely to be replaced by a fucking Osama clone.

Damned straight. And, while it's difficult to tell what's going on in his government, it seems likely that he will be replaced at some point. Hence the concern.

But in Iran, Amadinijad is as bad as things can possibly get, so destabling the government could only improve the situation.

Not necessarily. Give the chaos next door, such action might cause moderates to throw their weight behind the government. The current crop of radicals came to power because they've utilized the threat against their nation as a rallying point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 13, 2007 11:17 AM

Too cold to play golf in the Midwest so I thought I'd put my two or three cents into your blog MJT. Good post, well written, very personal. You are lucky the hizzies haven't beheaded you yet for producing honest journalism. uh, have read Ajami and he is a good writer, one of the few Arabs I can count on one hand who dares to rely on historical sources for his discussions and not on the usual Arab propaganda put out by these fascist regimes like Egypt, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen...should I go on? Rebutting Juan Cole, the only way to achieve a political settlement, or peace settlement is through a solid military victory over your opponent. Either you kill enough of them or they will, I assure you --kill you. The Mullahs in Iran have continuously threatened the USA ever since Jimmy (the weasal) Carter let them seize our embassy. So what is there to talk about with the Iranians when they want kill us? Watch. www.memri.com and witness what the Iranians say about us in their own language. If someone threatens the USA, then we should be able to reach out and touch them and- well you get the picture.

Sorry to say but Syria ain't gonna give up Lebanon for no reason what so ever, I predict this hariri report will fizzle. I love Lebanon, always have, I hate how the palestinians destroyed it, the syrians bleed it, and the iranians intend to use it as a proxy platform to wage war against Israel.

We have a big war or the worlds coming folks so better tighten up. Benny Morris at der spiegel explains how and why. and another interesting book you might be interested in is Among the Righteous by Robert Satloff. Oh yeah, and the AngryArab, he is a hizbollah sleeper agent betcha.

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