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January 14, 2006

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» Those Who Do Not Learn From The Past. . . from Hellblazer
Von has an entry up which is emblematic of the pattern which is yet again playing out in the American body politic. According to Von's Worldtm, the whole problem is with the Democrats. You see, because they're such wimps and... [Read More]

» Those Who Do Not Learn From The Past. . . from Hellblazer
Von has an entry up which is emblematic of the pattern which is yet again playing out in the American body politic. According to Von's Worldtm, the whole problem is with the Democrats. You see, because they're such wimps and... [Read More]

» Those Who Do Not Learn From The Past. . . from Hellblazer
Von has an entry up which is emblematic of the pattern which is yet again playing out in the American body politic. According to Von's Worldtm, the whole problem is with the Democrats. You see, because they're such wimps and... [Read More]

Comments

Well, gee. Let's consider whether we've ever faced a nuclear-armed enemy before, and whether we were able to contain them. If so, maybe we ought to go with that strategy. Even if it doesn't yield neat-o catchphrases like, "Smoke'em out, dead or alive."

Let's see, the Redcoats invaded a country with no WMD programs, thereby limiting willingness, ability, and resolve to tackle real problems along those lines, and...it's the Democrats problem!

Jesus H Christ what an insipid argument.

So the question is, can we tolerate a nation of nutty violent religious extremists with no respect for human rights, a history of warfare, and a willingness to torture and assassinate getting nuclear weapons. And the answer is, yes, we tolerated Israel doing so.

Cry wolf all you want, kid. There may be a wolf, there may not. But no one is going to believe you this time around. And that's your fault, among others.

Unfortunately, as trenchant as sarcasm may be, it's not a foreign policy.

Just thought I'd point to that again, in case anyone missed it.

Since, within a "6 nines" standard, all of your contributions here consist of sarcasm, and little else, I am not sure what point you are trying to make here. In any case, you failed to make it.

That much is obvious, in retrospect.

Unfortunately, as trenchant as sarcasm may be, it's not a foreign policy.

This is one of those words that I think I know what it means, but then someone uses it and I realize that I really don't. I looked it up, and trenchant is searching or clear-cut. Assuming this is the meaning (and this is going thru three people and I make a fourth) the claim is that foreign policy is not clear cut. Though I hate to, I tend to agree with that, but it seems that the whole notion that politics stopped at the water's edge is dead dead dead, and our foreign policy has suffered precisely because it has claimed to be so clear cut. This is not a thrown down gauntlet, so I'd ask that we avoid the dueling 'well, you guys would support dictator X', but I would wonder if both von and slarti, who quote this approvingly, think that our foreign policy should be more or less clear cut?

On preview, I see that FRM has weighed in. Though it may appear that I am supporting the position he takes, I'd ask that my question be taken as completely unrelated to his observation.

Containment actually was considered a policy, Slart. In my alternate universe, it worked out pretty well - no nuclear wars, the USSR buckling under the weight of it's own insipid ideology. How did it work out in your world?

Also, it's not just the Democrats who will be making sarcastic comments. Actual libertarians (instead of Republicans (rightly) embarrassed by the identification) will almost certainly join in, as well.

Don't worry. If you quick-kick it before November, you'll still get your war, despite our comments.

(as I am not a citizen of the USA I hope you won't mind my weighing in)
The Democrats bother me greatly. As with the opposition here in Australia of late, they only seem able to critisize. It is essential that they come up with policies. Yes, the current admin stuffed up badly with the WMD issue and Iraq, that does not mean that this can be used as an excuse to iqnore what is going on in Iran. Surely there are people within the Democratic Party that are intelligent enough to see this as a security issue and as part of the government of the country that wants to police the world, come up with decent stratergies of their own.

Better, of course, would be if the Demcratic leadership organically recognized that there are bad people in the world and that it's not automatically GWB's fault that they exist.

Oh they did - to the point where Dubya had to call on Bill Richardson to got to North Korea last year because they would at least talk to Richardson.

I'll see you the above comment Von, and raise you this: Democrats will support the administration if they get the facts, don't go it largely alone and, since the president fancies himself to be Churchillian, accept the argument that it's better to jaw-jaw than to war-war and realize that it's not something you rush into.

"The Democrats bother me greatly. As with the opposition here in Australia of late, they only seem able to critisize. It is essential that they come up with policies."

Sometimes, when a car is headed for a cliff, "Just hit the brakes already!" is a viable policy.

Opposition parties oppose, Debbie. This is not rocket science.

When the opposition party takes control (and it will) would you like to place bets on whether the complaint will be that the (now) ruling party has no policies?

Quite the opposite will be the case of course, as it was in the past. You will have the Redcoats pledging to oppose whatever policy is offered, even before they know what that policy may be. If your memory extends back to 1993, you of course know this already. I assume that you are 13 years old or younger.

Hey Democrats, this might just be an issue where, if we engage carefully and constructively with moderate Republicans, we might avert a complete bloodbath. I think that there is still room to manoeuver here; even RedState diarists acknowledge that most of the options are bad when it coming to confronting Iran. Yes, most public foreign policy debate in the US has already been poisoned, but if leftists simply sit this one out out of pique, we'll really be in trouble. Make that, if you will: many people who don't get to vote in the US will suffer and die for US foreign policy silliness.

One of the reasons the EU-3 negotiations failed was that the US stayed out of them. The US has, to my knowledge at least, never meaningfully negotiated with Iran. We could try that. Who knows what kinds of carrots they might take from a united international community--maybe enough to convince them to take the Russian enrichment deal? My point is that Democrats really can't afford to walk away from this debate right now. We shouldn't enter into the warmongering logic that Atrios (probably correctly) predicts, we should put pressure on our representatives not to sign over vague powers, but we should continue to put pressure on the administration to take constructive steps. And we need to think about what those might be.

von: if you could point out that member of the Democratic leadership who thinks that Bush is responsible for the Iranian theocracy and its interest in nuclear weapons, I'd be much obliged.

Debbie: I'm interested in formulating an interesting foreign policy, but it's hard not to pretend that Bush has not vastly diminished our good options. Pace von, I do not believe that Bush is responsible for all the bad people in the world. I do believe the following: that his invasion of Iraq undid decades of work at containing Iran's influence; that it also alienated a lot of people in Iran who seemed to be lurching, however slowly, in a generally democratic direction, and that by engaging our armed forces elsewhere he has left us very short of credible threats.

As SCMT said, containment is a decent policy, and got us through the cold war while keeping it cold. It's also a good idea to have credible threats in one's diplomatic arsenal. At the moment, we don't, except for airstrikes, and we have no good answer to the question: suppose they don't work? Also, we have put Iran in a position to harm us a lot by making even more trouble in Iraq: a vulnerability that we really do not need.

As in Iraq, I'm all for coming up with a decent set of options, but we're starting in such a needlessly bad position that it's hard to find them. I would suggest really engaging in negotiations, for a start, rather than leaving it to Europe.

And how are you going to do that in a way that doesn't make the international community laugh you off the stage if you don't also put pressure on Israel?

And how are you going to do that in a way that doesn't make the international community laugh you off the stage if you don't also put pressure on Israel?

Heh. Mordant chuckles, as some Internet crank would say. George W. Bush doesn't put pressure on Israel, he gets pressure from Israel, or at least from the wild-eyed Likud part of it.

No, it's going to be all jaw-jaw, but aimed at the Enemy Within The USA (aka, the Democrats). Until the day after elections, 2006.

Von:

I am not convinced. Iran is one more in a long list of countries with nuclear weapons. North Korea is worse. The USSR under Stalin was worse. It is unreasonable to believe that Iran is likelier to use the weapons than Stalin. (Or than JFK for that matter.) The mullahs may be crazy, but they surely understand the notion of balance of terror.

No. We know Iran's address. What is far scarier is the possibility of nukes ending up in the hands of non-state actors who don't have a return address.

The real reason to take preemptive attack on Iran is because we can't afford to attack Iran after they have nukes. Personally, I don't find that compelling. If that's the case, then of course Iran is fully justified in wanting the nukes. This is the algebra that GWB and his geniuses have left us with.


"UPDATE: Jim Henke offers some none-too-comforting thoughts,"

I can't tell if it's a problem with the link, or the spelling, or my keyboard, or a possible computer virus I might be suffering, but: what, where?

Not Jon Henke? URL?

I plug in "Henke" here, and have no problem immediately making "find" work.

At the cited link at Kevin's place, nada. Absolutely nada.

I am, however experience all sorts of bizarre keyboard type problems, so that may be it.

I also get no "henke" find at the Atrios link. So I'm, as often is the case, totally not following the conversation.

This is doubtless because I am being stupid, and not clicking where I should, or somesuch.

Jim Henke (whomever he might be) said what, where, URL?.

I promise I'll try to follow the conversation, although since I can't seem to find it, I probably have nothing to add.

Who is Jim Henke, again? (I suppose that doesn't matter all that much, given that he said something, somewhere, that wasn't comforting.)

Man, I feel stupid. Deservedly so, as ever, I'm sure. All I can say is that no matter how I look up and down the cited Drum post, I find no comment from any Henke, be it John, Joe, Jim, Jodie, Jane, or other.

I am baffled, and I am an idiot, and it is as it ever was. Doubtless the conversation should not be slowed down for the slow such as me.

There is no Democratic leadership. You have a few people with titles (Dean, Pelosi, Reid, etc.) who apparently have no real control over the caucus, a number of big names (Kennedy, Kerry, the Clintons, etc.) who only really look after themselves, and a few people with no position at all (Gore, for instance), but who nonetheless feel obligated to occasionally remind people they exist. It's not really an organized party, just a smattering of relatively like-minded individuals. The fact that this set can't come up with a coherent policy alternative shouldn't be surprising.

That doesn't make it any less frustrating, of course, unless you favor a one-party government.

Note that Atrios refutes Henke's simple-minded attack in his next post.

Really - "he's making fun of me, he must believe the issue is unserious" is the lamest argument I can imagine.


lj, "trenchant" comes from the French for "cutting", and has that metaphorical meaning - so "incisive" is a good synonym. I believe it is more or less attached to "argument" or "remark".

Gary, von no doubt dropped the link to prominent libertarian blogger (apparently armed with a butter knife in this case) Jon Henke. Link here.

It's not "GWB's fault" that bad people exist.

It is, however, his fault - and the fault of those who support and enable him - that we contemplate the possibility of a nuclear Iran with no good options.

The least bad option, and one I wish the Democratic Party would consider making, is one that essentially calls Iran's bluff.

They say they want to develop nuclear energy? Excellent! Much of the world is searching for non-oil energy options, and nuclear energy is one of those options. Perhaps Iran's claimed nuclear energy program is one the whole world can support: by offering an international consortium to help Iran develop a nuclear energy program that is safe, monitored, and addresses the problem of nuclear waste. Offer to make Iran's nuclear energy development a model for everyone; put our (our = the international community) intellectual and design resources at Iran's disposal to come up with a model for the best possible nuclear energy program anywhere.

Internationalizing it is important. One, internationalization avoids making the US the point-person, which is vital because we have no credibility. Two, it puts a lot of international monitors on the ground in Iran, able to call foul if Iran uses nuclear energy development as a blind behind which to develop nuclear weapons. Three, it offers the international community an opportunity to lay out, ahead of time, exactly what the allowable parameters of research and development are, and the penalties for going beyond those parameters. Penalties can range from the economic and political sanctions that did work to contain Saddam Hussein to threats of military force - again, though, as a matter of international agreement, rather than the US making the determination and decision unilaterally.

The problem -an inescapable one, and (again) the direct product of the Bush Admin's bad faith, bad planning, cronyism, and sheer arrogance - is that our word is worthless. We cannot be trusted to judge Iran's intentions; we cannot be trusted to respond appropriately if Iran's stated intentions are other than the actual ones; and (above all) we cannot be trusted to carry out a military engagement that doesn't make things worse than they already are.

The Right's scenarios range from bombing only nuclear installations to using the nuclear issue as an excuse for regime change in Iran. All of these scenarios are whacked. Once again, the Right seems to think Iran will respond to a military attack either passively or ineffectually - as the Right thought would happen in Iraq, and was proved terribly wrong. Once again, the Right has no idea whether the idea of bombing "only" nuclear installations is even possible, or will entail huge civilian losses. Once again, the Right has a wholely unrealistic expectation of what the Islamic world's response will be - and has given no thought whatsoever, AFAIK, to what the non-Islamic world's reaction would be to yet another unilateral decision to use military force, inflame yet more hatred against the West, and make yet another country into "terrorist flypaper."

It seems to me that the Right is concocting scenarios as if the war with Iraq never happened, or as if that war went so well that we can do it again, to Iran. I wonder if the Right is intent on ushering in Gotterdammerung for no better reason than to create a self-fulfilling prophecy to justify Bush's policies retroactively.

Don't fall for the "we can never let those crazies have the bomb" rhetoric.

Is a nuclear Iran a serious threat? Remember, Iran is situated in a neighborhood crowded with nuclear powers: Russia, Pakistan, China, India and Israel (Kazakhstan may also still maintain some of the old Soviet weapons). Does anyone really think that the Iranians will casually start flinging missiles once they have some nuclear capability? While I think it's not particularly good policy on their part, frankly, a nuclear-equipped USA is a lot more dangerous to the world.

Don't misunderstand: this is not a pro-Iran rant. But the use of nuclear materials by the present administration has been utterly irresponsible. If the U. S. were to draw down its own nuclear programs, we might have some moral traction, but right now we have none. Our best bet diplomatically would be to let the rest of the world work on this problem.

Of course, the neocons will never let someone else deal with a problem if they can meddle in it themselves.

"One of the reasons the EU-3 negotiations failed was that the US stayed out of them."

ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.

The EU-3 negotiatiors specifically didn't want the US to be involved. On at least three separate instances (when Iran was stringing the negotiators along for time) we were told that the EU "successes" vindicated the soft power ideals of the EU.

The least bad option, and one I wish the Democratic Party would consider making, is one that essentially calls Iran's bluff.

They say they want to develop nuclear energy? Excellent! Much of the world is searching for non-oil energy options, and nuclear energy is one of those options. Perhaps Iran's claimed nuclear energy program is one the whole world can support: by offering an international consortium to help Iran develop a nuclear energy program that is safe, monitored, and addresses the problem of nuclear waste. Offer to make Iran's nuclear energy development a model for everyone; put our (our = the international community) intellectual and design resources at Iran's disposal to come up with a model for the best possible nuclear energy program anywhere.

How does this help. We already know it is a bluff, right? Is there anyone who doesn't know that? Are there people who really believe that Iran wants only a non-military nuclear program? If so, who are they? Felixrayman perhaps? If not, why must we all pretend what is obviously not true?

And once the bluff is called, and it becomes clearer (?????) that Iran wants nuclear weapons, then what? You might as well try to figure it out now because that is exactly what is going to happen. And all "calling their bluff" will have done is given them more time to get further along in their nuclear program until they "surprisingly" announce that they have nuclear weapons.

Internationalizing it is important. One, internationalization avoids making the US the point-person, which is vital because we have no credibility. Two, it puts a lot of international monitors on the ground in Iran, able to call foul if Iran uses nuclear energy development as a blind behind which to develop nuclear weapons. Three, it offers the international community an opportunity to lay out, ahead of time, exactly what the allowable parameters of research and development are, and the penalties for going beyond those parameters. Penalties can range from the economic and political sanctions that did work to contain Saddam Hussein to threats of military force - again, though, as a matter of international agreement, rather than the US making the determination and decision unilaterally.

The problem is that "internationalization" is far less credible than a US approach. Internationalization=paralysis unless something dramatically changes in Europe. The EU has wasted 3 years on what were transparently time buying pseudo-negotiations. During that entire time they have refused to refer the matter to the Security Council--even though they know that there is no chance anything is going to get through the Security Council anyway. And even presuming that sanctions get started (which I certainly would not presume) once the Iranian government shows a few pictures of starving civilians their will be clamouring to end the sanctions.


"Our best bet diplomatically would be to let the rest of the world work on this problem.

Of course, the neocons will never let someone else deal with a problem if they can meddle in it themselves."

If the rest of the world were working on this problem, I would be happy not to meddle. But they aren't.

The problem is that "internationalization" is far less credible than a US approach.

After five years of the Bush Administration, I'm afraid you're sadly mistaken.

Also:

von: Iran is the next great challenge, and it is (and should remain) a nonpartisan one.

You got the initial question wrong, I'm afraid. The real question is, can the Bush Administration's political wing keep its grubby little hands off the issue long enough for it to remain nonpartisan, or will it once again be used solely as a club to beat liberals and Democrats?

Sadly, the Magic 8-Ball isn't offering very positive advice.

lj, "trenchant" comes from the French for "cutting", and has that metaphorical meaning - so "incisive" is a good synonym. I believe it is more or less attached to "argument" or "remark".

So, if we rephrase this, we can say 'no matter how on target the sarcasm may be, it is no substitute for foreign policy'. But if the sarcasm is on target, it tells us something about the foreign policy direction of the current administration. Methinks someone whould have thought about this before screwing the pooch.

I should point out that JackMormon has a link filled post of posts of links at HoCB

What worries me is that any attempt to weigh in will be spun as an us against them, so in some ways, the Dems are better off just letting the car go off the cliff. A horrific thought, I know, but I'm not sure what effective pressure could be made on an administration that cannot seem to admit it is wrong about Iraq, North Korea, and its own domestic policy. What precisely could Dems do to put pressure on the administration?

"Gary, von no doubt dropped the link to prominent libertarian blogger (apparently armed with a butter knife in this case) Jon Henke. Link here."

Thank you, God, in the name of rilkefan. I know, slightly, from Jon. Had absolutely no clue who Jim was. I place trust in Von, but now he will have to re-earn it, I'm afraid. Underminding my personal universe has small costs, if only in my personal galaxy.

I kinda don't deal as well with stuff that makes absolutely no sense whatever to me, when other people are clearly nattering on as if it were all perfectly normal. It makes me feel all phildickian, and not at all in a good way. Somehow I'm in a universe where everyone else is speaking normally and I have no freaking idea why it's suddenly gibberish to me.

That frightens me, although I suppose I should be used to it by now, and to being stupid that way.

Thank you immensely, rilkefan, for re-orienting, properly, my simple, simple -- and fragile -- universe.

I'd scold Von, but not this month, given his loss. I forgive. I'm pretty much constantly into the preference for the group hugs, of late, clearly. Well, despite the fact that I hate people, why not? Better to get over the hate, even the hating on Charles Bird, and make with the group hugs.

Except, of course, for you other people. You totally effing suck.

But you other gals and guys: group hug. Why the hell won't Moe come back for one? Oh, yeah, darn, we suck. Still, I live for the future. (Look, I'm perfectly happy to hear more gaming talk, damnit. Miss him.)

Also, I just bit my tongue when sneezing, and it really hurt awfully. Still is hurting.

As ever, I digress.

liberal japonicus: What precisely could Dems do to put pressure on the administration?

Good question.

Whenever Republicans criticize the Democrats for not doing anything to oppose George W. Bush and his moronic ideas, it should be pointed out to them that it's actually currently the Republicans who have the ability, the authority, and the responsibility to oppose George W. Bush. And they're not doing it: instead, all they can find to do is criticize the Democrats.

So, Von: rather than kicking the Democrats because they're not doing a good enough job of opposing George W. Bush, why aren't you kicking the Republicans? What should the Republicans be doing? Why are you criticizing the party that's completely out of power in the US for not reining-in the party that's in power?

So, if we rephrase this, we can say 'no matter how on target the sarcasm may be, it is no substitute for foreign policy'.

That's what I understood Jim Henke to mean.

So, no matter how correct the points made may be, the Democrats need to clean up the mess?

If supporters of the President want domestic unity, they should act like it. If instead, they want to use foreign policy as a wedge issue, then they should act exactly as they are. Von, you should be embarrassed to be playing along.

So, no matter how correct the points made may be, the Democrats need to clean up the mess?

can't you just see the Republican leadership on their knees, begging, "stop me before I kill again!"

Fact: Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Question: So what?

Answer: It depends. For us in America, it matters little or not at all. For those in the neighborhood it matters a lot.

Follow up question: Can we live with that, or should we meddle?

Answer: We can live with that.

Sebastian, I rather doubt you trust Seymour Hersh, but he called our current predicament pretty well in Jan. 2005. A couple of quotes:

The Europeans have been urging the Bush Administration to join in these negotiations. The Administration has refused to do so. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon has argued that no diplomatic progress on the Iranian nuclear threat will take place unless there is a credible threat of military action. “The neocons say negotiations are a bad deal,” a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) told me. “And the only thing the Iranians understand is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked.” [...] One Western diplomat told me that the Europeans believed they were in what he called a “lose-lose position” as long as the United States refuses to get involved. “France, Germany, and the U.K. cannot succeed alone, and everybody knows it,” the diplomat said. “If the U.S. stays outside, we don’t have enough leverage, and our effort will collapse.” The alternative would be to go to the Security Council, but any resolution imposing sanctions would likely be vetoed by China or Russia, and then “the United Nations will be blamed and the Americans will say, ‘The only solution is to bomb.’”
I put it too strongly above, as, I think, you did.

Bush completely demolished US credibility with the Iraq war. Understandably, half of Americans now won't believe a word the US government says about the danger of Iran, and the fraction of the rest of the world who will believe must be tiny indeed. It's hard to imagine what we can do in that situation.

For now, all I have is more trenchance, which I prefer to assuming a fetal position.

Iran doesn't have big enough missiles to get their nukes all the way to North America. So why is this a problem for us to solve instead of one for Iran's neighbors to solve?

Well, as I read Kevin Drum's post on "Dems and Iran", he makes the point (or brings it to the fore) that whatever the actual options for the US/World are with regards to the Iran/nuclear issue (and all those options, as we all seem to agree, are pretty crappy) - the Bush Administration is almost certainly going to exploit them to the hilt as a campaign issue against their greatest nightmare scenario: loss of control of Congress to the Democrats. In Washington, every bit as much as in Tehran, "survival of the regime" is Job One; and all other priorities must be subordinated to that goal.
Pace CaseyL, the issue with Iran is NOT "nuclear energy": it is nuclear weapons. Bombs. BIG bombs that the Iranian regime can threaten to use if they are attacked - or, conversely, to threaten to blow up Tel Aviv with to earn jihadi points with their radical "base". And regardless of what "options" the US or anyone else has, or whatever policies have created those options; a nuclear Iran is a big enough potential threat (if not now, then in the very near future) that the issue is of vital importance - and NOW.
Unfortunately, given the nature of the Bush Adminstration, there are few issues which cannot and will not be spun for domestic political advantage; and, even more unfortunately, given that the Iran/nuclear problem is a matter of foreign policy, the Executive is in the driver's seat.
One would expect (and hope) that a real "Opposition" would be able to come with some sort of alternative plan about what to do, or at least flog some ideas around to try to preempt/forestall/defuse the Adminstration's policy intitiatives; but ... oh, yeah, right: I said a real Opposition.

time to go read John Cole

Cleek, that's actually Tim F., John Cole's co-blogger.

...we have the base of the Democratic Party ... preemptively mocking anybody who argues that maybe Iran really is a problem. Unfortunately, as trenchant as sarcasm may be, it's not a foreign policy.

How are we, the "base of the Democratic Party" supposed to get our foreign policy enacted? Last time I checked, the *Republicans* were the party in power. What are we supposed to do, petition Rumsfeld to carry out our initiatives?

wow, Jackmorman, that's a pretty solid quote you found there.

Sebastian, even the Israelis have expressed thanks that the EU3's negotiations have delayed Iran's nuclear program. So it's not a total loss.

""even the Israelis have expressed thanks that the EU3's negotiations have delayed Iran's nuclear program. So it's not a total loss."

Oh thank goodness Israel is pleased anyway! Does this mean we can stop sending them the lion's share of our foreign aid? Does this mean they can start spying on us with their own money? Does this mean Wolf Blitzer will move back?

My concern, as I think is implicit in Kevin Drum's post, is that I would hope that Democrats won't allow the likelihood that policy towards Iran can be turned to Bush's political advantage to discourage them from having a policy towards Iran. Democrats need to have one and its formulation can't start soon enough.

As I've posted recently we've got to distinguish among the alternatives that are impossible, the alternatives that are unpalatable, and the alternatives that are futile.

A couple of thoughts:

MAD, as terrifying as it is, worked between the USSR and the USA, and if it comes to it I daresay that it will suffice between Iran and Israel.

Airstrikes to destroy specific targets would be much more militarily effective than occupation, regime change and "spreading democracy and freedom". We couldn't guarantee 100% effectiveness, however, and it would be a diplomatic nightmare, putting yet another albatross around the US's neck in a region of the world that is already tricksical to negotiate.

Iran is allowed, under the terms of the NNPT, to develop its own nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes. We are allowed to request stringent inspections under the terms of this agreement. Many of a "realistic" bent would argue that this would do little except "buy time." They'd be right. What's wrong with that?

While we're buying time in Iran, we could also stand to do something about the fact that a few spare millions will buy you a nuke from a disenfranchised Russian.

here's another blogger (Dean Baker, at MaxSpeak) who thinks the Dems are about to repeat 2002.

Something occurred to me last night as I was going to bed: von, I know that you regard yourself as a centrist and in better times I'd be impressed with you for that. It takes guts to try to carve out a legitimate position between the partisans of either side without falling into what I call the Libertarian Trap, letting the pride in one's "distinctiveness" subsume actual political thought.*

Unfortunately, these aren't better times and I'm not impressed. Not that you care about my opinion in this wise, I'm sure, but there's something fundamental that I think you're missing. We're all aware of the line "The center cannot hold" from Yeats' Second Coming; for contemporary American politics, however, a change of tense is needed:

The center did not hold.

Until you get that, von, you're politically irrelevant. Worse, you're a political enabler. The center did not hold. As long as "centrism" is defined by triangulation, interpolation or in some wise distinguishing yourself from both Democrats and Republicans, you're helping contribute to this slow gradual slide into madness. The right-wing cabal in this country (specifically the nexus between PNAC and the neocons, the diehard social conservatives like Dobson, and the fiscal conservatives like our Heritage Foundation kids who thought they could play god in Iraq) has pushed us so far outside normal bounds that any attempt to treat this as politics as usual -- regardless of the seriousness of your intent, regardless of the merits of your position under better times, both of which I do not dispute -- is rank foolishness. You're writing as if we haven't had four years of this vacuous War On Terror being used to beat down Bush's political opposition instead of being, well, waged. As if we haven't had four years of rank incompetence from the present administration on anything but the domestic political front. As if maybe if the Democrats would just speak nicely and not make a mess, then maybe this time daddy will stop hurting her.

[Let's not explore that analogy any further, shall we? It's gruesome enough as it is.]

The center didn't hold, von. And any attempt to upbraid liberals, progressives, or the Democrats on an even vaguely equal footing to the Republicans isn't just wrong-headed, it's culpable. It's giving the evil men and women -- and I do not use that word lightly -- in positions of power extra rhetorical ammunition and extra rhetorical cover to continue their systematic dismantling of this country and its ideals, both of which I love dearly. Much though I loathe Bush's Manicheanism, he has by his actions declared quite forthrightly that in the American political sphere that you're either for him or agin' him; and I shudder to think what will happen to this country if reasonable, moderate would-be centrists such as yourself do not set yourself in opposition to this unfolding catastrophe.

So, Bush wins. Let Manicheanism rule. In warmer times, by all means, upbraid liberals and Democrats for their intransigent foolishness. God knows we deserve it. For right now, though, you're either for us... or against America.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Bush's true legacy. God help us all.

* I'm aware that there are libertarians to whom this does not apply. IME, however, they're a vanishingly small fraction of those who describe themselves as libertarian.

From jm's quote: "And that they also need to be whacked."

Sorry, my grasp of the relevant lingo is likely weak, does that mean "assassinated"? I'm reading the context to mean the Iranians understand they need to be killed, which seems improbable.

I believe that most of this discussion, and everything I've heard on the Sunday shows this morning--indeed the entire mainstream discourse on Iran--fails to analyze the key issue: Why might Iran want nukes in the first place? It's not hard to imagine threats to Iranian national security from the Iranian point of view. But first, let's dispense with what is usually implicitly assumed--that there is a threat that Iran would use a nuke in a first strike or surprise sneak attack, or give one to terrorists to use against the US or Israel. It would be suicidal for them. Despite the provocative tones sounded by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they are probably just as concerned as anyone about terrorist use of nukes. No matter who would do it, the weight of the response would fall on Iran.

But from the Iranian point of view, deterrence must be quite another matter, right? Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed squarely at Iran, just a few hundred kilometers away. And Lord knows how many nuclear tipped devices have been brought in by the Americans, right next door. America has demonstrated its propensity to use military action against an oil-rich neighbor on a ginned-up case. It should be hard to imagine how the Iranians might fear being in the bullseye at some time in the future--a future where relations between Iran's developing allies in the newly-elected Iraqi government and the Americans could go very sour very fast.

I tried very briefly to research American nukes in Iraq. Maybe there has been something out there in the last couple years, but I found little. Has any reporter even asked the question, let alone gotten a denial or maybe ``neither confirm nor deny'' quote on this?

rilkefan:

“The neocons say negotiations are a bad deal,” a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) told me. “And the only thing the Iranians understand is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked.”

I'm reading this as saying that the Iranians don't understand the niceties of diplomatic language; that the only things they understand are direct expressions of force (e.g. sanctions, military threats &c); and that given their current attitudes, someone should make those kinds of direct expressions of force in order to bring them in line. IOW, I think "whacked" and "smacked" are synonymous here -- rather than "whacked" = "assassination" -- both referring to actions the official is saying need to be taken, rather than actions the Iranians understand need to be done.

PS: In my previous post, the abuse metaphor was aimed at Democrats in Congress and the D[N/L]C, not Democrats at large. Sorry for any confusion.

"But first, let's dispense with what is usually implicitly assumed--that there is a threat that Iran would use a nuke in a first strike or surprise sneak attack, or give one to terrorists to use against the US or Israel. It would be suicidal for them. Despite the provocative tones sounded by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they are probably just as concerned as anyone about terrorist use of nukes."

I don't think we can just "dispense with" that notion so easily.

First, it isn't just Ahmadinejad. He is their highest current politically leader, so dismissing him out of hand seems bad, but it isn't just him anyway.

It was also Rafsanjani who famously said:

"If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

Earlier in that speech he also said: "Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world."

Second, Iran right this very second (and for 20 years) has been the main supporter of the terrorist arm of Hezbollah, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

So it isn't as if Iran is just talk.

Considering that we have two major leaders in a row talking about a nuclear strike, why can we just dispense with the idea that they are serious?

I swear to freakin' God, the GOP has reached the height of jujuitsu government. They've gotten to the point where -- through their own total control and subsequent mismanagment of both foreign AND domestic policy, they can STILL manage to convince otherwise sane people that the other party is responsible.

Why are Dems -- at least the bloggers -- being snarky about Iran? Because at this point -- thanks to the enactment of policies we violently opposed -- we don't actually HAVE any real options. Our Army, if you haven't noticed is both very busy and highly vulnerable. We're broke. No one trusts us.

No credibility. No money. No army. And incompetent leadership.

So what, exactly, are serious Democrats supposed to do?

I thought that both kevin and Atrios were making a different point altogether than the ones discussed on this thread. I thought their point was that Bush was going to successfully use fear of the Evil Other to scare people into voting Republican in spite of the increasingly obvious nefarious nature of the Republican party and that Democrats therefore need to either counter the fear-mongering or beat the Republicans at their game. I didn't think either kevin or Atrios actually attributed to Bush a coherent policy that had any goal other than mainupulating our election.

Unfortunately sarcasism isn't an effective counter to fearmongering. Democrats do need a soundbite length policy that sounds tough to present to the voters in this election cycle.
"Containment first, war later" would probably work since we have already learned how badly the "war first, forget containment" policy went in Iraq. We don't actually have to have the war later.
Atrios is right: after 06 Bush still won't have a real policy about Iran. the
Republicans will forget about it until 08.

I forgot my last sentences: Democrats don't have to have a real policy since we aren't in the position to make policy and the Republicans don't have any real policies. We just need something strong-sounding to say to counter the fear-mongering. I know I sound completely cynical but hey we're fighhting an enemy that is completely cynical and I don't mean Iran.

I see that a few misnomers need to be dispelled:

(1) It's "Jon Henke", not "Jim".

(2) If you follow the link, you'll note that I also criticized the Bush administration on this issue.

(3) I called Atrios' sarcasm "trenchant", because I think there's a lot of room for criticism about the way the case for the Iraq war was presented and skepticism about the administration's tendency to politicize these things. But preemptively framing the Iran problem as a re-run of the Iraq issue is a serious, serious error, and a disservice to the very real problem that Iran may pose.

If the approach to the Iran problem is going to simply be to remind people of parallels between Iraq and Iran, then you're not dealing with the current problem. You're trying to take a mulligan on the last war. That may be domestically useful, but it's not geopolitically helpful.

(4) SomecallmeTim writes:

Containment actually was considered a policy, Slart. In my alternate universe, it worked out pretty well - no nuclear wars, the USSR buckling under the weight of it's own insipid ideology. How did it work out in your world?

Yeah, well one of the implicit necessities of containment was that the US resist Soviet (and Communist) expansionism and ambition at every turn. Even in the periphery. Like, for example, Korea and Vietnam.

I think it worked out pretty well, but a lot of the path to success was pretty damned painful.

(5) Finally, read my whole post. It's not an attack on the Republicans or Democrats; it's an observation that the situation in Iran is incredibly complex -- moreso, I think, that most demagogues realize -- and that there are no easy solutions. (oh, and some observations about the utility of the UN Security Council or Israeli preemption, and possible Iranian strategy)

Jon, my sincere apologies. I'm updating the matter now.

Well of course we need a real policy and the policy needs to be thoughtful, informed. collaborative, and oriented to the future. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell of anyone in the Bush adminnistration ing that way. Democratic leaders have a responisblility to think that way whether or not they are in the position to actually make policy, but Democrats also hhave to deal realistically and effectively with the real Bush policy on Iran which is to use it in the next election cycle. That means Democrats will need to counter Republicann fearmongering, Swiftboating, and lying which we know from experience they will do. So Democrats need an effect soundbite. That's a separate need from the need we as a nation have for an actual policy. Unfortunately, you can't fight paritisan demogogues with rational policy.

No problem. I've been called much worse. Today. :)

But preemptively framing the Iran problem as a re-run of the Iraq issue is a serious, serious error...

Not to be snide, but what do you plan on saying when the Bush Administration frames Iran as a re-run of Iraq?

[And I do mean "when", not "if".]

For all the trenchancy of Atrios' sarcasm here, I think you're overlooking its most important utility: preventing, or at least trying to prevent, the Bush Administration from doing precisely that. Put enough pressure on them, who knows? This time they might decide to be honest.

"But preemptively framing the Iran problem as a re-run of the Iraq issue is" not what Atrios did. It should be possible to comment on a facet of an issue without people assuming that's all you care about. It should be possible to read a little of Atrios's writing and learn what policy areas he discusses and which he doesn't. Treating this as a policy issue independent of politics is naive or worse.

Not to be snide, but what do you plan on saying when the Bush Administration frames Iran as a re-run of Iraq?
To each their own, of course, but I'm a big fan of evaluating the case on its merits. Should the administration propose we actually do something, I'll let you know what I think then.

In the meantime, I'm pretty agnostic about what we ought to do. At the least, I believe we should be using the situations in Iraq and Israel as leverage with some backdoor diplomacy. (i.e., those sure are some unstable State you have nearby; be a real shame if the fighting were to spill over into your terrain. And, gosh, what if Israel does something? I just don't know what we could do about that.)

The problem in Iran -- and in debating our policy towards Iran -- is that I'm not entirely sure how they perceive their national interests, and what their fundamental motivation is. Moreover, aside from possibly withdrawing to allow regional instability, I'm not sure what leverage we actually have.

...don't think we can just "dispense with" that notion so easily...

Fine, let's not. But let's not dispense with the rest of the points in my post either, namely that the advanced nuclear powers in the ME are Israel and the US, and it's not unreasonable to look at that situation from the Iranian point of view. They face in Israel what may well be a full-blown nuclear triad, plus whatever the US has nearby, which must be substantial. That's all gotta seem to them to be far beyond what ``deterrence'' would require.

But, when there is a tiny international move to inject some ``fairness'' into negotiations, like the ElBaradei mission to Israel in the summer of 2004, a brick wall is struck.

Every bit of pressure is allowed to be placed upon Iran, but none on Israel. In July 2004, Sharon declared that Israel's "no show, no tell" policy of nuclear ambiguity would not even be discussed.

"I don't know what he [ElBaradei] is coming to see," Mr. Sharon said. "Israel has to hold in its hand all the elements of power necessary to protect itself by itself.

"Our policy of ambiguity on nuclear arms has proved its worth, and it will continue."

A sure way, then, to achieve progress in regional nuclear disarmament is therefore closed. I'm as troubled as anyone about proliferation and acquisition of nuclear capability by Iran. For this reason I believe it is a bad idea to leave concessions by the overwhelmingly most powerful nuclear actors off the table.

[W]ell one of the implicit necessities of containment was that the US resist Soviet (and Communist) expansionism and ambition at every turn.

Kennan disagreed, and thought his idea had been bastardized by wingnuts (broadly defined). But, then, IIRC, he was against the war in Iraq, so what did he know?

At the least, I believe we should be using the situations in Iraq and Israel as leverage with some backdoor diplomacy.

China and Russia have a substantially greater interest in keeping Iran nuke-free. Bribe or threaten those two. Get them to help us impose sanctions on Iran. And keep up the pressure for a long time. It's not as if there aren't societies that have given up on nukes or nuclear ambitions. But this means recognizing that nuclear nonprof. is a long-term problem that will be addressed over decades. And maybe no catchphrases and promises of easy, quick solutions, which, I realize, is a real minus for your side.

"Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches."

--Ariel Sharon

"Masada was not an example to follow--it hurt the Romans not a whit, but Sampson in Gaza? With an H-bomb? What would serve the Jew-hating world better in repayment for thousands of years of massacres but a Nuclear Winter. Or invite all those tut-tutting European statesmen and peace activists to join us in the ovens?"

--David Perlmutter in Los Angeles Times

More:
Samson & Delilah

To back up what someone said above, there's a Friday article in the NYT by Steven Erlanger about Israel's opinion on the Iran problem which contains the following sentence--

"The diplomatic process has already delayed Iran's program by some two years, the Israelis believe."

So the people with the biggest reason to fear an Iranian bomb seem to think diplomacy has done some good, though of course they want more done.

On the subject of Israel's bomb, I'm generally not a big fan of Israel's behavior, to put it mildly, but in this case I wouldn't equate the danger of the Israeli bomb with the Iranian one, for the simple reason that the Iranian leaders, as Sebastian points out, keep making these wildly irresponsible (and also immoral) statements. The irresponsibility is the problem here--lots of immoral people have had their finger on the nuclear button (probably most such fingers have belonged to immoral people), but so far they've all seemed to know how stupid it would be to push that button, even Mao. Supposing Ahmadinejad makes stupid statements for domestic political consumption, it doesn't make me feel better that there's an Iranian constituency that laps this stuff up. If the most messianic wing of the settler movement took power in Israel, then I'd be equally worried about their bomb and I've have been scared stiff if Curtis LeMay or some political fan of his had ever been President of the US. (From what I've read, the Daisy Girl ad against Goldwater was perfectly justified.) Maybe not everyone can be trusted to be rational about nuclear weapons.

That said, it might help the cause of disarmament if the nuclear powers that already exist would move in that direction, and if the leading power didn't so obviously think it has the right to invade any country it doesn't like, so long as that country doesn't have the bomb. And some in the Bush Administration have wanted to develop new nuclear weapons, which seems to imply they see a use for them. You can't blame any government for wanting a deterrent.

Of course, Neodude's examples don't exactly strengthen my case.

The fact that we can sit here and mildly discuss attacking Iran and/or causing it to ferment into civil war, kind of proves the paranoid maniacs in Iran’s case.

We have already threatened the lives of thousands of Iranians, for geo-political ends, and you want to act as if we are the “sane calm rational ones”.

Because we have allowed the right-wing nationalists to dominate and articulate our nation’s priorities, we now have right-wing nationalists in the Middle East dominating and articulating policy.

The West has allowed its premier nation (the US) to invade and occupy another nation on lies, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis in the process. What ever protests our allies had, they sure were not going to stand in the way of right-wing nationalists with big guns.

The Iranians realize this. Most of the world realizes this.

The Mullahs are going to get their matches; pretending right-wing nationalists can deal with each other rationally is foolhardy.

Serious analysis of this post and thread would lead me to sustained, high-octane ad hominem profanity which I would like to avoid, so let me just say this:

1) Sebastian: just because Iran "isn't just talk" doesn't mean that there are any options besides talk available to the US. The time to address the (real) problem of a nuclear Iran was before the Boy Prince ran our army, our economy, and our credibility aground on the rocks of Mesopotamia. We had some leverage then.

2) Jon Henke: The fact that you are "not entirely sure how they perceive their national interests, and what their fundamental motivation is" either means that your opinion can be safely ignored because it's just so much gibberish, or that you haven't yet figured out how to read between the lines of what you see in the papers and on TV.

So lemme help you out here, bro. Ahemdinejad is the Iranian George W. Bush. Iranians feel that Dubya's New Crusade poses an imminent and existential threat to their nation and their families. They are afraid, for exactly the same reasons that Americans are afraid, and in both cases that fear is being played upon by people who are convinced of their own infallibility and crave power.

See? That wasn't so hard, was it? Iranians are scared for their moms, dads, kids, uncles and aunts, grandparents and brothers and sisters and cousins. Just like you are. The difference is that they're better informed about you than you are about them.

Finally, y'all need to get used to the idea of a nuclear Iran, because the only way to prevent it now is all-out war. Now that may happen and it may not, but if you think there's some other way I suggest you go spend a few years in the Middle East observing Muslim culture first hand.

"To get back on topic for a little while, although whenever I go this direction Ezra calls me nutzoid:

There will be war. The left and Democrats (I am both, in case you are new to this blog) simply have to abandon their desire to avoid war. They can't, and any attempt to do so will only lead to the loss of everything else. Like economic justice and choice. Duh.
And having lost everything, there will still be war. Matt Y said he would accept the Devil's own domestic policy to avoid war. That option is not available. Whether you think the origins of these wars are foreign bad guys or domestic bad guys only determines where the war will be staged. But war it must be.

The preferable options that may be available are Democratic structured and controlled wars overseas or civil war at home. But liberals will never have any power that isn't taken at gunpoint over the corpses of women and children. If you don't like it, and wish to withdraw to a mountaintop, ok fine. I respect that. But that won't stop the war."

...crossposted from Ezra Klein's blog, directed at liberals in this thread. Yes, if Democrats were in charge, there might a menu of options for Iran. But Democrats will not be in charge until Republicans gain no advantage from militarism.

As far as Iran goes, I will repeat what I said five years ago. 50 million men in the ME for ten years, 5 million for a generation. I believe such a strategy would be to the advantage of liberals. I believe it will eventually happen anyway, and total war is being postponed because these limited screwups advantage Republicans and because the leadership consists of cheap, greedy, cowards.

So cheap and greedy and partisan that I fully expect to see a nuclear exchange before anyone gets serious.

To each their own, of course, but I'm a big fan of evaluating the case on its merits. Should the administration propose we actually do something, I'll let you know what I think then.

I'd normally agree, but we tried that the last time around and it rather copiously didn't work -- precisely because the Administration had been waging a campaign of mendacious dissimulation, at the very least, against people like you and I who were trying to evaluate the case on its (actual) merits. To that end, therefore, I'd say that battening down the hatches, filling sandbags and/or lobbing similar rhetorical grenades -- however you wish to interpret Atrios' post -- is actually an action in the service of merit-based evaluation, precisely because it preempts (or at least seeks to preempt) the Bush Administration's attempt to do the same.

Tim F. seems to think that our policy on Iran should not be used as a political football. I agree, and I think it's safe to say that Jon Henke also agrees.

And safe to say that George W. Bush and his administration and his administration's supporters disagree. So, why are you finger-pointing at Democrats?

But Tim F. then blasts those who use the "empty rhetorical gimmick" of using a single Atrios post as a statement of Democratic strategy. Rhetorical gimmick it might very well be. But empty? Unfortunately, no.

Empty, because while you stop to kick Atrios for using Iran as a political football, you ignore the fact that we can be certain George W. Bush will use Iran as a political football. That's what Bush does.

BTW von, what the hell does "Defendants" mean in this context? Are Republicans the plaintiffs here or something? Is this a suit brought against Democrats because Republicans ran over and killed their own children in their own driveway and all the Democrats did was yell "Hey stop! Stop, dammit! There's kids behind you!" instead of yanking the starter motor out of the car the day before?

Is this supposed to be another one of those Animal House "you trusted us" moments?

What makes anyone think that the right-wing nationalists of Iran and the United States can deal with each other within our historical context?:
-------------------------------------------
MOHAMMAD REZA PAHLEVI
Shah of Iran
1953 was a busy year for Allen Dulles. Even as he readied the CIA for a coup in Guatemala, his agents were toppling the liberal left government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq and paving the way for the Shah of Iran. With Dulles' encouragement, the Shah made the Iranian people an offer they couldn't refuse -- join his party or go to jail. Thousands who refused to yield were imprisoned or murdered. During regional elections in 1954, the Shah's agents raided a religious school and hurled hundreds of students to their deaths from the roof. His regime received 100% of the vote that year, in an election which registered more votes than there were voters.

The Shah's subsequent solidification of power led to an iron fisted rule enforced by fear and torture. His secret police agency, SAVAK, was created in 1957 and managed by the CIA at all levels of daily operation, including the choice and organization of personnel, selection and operation of equipment, and the running of agents. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Iran under the Shah became a devoted US ally and a base for spy operations on the border of the Soviet Union. But eventually, the Shah was overthrown in 1978 by an indigenous people's revolution that held sway until fundamentalist religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile and reasserted his power during the 1979 US hostage crisis.

-------------------------------------------

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement

-------------------------------------------

Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

President Bush made bellicose statements about Iraq in 2002, and is doing it again for Iran in 2006, for domestic political consumption. This sure as hell doesn't make me feel any better either that there's an American constituency that laps this stuff up.

"What policy do the Democrats offer on Iran?"

Hmm, I wonder if Clark has an public opinion on the subject. Or HRC. Or anybody prominent on the left.

I wonder the same about those on the right, for that matter.

Given that the options, esp. given the Iraq debacle, suck.

Actually, Eric, I agree with you. With Bush and his followers in this country and rightwing nuts in Iran, there's plenty of reason for alarm.

BTW von, what the hell does "Defendants" mean in this context?

Erm, Freudian slip? (It's fixed now; thanks.)

To paraphrase Bender, "Bite my shiny metal behind." I didn't vote this clown car administratiion.

Like anyone else who criticises their bungling and arrogance, I guess I'm lumped in with Cindy Sheen. A woman who had the temerity to point out that George Bush's foreign policies have been a disaster and continue to be so.

Gosh, how rude and silly of her.

A disaster is coming and somehow it's our fault if we can't find a way around the Swift-boating liars and cynical polical hacks like Karl Rove.

Screw that.

What mythical plan is it the Democarts should present that the Bushites would even look at, much less follow?

When the shooting starts I will say with a quite clear conscience: WE TOLD YOU SO.

To paraphrase Bender, "Bite my shiny metal behind." I didn't vote this clown car administratiion.

Like anyone else who criticises their bungling and arrogance, I guess I'm lumped in with Cindy Sheen. A woman who had the temerity to point out that George Bush's foreign policies have been a disaster and continue to be so.

Gosh, how rude and silly of her.

A disaster is coming and somehow it's our fault if we can't find a way around the Swift-boating liars and cynical polical hacks like Karl Rove.

Screw that.

What mythical plan is it the Democarts should present that the Bushites would even look at, much less follow?

When the shooting starts I will say with a quite clear conscience: WE TOLD YOU SO.

There will not be shooting, the Mullahs will get their nukes.

Bush has to look "tough" while they do.

Yep, Donald. And I agree with the pessimistic view earlier in this thread concerning the ability of ``right-wing nationalists'' who ``dominate and articulate our nation’s priorities'', to settle issues diplomatically with other kinds of right-wing nationalists in Iran and elsewhere.

Jon Henke: "To each their own, of course, but I'm a big fan of evaluating the case on its merits. Should the administration propose we actually do something, I'll let you know what I think then."

The case is that this administration lied through its teeth to wage aggressive war for partisan political gain. The case is that the administration lied to the American people about matters of war and national security. The case is that the administration and its supports accused honest, patriotic people of being traitors, all the while betraying the country themselves. The case is that the administration and its supporting propagandists profited politically from the lies. The case is that the administration seriously botched the war, from a combination of arrogance, incompetancy and corruption. The case is that they haven't suffered much from botching the war. The case is that many of the supporters of the administration will, quite dishonestly, blame everybody else for the current situation. The case is that many of the supporters of the administration are now doing very similar things to what they did in 2002-03.


That's the case.

I don't think that Von's use of 'defendant' to discuss Democrats was a Freudian slip, so much as a Republican slip.

Erm, Freudian slip? (It's fixed now; thanks.)

Oh no! I was mind-reading! Quel horreur! Prosecution rests, yer honor.

And von, I guess I'll go ahead and mention that while I have some respect for your intentions I no longer find little exchanges like this one particularly amusing. One way or another people are going to suffer and die over this issue, and I have no reason to believe that you plan to sincerely contemplate the subconscious logic that caused you to flash on Dems as "Defendants."

Since it's painfully obvious from the outside of your head that this post lays blame in a context where one would expect you to, oh, I don't know, accept responsibility, maybe, I'm very much afraid that your having copped to it will just be (from my POV) the latest in a long string of bitter ironies to file under "battered spouse," "enabler," and other less polite epithets.

I guess I'll find out in your next post on the imminent Iranian threat...

"There will not be shooting, the Mullahs will get their nukes.
Bush has to look "tough" while they do."

Nope. Iran will get their nukes, and Bush/Israel won't be able to stop them, but will bomb them anyway just to look tough. And for a lot of other reasons having little to do with national security.

Of course it depends on how the midterms look as to whether it happens this year or in 2008.

Ya know, it isn't as if we couldn't see it coming.

"President Bush made bellicose statements about Iraq in 2002, and is doing it again for Iran in 2006, for domestic political consumption. This sure as hell doesn't make me feel any better either that there's an American constituency that laps this stuff up."

Nice sarcasm, but the funniest thing is you don't seem to realize how badly it hurts your case.

Bush invaded Iraq. By your analogy then, Ahmadinejad will use nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel when Iran obtains them.

By your analogy then

Was there an analogy there? I thought Eric was just making a statement. If you don't think that Bush made bellicose statements about Iraq in 2002 and don't think he's making them now about Iran and you deny the existence of an American constituency that 'laps up' this kind of talk, you can certainly disagree with Eric, but disagreeing doesn't make it an analogy.

What policy do the Democrats offer on Iran?

oh fer fnck's sake.

how do you make a "policy" when the situation is less than a week old and still unfolding ? for all you know the entire thing could end up solved in a conference call tomorrow.

Sniping from the sidelines -- no matter how trenchant that sniping may be -- will get them nothing.

yawn.

there are probably under two dozen people in the entire US who have any effect at all on what happens between the US and Iran. everyone else, including you are simply sniping from the sidelines. Congressmen from either side have little say in the matter, Democrats even less than that. there input will be mocked, derided, scorned (and co-opted if reasonable) but there's absolutely no way any Democrat is going to get credit for anything BushCo actually ends up implementing.

wake up. the Democrats are powerless when an administration that sees itself above negotiation with the opposition, let alone one that sees itself above negotiation with Congress in general.

the Democrats are powerless when an administration that sees itself above negotiation with the opposition, let alone one that sees itself above negotiation with Congress in general.

To respond to Cleek directly (and Radish by implication): The Democrats may be powerless to have final say on policy, but they are not powerless to enunciate policy. Indeed, in addition to opposing, proposing alternative policies is what the opposition party is supposed to do.

how do you make a "policy" when the situation is less than a week old and still unfolding ?

Huh? Maybe I'm just extraordinarily well informed, but I thought that this breaking point -- mad mullah, press for nukes, ineffective negotiations -- had been coming for months.

The Democratic party leaders need to have a policy because, as elected officials, it is their responisbility to think about important issues and develope solutions.
They also need a slogan for electioneering purposes.
All of the attacks on Bush, be they ever so valid, don't amount to either a policy or a slogan.
I want Democrats to win in the 06 elelctions. Therefore I want them to develop an effective slogan. I would like them to have some actual power by 08. Therefore I would like them to develop a policy.
Given the habits of our fellow voters, the policy and the slogan don't have to match.
Von, aren't you supposed to be watching a footbal game?

Here's how it will play out: We will talk tought. We might even drop a few bombs (I sincerly doubt it, but we might). In the end it will go back the negotiating table.

Why? Because there's no other options. "There will be war"? With whose army, exactly. Not ours. Ours is busy -- and if you don't see the absolutely insanity in trying to invade Iran with Iraq at our backs (or, God forbid, irking Iran enough for them to come over the border -- you realize most of our tanks came back home, right? Their riders are patrolling Iraq, but their rides. Irans tanks might be old, but Bradleys and Hummers aren't going to stand up to them).

How hard is this to understand? The only military option is targetted aerial bombardment -- which is almost certainly insufficient unless we're dropping nukes. Ergo, no matter how many sabers you rattle, no matter how often you blame the Democrats, it WILL come down to the negotiating table where it will be ALL Bush -- not a single Dem will have any input, sway, pull or influence over it.

And while a political mastermind might work a wonder at the table, this is Bush we're talking about.. And Iran will get their nukes.

And some idiots will blame the Democrats, and we'll call them idiots, and they'll call us traitors and this stupid freakin' cycle of idiocy will contine OVER AND FREAKING OVER UNTIL SOMEONE HOLDS THE GOP ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR OWN FREAKING ACTIONS.

Which will be sometime in 2020.

The Democrats may be powerless to have final say on policy, but they are not powerless to enunciate policy.

true. i haven't heard any Democrats propose policy on Iran. and neither have i heard any Republicans propose any policy on Iran. is there an official Republican Iran policy ?

but, should a Democratic Congressperson propose policy publically, what will the Republican response be? that's easy: the GOP base will shout how it's not Congress' job to conduct critical foreign policy in Time of War. and if it's a good idea, the GOP will shout it down, brand it as their own and beat the Dems over the head for not thinking of it themselves.

Huh? Maybe I'm just extraordinarily well informed, but I thought that this breaking point -- mad mullah, press for nukes, ineffective negotiations -- had been coming for months.

the situation has been stable for months. this "breaking point" is new news.

von, I agree with you that the Democrats are a disappointment.

But, I have this feeling of déjà vu. In November, 2003, Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed titled "the Chant Not Heard," where he exhorted the left to "to get beyond its opposition to the war," because building democracy in Iraq "is way too important to leave it to the Bush team alone." In the same op-ed, he acknowledged the Democrats' dilemma, admitting that "the Bush team is such a partisan, ideological, nonhealing administration."

Can anyone believe that the administration will do anything but use this as another club to bludgeon the Democrats, painting them as weak on defense, regardless of whether the Democrats put forward useful recommendations?

The only rational course for the Democrats is to oppose the administration tooth and nail. This is not an ideal course, but it is the only course that has been left open. Alas, our national security suffers from this poisonous atmosphere (both domestic and international). In my view, George W. Bush encourages it, and bears a heavy burden of responsibility.

Here is another voice pointing out that they just don't listen.

"how do you make a "policy" when the situation is less than a week old and still unfolding ?"

What? This situation has been an obvious problem for at least 3 years. Various authors on this very blog, for example, have said as much for more than a year. The idea that the "Iran wants nuclear weapons despite international 'pressure' that they don't get them" is a new situation is completely wrong. The only thing that has changed at all is that some of the EU countries have finally woken up to reality.

Right at this particular moment I'm inclined to think that the Democrats shouldn't formulate any policy of their own, but constantly press for Republicans to enunciate their principles and policies based on them, and hammer on the stupidities and inconsistencies, and remind the public of previous lies and deceit on the Republicans' part, and very much play up Bush's responses to people who tried to tell him and us about unwelcome truths. This is not the time for Democrats to save Republicans' bacon, but to make Republicans look as bad as the truth will support and get them out of office.

Democrats have as much of a policy as a good campaign requires: honesty, competence on the part of authorities, international negotiations, rewards for cooperation and good behavior, review of past successes and failures to learn lessons. The sensible thing beyond that is simply to say "We'll have to evaluate the situation once we get reliable information, which won't happen as long as Bush and his crew see it as a tool of partisan advantage rather than a matter of national importance."

Aha: a Republican on Iran:

"Ohio Rep. Robert Ney personally lobbied the then Secretary of State Colin Powell to relax U.S. sanctions on Iran. Who asked him to? A convicted airplane broker who had just taken the congressman and a top aide on an expense-paid trip to London, NEWSWEEK has learned."

How does this help. We already know it [offering support for iran's nuclear energy program] is a bluff, right? Is there anyone who doesn't know that? Are there people who really believe that Iran wants only a non-military nuclear program? If so, who are they? Felixrayman perhaps? If not, why must we all pretend what is obviously not true?

And once the bluff is called, and it becomes clearer (?????) that Iran wants nuclear weapons, then what? You might as well try to figure it out now because that is exactly what is going to happen. And all "calling their bluff" will have done is given them more time to get further along in their nuclear program...

and how these paragraphs would've looked if written in september 2002:

How does this help. We already know it [calling for UN inspections in iraq] is a bluff, right? Is there anyone who doesn't know that? Are there people who really believe that Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction? If so, who are they? Felixrayman perhaps? If not, why must we all pretend what is obviously not true?

And once the bluff is called, and it becomes clearer (?????) that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, then what? You might as well try to figure it out now because that is exactly what is going to happen. And all "calling their bluff" will have done is given them more time to get further along in developing weapons of mass destruction...

it's just too depressing to contemplate how little has been learnt.

the administration's plan for iran is no more sophisticated, AFAIK, than "bomb the sandniggers, then, we win!" [which is not unlike their iraq plan of "invade the sandniggers, then, we win!"]. despite this, we're supposed to get all indignant about the democrats' lack of a plan, and somehow not notice (a) the adminstration also does not have a plan, and (b) the fact of (a) is the more important issue.

i can see no evidence of the white house having an actual plan for iran [or, not coincidentally, north korea]. also:

Better, of course, would be if the Demcratic leadership organically recognized that there are bad people in the world and that it's not automatically GWB's fault that they exist.

still waiting for the name of a democratic leader about whom this could be fairly said.

Just as there was no intrinsic reason to launch the Iraq war before the Afghanistan project was complete, so it is now premature to talk about doing anything serious with Iram before the Iraq project has moved a few more yards downfield.

Think, for a moment, how much better the world would look today if we'd spent an extra year with full court press on AQ before changing focus to Iraq. Now think what good could come of embracing stability, rather than madness, on the long eastern frontier of Iraq.

I get that people are shocked, shocked to find that the regime we've installed in Iraq is going to be friendlier to Iran than the one we replaced. Or even that Iran has real interests in helping to shape the regime there. (As if its interests were any less than ours, fer chrissakes!) But surely regime change in Iran, as a way to cure what ails the Iraq project, is madness of the first order.

Failing a linkage between Iran and Iraq, there's no reason for anyone to be doing anything rash in 2006 or 2007. Iran's far away from being dangerous, and likely to have regime change of its own, on a reasonable schedule, if only we'd stop legitimizing nationalism there.

You'd think the people who believed that democracy in Iraq would cause, or at lest inspire, democratic change in the region would at least be willing to give it a chance to work in the most democratic state (not saying much, of course) state in the ME. But no, it's become clear enough that they don't believe in the passive benefits of Iraqi democracy afterall, but it's just another line of bullsh*t to sell the thing.

Nobody could give me a good reason in late 2002/2003 why we had to invade Iraq before having captured UBL, and I'm waiting for someone to give me a good reason to strike Iran before the Iraqi insurgencies have been mostly stamped out.

The elephant in the room is the American election cycle, and the need of one side to scream about security/treason to change the subject from its core polocies. Can one of you honest conservatives make a good faith effort at showing a best-interests-of-the-United-States reason to jump into this in 2006?

As for what Dems should do, I'm reminded that all last spring, pundits kept saying that Dems needed to propose an alternative to Bush's SS revamp. Many of us responded by saying that doing so would only provide a target, a convenient way for Reps to change the subject from their own plan's obvious flaws. There was time enough last year to wait either for divided government, or a centrist government, where a reasonable deal could be made. And so there is, even if the pundits didn't get their wish.

If I was asked -- and I won't be -- I'd offer similar advice with respect to policy towards Iran. There's no upside for any Dem to propose anything at all with respect to Iran, and plenty of downside. Let the Admin show its cards, and even play a hand or two, first.

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Whatnot


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