« Two Minutes A Week | Main | George Carlin, RIP »

June 23, 2008

Comments

Logic is a little tweeting bird, chirping in a meadow. Logic is wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad.

i love that song

Nerd alert!

And on one of their best records to boot...

Listen carefully, kids. Everything I say is a lie.

A certain kind of person longs to be undeterrable, so they ascribe it to others ("the Soviets are willing to take huge casualties because of their commie ideology; look how people they lost to Hitler!")("Saddam is a madman!").

The charitable interpretation is that this mindset is shocked by the idea of retaliation instead of prevention; the less-charitable view is that it's a wish-fullfillment fantasy ("Wouldn't it be cool if we could do anything we want and nobody could tell us no?")

I was sure I would get here first and claim the nerd prize for recognizing the allusion to the song. How wrong I was. I have underestimated the nerd community yet again.

Long live Stereolab.

Oh, and Bolton is an unhinged loser. It's difficult to sustain the belief that he knows or cares if he's making sense. Whatever gets the US to fight wars, there he goes.

Is Bolton on record somewhere arguing that Iran was undeterrable?

Despite the boldness and counterintuitive nature of these claims about Iran's ostensibly unique suicidal nature, there is little actual evidence to support this tenuous argument. Iran's current regime has been in power for approximately 30 years and during that time, rather than rushing headlong toward some suicidal destiny, it has displayed a cagey knack for self-preservation. This despite ample opportunity to become a nation of martyrs.

I agree, for the reasons that you cite, that Iran's regime is very deterrable. Indeed, the single greatest marker of the Iranian Revolution Regime is that it has been very pragmatic and not at all revolutionary (well, in foreign policy matters, at least).

But we should lose sight of the fact that having new nukes in more unstable areas of the world creates net risks to security. The US and Western Europe are probably the most careful custodians of nuclear weaponry, and such weapons still generates a risk. The risk is substantially higher when those weapons are held in Iran (or Pakistan, or India, or even, to a lesser extent, Israel).

Moreover, the Iranian regime is not irrational, but that does not mean that there are no circumstances under which the Iranians would use nuclear weapons. Even a nuclear-armed Iranian will also be highly destabilizing in the region. There are real fears of Shia and/or Persian dominance among the Gulf states (as well as among the Iraqi Sunnis and others). An Iranian bomb is also likely to increase tensions with Israel. All of this increases the risks of further proliferation -- and even a nuclear exchange.

Agree Von, but my problem with using your sensible admonitions to counsel for military engagement with Iran is that the extension of the arugment would go something like this:

A nuclear Iran could destabilize the region, therefore we should destabilize the region by attacking Iran in order to delay Iran from getting a bomb because that could destabilize the region.

Bolton's been taking lessons from Barbara Gordon. He's dancing as fast as he can...

Or maybe the explanation is that ingrown mustache hairs have clogged his brain.

I can think of a generous handful of reasons that the Iranians might want a nuclear weapon that have nothing to do with a desire to annihilate Israel, dominate the middle east, or otherwise be a PITA. For starters, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and Israel are all nuclear powers, and all are near neighbors if not abutters, and large unfriendly armies currently occupy Iraq and Afghanistan.

They'd be irrational if they weren't trying to get a nuclear weapon.

Perhaps we could think about offering Iran some kind of security guarantees, instead of threatening to blow them up.

Just a thought.

But we should lose sight of the fact that having new nukes in more unstable areas of the world creates net risks to security.

We should also not lose sight of the fact that dropping bombs on other people creates net risks to security.

Thanks -

Sadly, we lost sight of that fact years ago.

"A certain kind of person longs to be undeterrable, so they ascribe it to others."

Right on, Muskrat. Most of what right-wingers say is projection. What is neoconservatism but a desire to be undeterred?

They'd be irrational if they weren't trying to get a nuclear weapon.

Yes, something about watching two bordering countries being attacked and occupied while the aggressor furiously rattles his saber at you could be worrisome.

And of course, such actions would never provoke a strong sense of nationalism in the US.

It's almost as if we are trying to keep the nutjobs, rather than the reformers in power.

If I were the President of the US, here's what I would do about Iran's nuclear ambitions:

Go down to Los Alamos. Pick out a nice atom bomb in the hundred-kiloton range. Pack it in Air Force One, fly to Tehran, and present it, giftwrapped, to Ahmadinejad. I would tell him:

"Your Excellency, we can both stop wondering now. You have a bomb. We know you have a bomb. You know we know you have a bomb. We know you know we know you have a bomb, and we wish you joy of safeguarding it. Oh, and here's a DVD of 'Dr. Strangelove'. Now, let's talk about serious stuff."

Sorry to sound flippant, but so many aspects of the Iran-nukes discussion are so surreal that it's hard to take the Very Serious People seriously.

-- TP

OK, folks, I'm confused. Why are you referring to the "Logic is little tweeting bird" quote as a song? That was from Mr. Spock. Have I missed something? Did Spock join a rock group?

Why are you referring to the "Logic is little tweeting bird" quote as a song?

we're not. it's just that i didn't see the 1st comment when i posted mine. and i was actually referring to the post's title, which is a line from a Stereolab song called Ping Pong

Human beings all have their own motivations. Nancy Pelosi likes being the most powerful woman in Washington and turned on Hillary. Obama covets the power and riches that his father described in Problems with Our Socialism. At this point in Bush’s Presidency, he seeks comfort in the New Testament. McCain failed to have the military success of his father and grandfather and probably sees his nomination as a family vindication. Saudi and UAE leaders are in competition to out-bling each other.

Ahmedinejad drives an old station wagon. He probably got teased as a kid because of his height. There is every reason to think that he and his handlers are believing Muslims. He ended his United Nations address with a prayer:

"O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."

Ahmedinejad likely believes in the Islamic Messiah, al Mahdi. We cannot wish away the Hadith. Bad things have to happen before the return of the Promised One.

Those of you who'd like to test the limits of Iran's pragmatism will be getting your Senators and Rep.'s signed onto H.Con.Res. 362 (130+ cosponsors) and S.Res. 580 (26+ cosponsors), a splendid bi-partisan demonstration of warmongering by weenies.

The resolution (same text in both chambers) demands that Bush put in place an embargo of refined petroleum products to Iran, which would require a U.S. naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. And in the next breath it says

"nothing in this resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran."

No need for such authorization, I'd imagine. A naval blockade would be an act of war, and anything Iran did to respond could then be treated as the "provocation" that the Cheney crowd have been hoping for -- something that would allow much wider U.S. military assault against Iran without any further say-so from anyone.

This is the real context for Bolton's statement, by the way, and any reporting of it that doesn't mention these two resolutions is highly irresponsible. Bolton is saying "go ahead and pass the blockade; Iran won't dare retaliate."

The list of cosponsors is sickening to read.

Thrust into a rather grim mood by the subject of my last comment, I'm rescued by a big laugh generated by B.O.B.'s:

At this point in Bush’s Presidency, he seeks comfort in the New Testament.

{Wheeee... [wiping eyes]}

Bill,

Ahmedinejad does not control Iran's foreign policy, nor would he have any say over how an Iranian nuke would be used, stored or positioned.

So, regardless of his station wagon, height, schoolyard taunts suffered and religious beliefs, he is irrelevant to this conversation.

Agree Von, but my problem with using your sensible admonitions to counsel for military engagement with Iran is that the extension of the arugment would go something like this:

A nuclear Iran could destabilize the region, therefore we should destabilize the region by attacking Iran in order to delay Iran from getting a bomb because that could destabilize the region.

Completely agree, Eric.

What's gotten severely messed up in the foreign policy debates of the last 6 years is that there actually is a coherent, centrist approach to US foreign policy that is supported by the vast majority of serious fp folks. 90% of the serious fp community agrees that Iran should not get the bomb but that, absent some radical change in circumstance, it's not worth going to war over. The major differences come in approach (when, who, and why to talk to the Iranians) and the extent that half-way measures may be employed to deter a bomb (from economic embargoes to blockades to everything in between). The problem is that a handful of radicals in the fp community essentially seized control of US foreign policy six years ago, taking us on a course that wasn't particularly prudent long term. This, in turn, radicalized portions of the other side, who came to distrust any use of force or power.* As a result, we're left with a debate between "100 years of war" and "bring the troops home yesterday." Neither is a realistic fp option. (Although I'm admitted an fp realist -- albeit a "muscular realist" -- I don't use the term "realist" to refer to a school but rather to, well, reality.)

I can live with a President Obama who speaks softly to Iran, but only if I am convinced that he's carrying a big stick. It would be helpful for Obama to clarify that, although he may be willing to speak with the Iranian leadership without many preconditions, no option is off the table if such talks fail -- including the military option.

*The blame for this vicious cycle falls mostly on the Bush administration, of course.

Hmm. I re-read my comment on June 23, 2008 at 04:07 PM. Here's a lesson: If you strike all the modifiers and adjectives in my comment, the comment improves. If you change the passive voice to the active voice, the comment improves further.

Strunk & White, baby.

I think we agree Von. And I should have clarified my comment by noting that I was not suggesting that you, yourself were counseling for military strikes.

Out of curiousity, though, could you explain this further:

It would be helpful for Obama to clarify that, although he may be willing to speak with the Iranian leadership without many preconditions, no option is off the table if such talks fail -- including the military option.

Do you mean to say that he should keep the military option in play rhetorically? Or that if talks/other measures fail, the military option should be considered?

For me, there are certainly circumstances when the military option should be considered, but not by a breakdown of talks/other measures alone.

In other words, I'm with that 90% that you identified early on in your comment.

Ahmedinejad does not control Iran's foreign policy, nor would he have any say over how an Iranian nuke would be used, stored or positioned.

So, regardless of his station wagon, height, schoolyard taunts suffered and religious beliefs, he is irrelevant to this conversation.

Hold on, Eric. Bill's comment is off base, but your response goes too far. Ahmedinejad is relevant to the conversation. His status reflects the fact that many in the Iranian electorate and establishment tolerate his views. Some in each camp probably fully supports his views. If Iran had nukes today, Ahmedinejad would not be the one with his finger on the nuclear trigger. But that doesn't mean that he's "irrelevant" to the conversation. He's the president. He has power -- and he reflects power held by others. Moreover, there is no guarantee that Ahmedinejad, or someone like him, won't be closer to the nuclear trigger in the future when Iran may actually have nuclear weapons.

This, again, is a problem with the Bush administration's approach: by making too much of Ahmedinejad, it leads critics to denounce Ahmedinejad as irrelevant. Neither approach is correct. Ahmedinejad is highly troubling. A cogent Iraq policy must assume that he or his views (the two are separable) have some currency with the powers-that-be. This makes it all the more important that Iran not get the bomb.

Do you mean to say that he should keep the military option in play rhetorically? Or that if talks/other measures fail, the military option should be considered?

For me, there are certainly circumstances when the military option should be considered, but not by a breakdown of talks/other measures alone.

Somewhere in between. I can foresee many ways in which talks would break down and it would be really stupid to use the military option. But I can see a situation where talks break down, Iran makes a public statement that it is going to pursue nukes, and then starts enrichning uranium. While an airstrike may not be prudent in that scenario, blockading Iran's ports may be something worth considering.

Saying the "military option is on the table, but only rhetorically" is saying that the military option is off the table. I don't want the military option off the table. I do want it to be employed (if at all) only as a last resort in circumstances where it might achieve some objective -- something that I don't trust the current admin to do.

Fair enough. But calling him the next Hitler, as John Bolton himself has done on numerous occasions, leads me to perhaps overstate the case out of necessity. It's hard to do nuance in the face of such extreme mendacity.

But yes, A-Jad does represent a certain strain of thinking in the Iranian political universe, but even then, his is a pretty extreme manifestations that has long unsettled even many of the hardliners.

And no, I don't expect that he would be very close to the trigger even in a dozen years.

Fair enough. But calling him the next Hitler, as John Bolton himself has done on numerous occasions, leads me to perhaps overstate the case out of necessity. It's hard to do nuance in the face of such extreme mendacity.

Yes, so it's clear, I'm conceding this point. By overstating his case, Bush frequently causes his critics to overstate theirs.

The reason I made reference to Ahmedinejad’s ‘handlers’ is for the reason you mentioned Eric. Which leads one to wonder why the ruling Mullahs would choose Ahmedinejad. I tend to think that it is because the Mullahs’ belief system includes the return of al Mahdi.

They seem to be years at most from being able to bring about his return as they see the world. I do not believe that they are rational in the Western sense of the word.

Bad things have to happen before the return of the Promised One.

It's a good thing there's no one in the US government or military who has similar beliefs. And certainly candidates for president who associated with spiritual leaders with such beliefs would have no chance of getting anywhere.

I tend to think that it is because the Mullahs’ belief system includes the return of al Mahdi.

So? How is that different than those that believe that Jesus is coming back, Armageddon, etc.

You know, people like, say, President Bush.

Brick Oven Bill- What amazes me is that anyone could actually have the lack of self-consciousness necessary to type this out: "Human beings all have their own motivations. Nancy Pelosi likes being the most powerful woman in Washington and turned on Hillary. Obama covets the power and riches that his father described in Problems with Our Socialism. At this point in Bush’s Presidency, he seeks comfort in the New Testament." and think anything else he has to say will get any kind of respectful hearing.

Just so you can't claim no one told you. Bush bought that ranch as a prop. He knows how to say nuclear. He learned that 'gunfighter' stance from a movement coach, and his drawl from a speech therapist. He only pretended to quit drinking, and the whole born again thing was just a con to bring in the idiot vote.

Oh yeah, that homespun wisdom he speaks, thats a speechwriter.

But I can see a situation where talks break down, Iran makes a public statement that it is going to pursue nukes, and then starts enrichning uranium. While an airstrike may not be prudent in that scenario, blockading Iran's ports may be something worth considering.

What would be the basis in international law for doing this? Do you believe that the US has the legal authority to blockade any nation's ports for any reason whatsoever?

Also, can you explain why you think Iran would react to said embargo as anything less than an act of war? I mean, how do you think the Iranian economy could function without oil sales? Wouldn't this lead to a large number of civilian deaths?

Finally, do you really believe that there is sufficient slack in world oil production that we can afford to cut off one of the largest oil producers on Earth without dire consequences for the global economy?

Von: while I'll certainly admit to a 90% agreement rate with your 4:07p comment (modifiers notwithstanding); one bit seems puzzling:

"The problem is that a handful of radicals in the fp community essentially seized control of US foreign policy six years ago, taking us on a course that wasn't particularly prudent long term. This, in turn, radicalized portions of the other side, who came to distrust any use of force or power."

While I certainly agree that your first sentence is entire correct, I am just curious as to just how many folks with any standing (and/or actual power/influence) you imagine there actually are on the "other side" of the fp community. Those, that is, who "distrust any use of force...." so badly as to make it (pacifism? renouncement of military action?) a significant part of proposed US foreign-policy practice.

Anti-stupid or -counterproductive use of force, certainly: but even given the horrible botch the Bush 43 Administration has made of Iraq, it's hard to see much if any enthusiasm for hardcore peacenikery outside of the usual suspects in Left Blogosphere, and the occasional crank (Cindy Sheehan, Dennis Kucinich, etc).

This, in turn, radicalized portions of the other side, who came to distrust any use of force or power.

Because you don't specify who these radicals are, it is hard to evaluate how correct your analysis is. I mean, does hilzoy qualify as such a radical in your opinion? What about Eric? We all agree that "radicals" are bad, but that doesn't mean we agree as to what constitutes a radical in this context.

I suspect that I might be counted among the radicals, so let me offer a tepid defense. Everyone should distrust the use of force or power. All humans suffer from cognitive biases that lead them to believe that they are more powerful than they actually are, that their enemies are weaker than they actually are, and that conflict is more likely to succeed than it actually is at a lower cost than it actually will. Responsible adults accept this fact and scrutinize proposals to resolve disputes through violence accordingly.

Moreover, some of these radicals may simply be better informed than you assume. There has been a quiet technological revolution that has allowed small states and non-state actors to greatly increase their capabilities fighting against large powerful military forces. The US military is very powerful, but most of its power is useless: we are not willing to kill millions of civilians, and as a result, small disorganized poorly trained and equipped groups of insurgents can completely keep our large military at bay. The power balance has shifted, but many self-proclaimed realists haven't kept up with the times and don't know that. In other words, the difference between yourself and the "radicals" may have more to do with different knowledge bases than different ideologies.

Eric;

The difference is that the President Bush’s actions are taken in response to a stimulus. His vision, supposing he is an end times believer, would include unleashing nuclear force after two-thirds of the Israeli population was killed.

The vision of Islamic end-timers is self-initiated.

Which is why a nuclear Iran is a big deal.

"This, in turn, radicalized portions of the other side, who came to distrust any use of force or power."

I, too, am having trouble thinking of anyone in a position of influence who holds this view, if 'distrusting the use of force or power' means anything more than Turb's 'be skeptical of claims that it is needed', which I take to be a good prudential maxim, like 'before you undertake something big, consider unintended consequences.'

There are, of course, people who are a lot more skeptical than that, but who were before Iraq -- e.g., Quakers. And there are some random citizens who have been scared off the whole idea, and would look askance at, say, humanitarian intervention in Rwanda. A very small number of Congressional Reps hold this view. But are there a lot of them? In anything like the positions of influence that their conservative counterparts hold? I don't think so.

Ahmedinejad does not control Iran's foreign policy, nor would he have any say over how an Iranian nuke would be used, stored or positioned.

A-jad (the Iranian first short-stop?) may not have power, but he is widely perceived as having power. Clearly, those who DO have power in Iran encourage this percecption, since I see no effort to demonstrate otherwise, or even to diminish A-jad's stature in world opinion.

Surely TPTB in Iran have learned from Saddam's mistakes -- that one does not egg on the cowards and bullies currently in charge of American foreign "policy".

A technical question: Would blocking Iran's ports actually have a large effect or could Iran simply switch from tankers to pipelines (e.g. through Turkey)?

Lots of questions, Turbulence, and yet no effort to take a stand. Many of them are pretty silly, and, even combined, don't add up to an argument.

Nonetheless, I'll answer them.

What would be the basis in international law for doing this?

Seriously? You're asking me to provide you with a justification for speculation that there may be some circumstance in which a blockade of Iran would be justified. OK, here goes: it depends on Iran's actions as well as the actions of others.

Do you believe that the US has the legal authority to blockade any nation's ports for any reason whatsoever?

Any reason whatsoever? Ummm, nooooooo.

Also, can you explain why you think Iran would react to said embargo as anything less than an act of war?

I'm going to go with "no" here too.

I mean, how do you think the Iranian economy could function without oil sales?

Poorly.

Wouldn't this lead to a large number of civilian deaths?

I have no idea what hypothetical you have in mind -- other than it involves a blockade -- so I have no idea if or how many deaths would/would not occur.

Finally, do you really believe that there is sufficient slack in world oil production that we can afford to cut off one of the largest oil producers on Earth without dire consequences for the global economy?

Again, depending on the scenario you're envisioning, it may be that a blockade is the lesser of two evils.

While I certainly agree that your first sentence is entire correct, I am just curious as to just how many folks with any standing (and/or actual power/influence) you imagine there actually are on the "other side" of the fp community. Those, that is, who "distrust any use of force...." so badly as to make it (pacifism? renouncement of military action?) a significant part of proposed US foreign-policy practice.

Among "professional" members of the FP community? Probably close to zero (if not zero). I was thinking more of the "amateur" FP community -- i.e., voters -- who influence policy by votes and pressure.

Moreover, some of these radicals may simply be better informed than you assume. There has been a quiet technological revolution that has allowed small states and non-state actors to greatly increase their capabilities fighting against large powerful military forces. The US military is very powerful, but most of its power is useless: we are not willing to kill millions of civilians, and as a result, small disorganized poorly trained and equipped groups of insurgents can completely keep our large military at bay. The power balance has shifted, but many self-proclaimed realists haven't kept up with the times and don't know that. In other words, the difference between yourself and the "radicals" may have more to do with different knowledge bases than different ideologies.

This is a variation of the Army of Davids argument -- an argument that I've never particularly liked (f'instance: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/07/suckerfree_sund.html). In any event, I'm kinda surprised that you and Hilzoy deny an ideological component here. It can't be your position that information has wholly supplanted ideology -- can it? Because that comes across as pretty stupid. Walking around assuming that folks disagree with you only because they don't have your special knowledge seems to be a good way to live out the old saw about pride coming before a fall.

And I never said that there are significant numbers of folks who would never agree to a use of force. Hilzoy's points about the Quakers are correct but irrelevant. I only said that there are significant numbers of folks who "distrust any use of force," implying that the extent of the distrust was (in some circumstances) unreasonable.

OK, here goes: it depends on Iran's actions as well as the actions of others.

OK, I'll make this easy for you: unless the Security Council decides that Iran is a threat to peace and authorizes force, which they won't, or Iran attacks another country, which they won't, there is no basis in international law for attacking Iran.

OK, I'll make this easy for you: unless the Security Council decides that Iran is a threat to peace and authorizes force, which they won't, or Iran attacks another country, which they won't, there is no basis in international law for attacking Iran.

Your powers of prediction are better than mine.

In any event, although I agree that the imprimatur of the Security Counsel is a good thing for a wide variety of reasons, I do not agree with your interpretation of international law.

I have no idea what hypothetical you have in mind -- other than it involves a blockade -- so I have no idea if or how many deaths would/would not occur.

Forgive the lack of clarity. I was referring to the situation that you sketched out in one of your earlier comments: the Iranians publicly acknowledge that they have a nuclear weapons program and publicly refuse to give it up, further committing themselves to it. I believe that you were the one who suggested that in that context, the US should consider a blockade.

So, that's the context in which my questions were intended to be answered. I'm not interested in arbitrary scenarios where anything could happen (i.e., what happens if Iran cuts a deal with space aliens to destroy north America). I'm interested in the scenario you described.

As far as I know, mere possession of a nuclear weapon does not violate international law. Iran would have to pull out of the NPT, but that's an easy thing to do. Therefore, I don't think we'd be able to get UNSC backing for a blockade. Furthermore, I do think that Iran and much of the world would view a blockade in this specific scenario as an act of war: Iran cannot keeps its civilian population alive without goods purchased with hard currency and that hard currency would be unavailable were Iran unable to sell its oil due to an effective blockade. Despite the preceding analysis, I am not an expert, so if you feel part of the analysis is wrong, please explain why.

Lots of questions, Turbulence, and yet no effort to take a stand. Many of them are pretty silly, and, even combined, don't add up to an argument.

I think that no amount of questions can add up to an argument. Note that I wasn't interested in making an argument so much as figuring out what you were trying to say since it didn't make sense to me.

Forgive the lack of clarity. I was referring to the situation that you sketched out in one of your earlier comments: the Iranians publicly acknowledge that they have a nuclear weapons program and publicly refuse to give it up, further committing themselves to it. I believe that you were the one who suggested that in that context, the US should consider a blockade.

So, that's the context in which my questions were intended to be answered. I'm not interested in arbitrary scenarios where anything could happen (i.e., what happens if Iran cuts a deal with space aliens to destroy north America). I'm interested in the scenario you described.

Sure, Turbulence. If talks fail, the US should also consider doing nothing, imposing harsher sanctions, airstrikes, and a long list of alternatives.

My response to Eric was simply that I did not want the military option taken off the table -- even though it was unlikely to be used -- because the matter was completely unpredictable. I choose a blockade because, although an act of war, it did not entail some of the risks of other acts of war. I still don't know how we get from that discussion to your demand that I justify a hypothetical blockade under an unknown set of facts under international law.

The question is very simple: Would you take the military option off the table or not with respect to Iran?

Despite the fact that I disagree with a lot of the Bush Administration's rhetoric on Iran, I would not.

Since you haven't actually taken a position on the subject, I no idea where you shake out. (Certainly, your questions imply that you would.)

Again I ask: Would a sea blockade actually work or could Iran export its oil through land pipelines instead?

The question is very simple: Would you take the military option off the table or not with respect to Iran?

In the scenario that you describe, I would take it off the table, for two reasons:

1. I cannot envision a justification for an act of war under international law, and

2. I cannot envision a means by which a blockade or other military attack would resolve the situation. Attacking countries, after all, increases the value in their eyes of a nuclear deterrent. Moreover, as far as I know, we lack the capability to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons. And while we have the ability to inflict lots of suffering on the Iranian people, I'm unwilling to hold millions of civilians hostage because I dislike their government.

If you can convince me on those points, I'd change my mind.

Consider this analogy. If my neighbor flips me off, I might have many possible responses on the table. However, one response that I would not have on the table is "get the shotgun, go to his house, and shoot him and his family dead". Again, I make that determination because killing people for flipping you off is illegal and because that sort of disproportionate response is sociopathic. Surely you agree with my assessment in this case, right?

I find discussions about whether the military option should be on the table to be somewhat pointless. I mean, the US government spends a third of its discretionary budget on "defense" -- at some level, military responses are ALWAYS on the table and it is silly to pretend otherwise. The defense establishment is a constituency and its needs, including the need for relevance, influence the shape of official policy. Rather than talk about what should be on a mythical table, I'd prefer to phrase the discussion in terms of what policies should be dismissed in this one scenario.

For example, you write "I did not want the military option taken off the table -- even though it was unlikely to be used -- because the matter was completely unpredictable", but what does that mean? No one is talking about killing all military officers or disbanding the military, so even if we think that military force doesn't make sense right now, we could always revisit that decision if circumstances change. By talking about whether military force should be on the table, we avoid discussions about how likely such force would be successful, let alone the limits of our own military power in the real world.

I choose a blockade because, although an act of war, it did not entail some of the risks of other acts of war.

I really think that launching a war of aggression against a country is a rather risky endeavor, notwithstanding the existence of many many far stupider things we could do.

Harmut, Turkish cooperation would certainly be helpful, either for sanctions or a blockade. But my understanding is that the only significant Iran-Turkey pipeline carries natural gas

Thanks for the response, Turbulence. Although we clearly disagree, I understand your perspective.

Thanks von. I'm still unclear on what we disagree about: is it issues relating to "on the table" or is it the legality of blockade under your scenario or is it the likely outcome of a blockade under your scenario?

Thanks, von. From what I read since then the topic is academic in any case. Seems that the idea is not just to block the ports but letting air being about the only thing to leave or enter Iran freely (and that only because there is no bell jar big enough to cover the country).
From an Iranian perspective it might be a reasonable gamble to try and defy a naval blockade first with rigged tankers (blow up in case of boarding), then Iranian naval escorts, then calling for Chinese naval escorts. No need for Iran to fire the first shot, keeping live cameras ready should be sufficient (to counter doctored US footage).
I doubt btw that the US could persuade all of Iran's many neighbours to participate in a full blockade.
---
Interestingly a blockade in war is legal, if successful but illegal, if not (a huge topic in WW1)

I do not agree with your interpretation of international law.

Your interpretation of international law, which is wrong but shared by a surprising number of people, seems to be that the US should be able to do whatever it wants to as long as it seems "reasonable" to you.

Von: In any event, although I agree that the imprimatur of the Security Counsel is a good thing for a wide variety of reasons, I do not agree with your interpretation of international law.

In plain fact, Von, for the US to attack a fellow member of the United Nations is an offense under international law. It was illegal for the US to attack Iraq in 2003, it will be illegal for the US to attack Iran in 2008. No "interpretation" is necessary: that's what the United Nations Charter says, quite clearly, too.

Your "interpretation" of international law that makes it merely a "good thing" for one UN member to get the imprimatur of the Security Council before attacking another UN member, has absolutely no basis in any text anywhere except that provided by the Bush administration.

Too much honour to the Bushistas, Jes. Those ideas are older and more widespread. And some Bushistas are honest enough to demand that the US should leave the UN because of those cumbersome restrictions (although it is likely more difficult than leaving the NPT). The anti-lawfare guys, you know.

is it issues relating to "on the table" or is it the legality of blockade under your scenario or is it the likely outcome of a blockade under your scenario?

The only issue that I thought we were debating was whether the military option was on the table or not.

Von: The only issue that I thought we were debating was whether the military option was on the table or not.

In the real world? Probably, if Bush & Co see a temporary political advantage for them.

Is it legal for the US to attack Iran? No, it is criminal under international law, and I see Von is quite well aware of that, for all his Gonzales-lite obfustications about "interpretation".

It seems that the primary issue should not be the personalities involved in the continuing and tragic melodrama as it is cranked out by the media, but the letter and spirit of international laws and treaties governing nuclear issues, and facts that can be supported by evidence that would hold up in a court of law.

It seems that the primary issue should not be the personalities involved in the continuing and tragic melodrama as it is cranked out by the media, but the letter and spirit of international laws and treaties governing nuclear issues, and facts that can be supported by evidence that would hold up in a court of law.

It seems that the primary issue should not be the personalities involved in the continuing and tragic melodrama as it is cranked out by the media, but the letter and spirit of international laws and treaties governing nuclear issues, and facts that can be supported by evidence that would hold up in a court of law.

It seems that the primary issue should not be the personalities involved in the continuing and tragic melodrama as it is cranked out by the media, but the letter and spirit of international laws and treaties governing nuclear issues, and facts that can be supported by evidence that would hold up in a court of law.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad