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October 19, 2012

Comments

bobbyp, 10-19-4:04 pm: Sapient invokes that old chesnut about that all-so-sensitive 'secret' intelligence that we proles are not allowed to see.

sapient, 10-19, 10:24 pm: Actually, that wasn't really my point (or perhaps I don't know what your point is).

Sapient, 10-22, 7:48 pm: More likely, Obama does have classified information that reveals real threats and he's taking action to prevent them.

Not your point? Don't know what I'm talking about? Gracious me. Well, I'm tired of talking about drones, too. Let's make it unanimous.

But the russell contretempts has merit. We, as a society, put up with all kinds of carnage: Auto accident deaths (tens of thousands annually), deaths from alcohol abuse (hundreds of thousands annually), senseless gun mayhem (more thousands). We deal with it. But the threat that a few unhinged political extremists could get lucky and take out a couple hundred citizens sends us into a paroxysm of fear and vengeance does not speak well to our social health. Is "no price is too high" a rational standard to assess our response to such a minimal physical threat? Taking out a plane or a train is an existential threat to our way of life? Really? Do you cower in your bed in the morning, afraid to go out into the world and its attendant risks?

I would argue that a sane society would treat this threat as a manageable problem to the civil order much like any other threat of a similar magnitude. Use intelligence, good police work, rational preventative measures, and a modicum of common sense to deal with it. This is how grown ups assess and deal with risk. I guess this makes me a purist.

The War on Terror, much like the War on Drugs, will prove to be a costly and utter abject failure. Count on it.

Simpleminded aggregation of individual economic behavior leads to simpleminded and disastrous fiscal policies. simpleminded aggregation of individual fear leads to insanely misplaced priorities and foreign policy folly.

We will see this folly to its lamentable end as long as we continue the underlying political mistakes that got us here to begin with. Perhaps we best look at finding a way out of that box first rather than arguing about drones.

I enjoyed the hell out of Watergate.

I did, too. lily for the win!

By the way, russell, you should click on your link.

I haven't linked to anything in this thread.

you did mention that you and your wife would be totally okay with being terrorized, so long as nobody was being hit with drones.

And, I call bullshit.

Find and cite where I made that statement, or stand down.

Maybe it's a Massachusetts thing that you people disavow what you've said before.

Again, I call bullshit.

I made the statement that I stated I made upthread.

Neither my wife, nor I, would be "totally okay" with being terrorized. I feel quite confident in speaking for her on that topic.

I, personally, hold the position that I, personally, would be willing to accept a higher risk of terrorist violence, in exchange for us not using drones in the way that we do.

In saying that, I recognize that I, personally, and/or folks I love, might be the victims of that. More likely, it would be somebody altogether other than me or anyone I care about, and I can't speak for them. I am speaking only for myself.

Political violence is, unfortunately, a reality in the world we live in, and we have to balance that risk against all of the other things that we value and that are of importance to us.

All of us will probably draw the line in a different place. I'm fine with that.

I draw it where I draw it. And, where I draw it is somewhere other than a policy of allowing the intelligence community, who are not subject to the same requirements of accountability and transparency that the military is, to fire missiles at people, in civilian communities, in nations with whom we are not at war, on the basis of things like intelligence "signatures", which often fall far short of positive, or even near-positive, identification.

You can draw it wherever you like.

The one and only thing I ask in discussing this stuff is that you not put words in my mouth, or ascribe statements to me that I did not make. That is called "bad faith", and I personally have no patience for it, whatsoever.

There's a decent probability that drone strikes in Pakistan have now killed more people than died in the September 11th attacks: see statistics here. The 7th July attacks in London killed 52 people; there are 176 children reported killed in drone strikes. The Bali bombings killed 202 people; the number of civilians killed in Pakistan may be twice or four times that.

The question is how many innocent foreigners the US is wlling to kill in order to ensure that another terrorist attack doesn't happen. And the answer seems to be a disproportionate number.

russell says that I mischaracterized his words, and for that I apologize. My point stands though.

I don't believe that the chances are very great that I will be killed in a terrorist attack. I get in a car almost every day, where my chances of being killed are far greater. However, if I have a car accident, the country isn't going to go apes%it and use the incident to elect quasi-fascists to office, invade other countries, etc. Terrorist attacks are different. They not only kill people, they cause horrible political consequences (speaking of blowback). The country hasn't collectively decided to tolerate the risk of terrorism. Until it does, drones seem to be the least damaging use of force to combat terrorists.

Terrorist attacks are nothing to be afraid of because car crashes and cancer kill a lot more people every year. For the same reason, drone attacks are nothing to be concerned about.

Also, people who walk into public places and open fire on other people are nothing for the public to worry its collective pretty little head about, because of car crashes and cancer.

Subjecting the wrong people to the death penalty: also nothing to worry about.

And police accidentally shooting an innocent person? You guessed it. Really, we live in a deadly world, and a few extra deaths here and there are nothing to be concerned about.

"they aren't cattle. they are not going to be lead. it's their country, not ours. if they want an Islamic theocracy, then that's what they will have. it's not our job to tell them how to run their government."

They sure are going to be gold either, but seriously, per last last night's debate, both candidates propose policies that involve shaping, if not overtly leading, these people. Both candidates offer policies that seek to eliminate the rise of Islamic theocracies and islamic extremist individuals. So clearly, we intend, whoever wins the election, to continue to meddle in the affairs of ME countries and, basically, continue the same policies that have earned us the animosity that we face today. Both candidates will continue using drones and racking up the collateral damage that, according to the USA War College, is creating more anti-US insurgents/terrorists than we are eliminating.

So where's the enlightened leadership?

"Who the f*ck wants collateral damage? "

Curtis LeMay?
(both literally and metaphorically)

"....Until it does, drones seem to be the least damaging use of force to combat terrorists."

Sapient, Your line of argumentation is only alive and in play for consideration *if* the drone warfare creates a net decrease in the number of anti-US terrorists.

The problem is, it doesn't achieve that. Quite the opposite. For every single individual killed by a drone (actual terrorist or collateral damage) we are creating 12 to 20 new active anti-US terrorists. This has been confirmed by several studies (and I get my info straight from the source, which shall remain unidentified, but you can google or something and get find the studies that support what I say).

"..However, if I have a car accident, the country isn't going to go apes%it and use the incident to elect quasi-fascists to office..."

What are you saying here? That US citizens are crazy as is the US govt and until we become sane some people in a foreign land are going to have to be sacrificed to the gods that (barely) keep the US system glued together? This is one of the most dismal rationals I have ever heard. If it's true, then we should just give up and outsource management of the country to China.

Terrorist attacks are nothing to be afraid of...

You went off the rails right there, Slart. The rest of what you wrote has been rendered meaningless.

I think it's a question of what mitigation measures are appropiate relative to the subject risk. Sometimes comparisons can provide an additional level of perspective on such things when the current level of perspective seems to be lacking.

Of course, you wouldn't suggest drone strikes to combat car crashes or cancer, in part because drone strikes wouldn't help. Maybe if drone strikes were a perfect prevention method against terrorism, people might feel differently. But, for that to be the case, they would have to be of a completely different nature than they are, such that the other problematic things about drone strikes probably wouldn't be the case.

It's all the collateral shit that makes them counterproductive, to the extent that they are, in the first place.

"What are you saying here? That US citizens are crazy as is the US govt and until we become sane some people in a foreign land are going to have to be sacrificed to the gods that (barely) keep the US system glued together?"

I realize it *is* what you are saying. This reminds me of the Aztecs waging war solely to capture prisoners who could be dragged up the temple stairs, to have their hearts ceremonially cut out, to appease the angry gods.

So that's what our civilization has come to?

FYI: drones are not up for discussion this time around, ladies and gents. you're wasting your outrage.

You went off the rails right there, Slart.

Sorry; I'd meant to start sooner.

I think that if we could perform drone strikes to combat cancer, I could get behind that. Even with a little collateral damage.

"FYI: drones are not up for discussion this time around, ladies and gents. you're wasting your outrage."

But drones seem to be a cornerstone of both candidate's strategy in the islamic world. Then again, drones are just a tool to achieve what is more precisely the cornerstone strategy; extrajudicial MURDER.

Drones are a demonstrably poor method of achieving targeted murder (aka assassination).

So we are not to discuss the effectiveness of the method of killing, but is the general concept of murder as a strategy to achieve national security still fair game?

Not sure who said above that no one wants to kill children but that is demonstrable rubbish (and I am not talking about clinically insane child murderers). It's easy to find some political pundits that not only accept the idea of collateral death of children but propose to make them prime targets. Usually as part of a mad scheme of deterrence but occasionally going back to the 'nits make lice' principle used to justify massacres of defenceless Native American women and children. Iirc I have even spotted one time the argument "we know what we would do, if they did to us what we did to them. That leaves us no choice but to leave no one that could take revenge one day".
And these guys unfortunately enough have big enough megaphones to be heard by those that would be at the receiving end of such a policy.

So we are not to discuss the effectiveness of the method of killing, but is the general concept of murder as a strategy to achieve national security still fair game?

drones are not on the table. they will be used exactly as they are being used now, regardless of who wins. regardless of how the ideologues vote. regardless of how hyperbolic your descriptions become.

Slarti is entirely 'on rail'.

Terrorist attacks are nothing to be afraid of because car crashes and cancer kill a lot more people every year.

For the record, it's not my position that (a) terrorist attacks are nothing to be afraid of, or that (b) they are of no greater or lesser consequence than any of the other ills that befall the human race.

For the record, hopefully for the last time, it *is* my position that the current US use of drones to assassinate suspected terrorists in civilian areas of nations we are not at war with is problematic. For a wide variety of reasons.

And if we were to decide that the use of drones is not worth the various problems that their use incurs, and that resulted in a somewhat higher risk of terror attacks, I *personally* would find that acceptable.

My own, personal, point of view, and no more.

If anyone ever actually wants to know what my thoughts on the matter actually are, those are them. No more, no less.

I totally get, and agree with, sapient's point about the social and political dangers raised by the reality, or even the threat, of terrorist activity. Freaked-out people are easy to manipulate.

IMO that speaks to a deeper national problem, one whose scope is much broader than whether we employ military force in this context, or which kind.

We've been through stuff like this before, and handled it differently. IMO, better.

Topic for another day.

In any case, as cleek notes, the whole discussion is a tempest in a teapot, because nobody in a position to change anything has any interest whatsoever in changing our use of drones.

Slarti is entirely 'on rail'.

Yes, because of all that comments here declaring that terrorism doesn't matter at all because of cancer and car crashes. And because making comparisons of terrorism to other known risks is just so silly, necessarily resulting in pointless absurdity, with no possibility of demonstrating how we address and accept risks in other areas of life, such that one may be able to make the point that we respond disproportionately to the risk of terrorism relative to how we respond to other risks. Right? It's just so stupid, isn't it?

Or shorter version: ...whatever.

Ok, sarcasm off, since russell is being so reasonable and all.

I say that doing the freshly-beheaded-chicken-dance over the latest terrorist attacks doesn't really get you far in the direction of preventing the next. But I don't think that advocating action to address threats posed by people who would like to see us dead or discredited (or both) is intrinsically borne out of pants-wetting fear.

So: it's not a bad thing to plan and take action in general. It does pay to consider what said action might wind up costing you, as well as costing some number of innocent bystanders.

Putting the e.g. CIA in charge of executions via drones is probably the least-good implementation I can imagine. The whole way in which drone attacks are approved and executed is not, in my opinion, conducive to good and defensible decisions being made. I don't like it. I don't have a lot more detailed thinking behind that, but it's a layer of removal from the guy in the helicopter wearing NVGs doing it. Usually that guy has a controller that has to give him the go-ahead before he can do anything.

As far as I can tell, russell and I are pretty much in complete agreement.

But I don't have any issue with tempests in a teapot, because what the hell else are we going to do with our spare time? I guess there's tumblr.

Whether the drone executions are something that distinguishes a President Romney from a President Obama is not something I can predict all that well, sadly. It's just something I'd sooner avoid with either guy in office.

because of all that comments here declaring that terrorism doesn't matter at all because of cancer and car crashes

There are a number of things you might mean by this, but I am damned if I can pin down which one. Unpack, bitte?

There are a number of things you might mean by this, but I am damned if I can pin down which one. Unpack, bitte?

Sorry, I thought it was obvious I was responding to the below, the thing I had mentioned as a derailing, which McKinney seemed to think was entirely 'on rail.'

Terrorist attacks are nothing to be afraid of because car crashes and cancer kill a lot more people every year.

But, at this point, it's a quibble, given your last comment. I'd rather just retract the whole thing and forget it.

I'd rather just retract the whole thing and forget it.

Done.

As far as I can tell, russell and I are pretty much in complete agreement.

Yes, I think that is so.

But I don't have any issue with tempests in a teapot, because what the hell else are we going to do with our spare time?

I think it may be time to resurrect the dreaded fried pickles / gin vs. vodka martini slugfests.

Do people still do the Mac v. Windows thing?

"....because of all that comments here declaring that terrorism doesn't matter at all because of cancer and car crashes"

The thinking is that car crashes, etc occur in relatively predictable volumes and proportions. The risk is of known ratios and, apparently, we have decided that we can live with those risk metrics.

Additionally, knowing the risks and the risk factors we can - or feel that we can - take certain individual and/or collective measures to decrease the exposure.

Terrorism on the other contains many unknowns. The magnitude and societal impact of a terrorist attack is not restrained to actuarially predictable boudries. Terrorists could deploy a biological weapon or a nuclear weapon that would result in a human tragedy vastly beyond the scope of anything seen before.

The next year will result in the same number of car crashes/fatalities +/- 5% as each of the previous 10 years.

The next year *could* result in a terrorist attack that produces 1,000 or even 100,000+ times the fatalities arising from terrorist attacks in each of the past 10 years, with exponentially increased associated economic and other social costs.

Hence the greater concern over terrorism than other risk containing behaviors.

The next year *could* result in a terrorist attack that produces 1,000 or even 100,000+ times the fatalities arising from terrorist attacks in each of the past 10 years, with exponentially increased associated economic and other social costs.

Hence the greater concern over terrorism than other risk containing behaviors.

I'm glad you put asterisks around "could." Whose greater concern, would you say, is based on this line of thinking, involving actuarial predictability?

(So much for retractions...)

"Whose greater concern, would you say, is based on this line of thinking...." Not mine; at least not 100%, but it is the line of thinking employed by the Bush admin and followed by a number of pundits, media personalities and regular citizens. Remember? the next time could be a mushroom cloud........and now BHO is playing a similar card; though he has toned down the rhetoric a bit.

The point is that such an attack would be outside of actuarial predictability. That's why it is so scary to so many people.

As far as I am concerned the lack of predictability coupled with some level of real probability (albeit small) does demand leadership to remain focussed on counter-terrorism programs. What those programs should be and how they should an integrated piece of a larger foreign policy is another matter entirely. I note that neither candidate discussed these important issues at the debate; actually neither have ever discussed them at a level of detail where anyone paying attention could obtain a fair picture of what the plan is and why.

Where's the leadership?

Instead we have both candidates hyping Iran as the new impending source of existential threat. I really don't appreciate that and see it as a failure of leadership on both of their parts. What is the possibility of Iran striking the US with a nuclear weapon? Nill, zip, 0. Even if they had a nuclear weapon (which they don't) they don't have a delivery system that can reach the US. Even if someday they developed a nuclear weapon and a delivery system, the odds of these deployed so as to fly all the way from Iran to "The Homeland" without being shot down are extremely minimal. And for Iran to even attempt to send their currently non-existant nuke via their non-existant delivery system to the US relies on Iran being a nonrational actor that would accept an annhilating retaliatory strike. The probability of each necessary juncture of this scenario multiplied by the probabilities of the subsequent necessary junctures in this chain of events results in an utterly miniscule outcome.

Yet, there they are, both candidates, declaring Iran to be the largest threat to our national security.

Where's the leadership?

lily, my recollection is that McGovern got treated the way he did as a result of the protest theater which went on outside the 1972 Democratic Convention. The crazies were much in evidence, and McGovern (and the Democrats generally) got tarred with the result.

And, as for the probability of a terrorist attack in the US aand drones should be "on the rail", it's like this.

Neither candidate will state what US foreign policy is, will be or should be. For the most part we are left guessing and/or reading the thoughts of pundits who are also guessing.

All we do know is that both candidates are going to 1. Continue to meddle in the internal affairs of muslim countries 2. Support Israel no matter what 3. Fly drones and continue to assassinate muslims with associated collateral damage. 4. Threaten - and possibly commence - war with Iran. 5. maintain a US military presence in muslim lands

We know, as a fact, that all five of the above are a primary - if not THE primary - grievances fueling anti-US sentiment and anti-US terrorism.

Therefore both candidates are, de facto, saying that they will continue policies that encourage terrorists to strike the US. They will perpetuate the cycle; endlessly.

Maybe this is the best we can do given other considerations; maybe not. A lot of moving parts in this thing. Regardless, given that it is what are going to do, we need to be prepared for the inevitibility of spectacular terrorist reprisals.

Instead we have both candidates hyping Iran as the new impending source of existential threat.

"existential" is hyperbole.

but, Iran is a great concern to more than "the candidates". the UN is concerned. our allies are concerned. all the countries involved in the boycotts and embargoes are concerned. Israel is very concerned - and it may be an existential issue for them. it's a big deal. a really big deal.

Yet, there they are, both candidates, declaring Iran to be the largest threat to our national security.

Which would be fncking comical if it wasn't so tragic.

cleek is the voice of reason here. Thank you, cleek.

"cleek is the voice of reason here. Thank you, cleek."

He is?

I'm sorry, but I thought that BHO & Romney were running for the position of POTUS- where the US stands for the United States - not President of Israel, or France or the UN.

Furthermore, the candidates did not say what cleek said. There were no qualifiers involving allies, etc. Both candidates stated, quite clearly, that Iran is a threat - the BIGGEST - to the US. I say that is a ridiculous terrible lie. Nothing that cleek says refutes my position on this.

If there is an attack on Iran it won't be utilizing UN or NATO assets. It will be a joint US/ Israeli enterprise.

also, cleek, why is it a "big deal" if Iran acquired nuclear weapons? Could you explain that to me? What with all of the countries that already have them (Israel included). Thanks.

and finally cleek, aren't you the one who said that it's ok if these people want to be extremists and that they aren't cattle to be led around as such? Are you now revising your assertion? They can be extremist and they can be forced to not develop nuclear weapons, but otherwise are not ours to be led where we want them to go? Free to do as they please as long as that is what also pleases us?

Because if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, Americans will have to give up cancer research and highway safety.

We'll still be able to shoot each other pretty much at will, so there is that consolation.

If Iran is negotiated out of their path toward a nuclear weapon, we'll still be prevented from funding cancer research and highway safety, because without a constant war footing, risk must be reintroduced fully back into civilian life to keep parasites and sleepy and careless drivers on their toes and productive.

why is it a "big deal" if Iran acquired nuclear weapons? Could you explain that to me?

1. Iran is not a stable country. they had a pretty big near-revolution a couple of years back, remember. safe-guarding and controlling access to such things, within a country, is very import. Iran's instability makes that iffy.
2. Iran is the kind of country that would probably like to make a little money selling nuke tech to other countries.
3. Iran hates many of our allies, and has a history of squabbling with its neighbors. nukes change the balance of things.
4. Iran has a long history of sponsoring terrorism. while i don't think they'd be so dumb as to give such an expensive and powerful weapon to terrorists, should they get a nuke, options for the rest of the world w/r/t retaliation for their terrorism-related activities will be limited.

Are you now revising your assertion?
no.

the self-directed formation of a government by the people of a country is not the same as the construction of a nuclear weapon by a government that's proven to be untrustworthy and dangerous.

Free to do as they please as long as that is what also pleases us?
again, it's not just us. i'm opposed to the US being a self-appointed playground nanny, but this is not such a situation. essentially the entire fucking world is opposed to Iran getting a nuke.

"Iran is not a stable country. they had a pretty big near-revolution a couple of years back, remember."

Ok. So then at some point in the future could Iran have a nuclear weapon if there were no more "near revolutions"? How many years have to pass? China, Russia and Pakistan all obtained nukes within fifty years of revolution. France within fifty years of being totally invaded by a vicious foreign power. NoKo just went ahead and built one despite being NoKo. So is fifty years of stability a good litmus test?

I also question the seriousness of the threat posed by the "near revolution" to the govt of Iran. Just how "near".

"Iran is the kind of country that would probably like to make a little money selling nuke tech to other countries."

Well Pakistan is a country that would "probably" like to sell nuclear tech. It has sold nuclear tech. Both candidates say Pak is an ally. Israel regularly sells tech related to delivery systems. Ironicly some of the tech they sell ends up in Iran via China. So I'm having a hard time understanding how Iran is unique in this regard.

"Iran hates many of our allies, and has a history of squabbling with its neighbors. nukes change the balance of things."

Hates who? The US and Israel, sure, but who else? Squabbling with neighbors? Which ones. I recall Saddam's Iraq attacking Iran and Iran reacting defensively, but what else? Isn't the nuclear armed US the country that starts wars all over the globe for reasons that are not clear. Surely "squabbles" with neighbors hardly equates with Iraq, Vietnam, a dozen or so bannana republics.........why is Iran being held to a unique interpretation of standards in this regard?

"Iran has a long history of sponsoring terrorism."

Every country that has nukes has a long history of sponsoring terrorism in the world. Why is Iran held to a unique interpretation of standards in this regard?

Sorry cleek. Your argument fails to move me in the least.

Is it that you are just afraid of swarthy men in turbans?

btw...how do nukes "change the balance" - unless you are saying that Iran would use a nuke offensively? In which case you would be arguing that they are insane. if so, on what do you base your allegations of insanity?

i'm not going to do a word-by-word defense of what i wrote. i get it: you're fine with Iran getting nukes.

makes no sense to me, but nothing else you write makes any sense to me either. so, whatever.

"you're fine with Iran getting nukes"

No. I'm not fine with it.

However, like car accidents and terrorism, I think it is something we can learn to live with because there isn't much else we can do about it short of starting a ground war in Iran that would probably ignite the entire region and result in more US deaths (probably more deaths of all nationalities) than a nuclear armed Iran ever would and all at a financial cost that would finish us off as an economy within a couple years.

No. I'm not fine with it.

did you hear that sound? that was the sound of my forehead cracking against my desk.

well, if it helps I'm not overly concerned either.

Gah. Maybe we should treat Iran as a civilized nation of 75 million people and then see how that goes, before we get all air-strikey.

Oh, we decided against that in 1953, you say? Never mind then.

I have to actually agree with blackhawk's general description of the situation.
I think though that the main reason that Iran having a nuke would mean trouble is not its threat to Isreal, let alone the US. One practically undisputed prediction is that an Iranian nuke would mean at the minimum Saudi Arabia and Egypt going full hog for their own (and maybe some other countries in the region too). And it is my personal opinion that Saudi Arabia would be far less trustworthy with nukes than Iran (no opinion on Egypt). An Iranian bomb would be a life insurance* for the Iranian regime not an offensive tool(btw, the nuclear program as a general idea has the support of even the opposition. Had the Green ones taken over there would have been little change to it). So I see the main danger of Iranian nukes not in the devices themselves and their controllers but in the reactions outside Iran.
---
Humans have no real sense for risks and are in general quite irrational about them, i.e. they often fear negligible risks and ignore real ones. And this gets extremer the more probablity and expectable/potential damage differ. A terrorist strike could in theory have a huge impact but the really big ones are also extremly unlikely and rare. This difference imo explains in part the totally irrational panic reactions. On a smaller scale people tend to fear more to die in a crash when in an aircraft than when in a car. I think it would take far less effort to lower the risk of large terrorist attacks than reducing lethal car accidents (something that must have swallowed many billions over the years but also had a very measurable effect). But a single event like 9/11 is far more spectacular than all those separate car accidents (and those millions that have been avoided don't show up at all). As a political comedian over here has said, about as many people fall victim to landmines each year as died on 9/11 but showing 3000 people stepping on landmines in sequence would bore anyone to death. So we put all these efforts into anti-terrorism and pretty little into defusing mines (also it is rarely Westerners that become mine victims, so interest is even lower).
Sorry for ranting off-topic again.

*as a 'take you with me' threat in case of an attack.

Maybe we should treat Iran as a civilized nation of 75 million people and then see how that goes, before we get all air-strikey.

By what criteria are the current Iranian leaders civilized? I'll concede there is a large element in Iran who would make that country a delight to visit. Unfortunately, they are unarmed.

"We obviously disagree on whether to kill terrorists."

We obviously disagree on whether facts matter. This is fun. I just deleted a whole series of "We obviously disagree on whether X".

I'm not a pacifist and not opposed to killing terrorists. I don't have your touching faith in the goodness of the Obama. I'm voting for a centrist liberal politician who is far preferable to the alternative, not some dreamlike vision of a wise guru who can always be trusted to do the right thing. Why even have checks and balances? Just put Obama in office. What check and balance could be better than that?

And sure, collateral damage. The get out of jail free card for every single action America takes which kills or hurts innocent people (sometimes even when it is intended to hurt innocent people, as with our sanctions on Iran). Collateral damage is an argument one uses sparingly, if you're really serious about not wanting to kill innocent people. In WWII it was beat Hitler or see a genocidal maniac set up a slave empire in Eastern Europe, like some villain out of a fantasy or SF novel. Not every situation in the world justifies actions which terrorize innocent people. Try reading the summary of the recent report on drones--

living under drones

The fact that both Presidential candidates agree on the drone policy doesn't make it irrelevant. Frequently when the two parties agree it's a bad thing, not a good thing.

There is a country in the Middle East which helped another country with a similar human rights record with its ballistic missile program and possibly with its nuclear program--

New York Times article on Israel and apartheid South Africa

I don't feel real comfortable with the notion that we have the right to inflict "crippling" sanctions on a country to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Sanctions which aren't "crippling" would be justifiable. The notion that Iran shouldn't have them because they aren't civilized is fine, but it applies to everyone. The real danger with Iran having nukes is not that they are so much more likely to use them, given their uncivilized ways, but because we will have two more countries in the world with nuclear weapons pointed at each other and it's really not a good idea to count on nuclear deterrence working forever. We got lucky in the Cold War and people sometimes act as though that proves deterrence with nuclear weapons works. It just shows that, for instance, if there's a 1 percent chance of failure per year for 50 years straight you're more likely to survive than not.

But if we were serious about all this, we wouldn't be singling out Iran. There's Israel, there's India, there's Pakistan, the US, Russia, and a few other places.

I am in favor of obliterating ANY nation that does not get rid of its nukes....you never know what might happen.

Maybe we should treat Iran as a civilized nation of 75 million people and then see how that goes, before we get all air-strikey.

By what criteria are the current Iranian leaders civilized?

Boom. That's how they teach you to move goal posts in law school.

Don't be bloodthirsty, bobbyp. Crippling sanctions first.

By what criteria are the current [US] leaders civilized? I'll concede there is a large element in [US] who would make that country a delight to visit. Unfortunately, they are unarmed.

At what point is the rest of the world allowed to say that the US is a threat to world peace and start bombing you? And after all, if we bomb you because your leaders are ignorant war-mongers who support terrorists, then you'll see the error of your ways, won't you? Opponents of the current President will be delighted with our behaviour. And we probably won't kill many of you who don't deserve it. ;-)

Nuclear nonproliferation is good. Disarmament is better. Nonproliferation is a lot easier than disarmament though.

Donald, you said: I'm voting for a centrist liberal politician who is far preferable to the alternative, not some dreamlike vision of a wise guru who can always be trusted to do the right thing.

I have no idea whether Obama is a wise guru. I think he's made good decisions. I think his life points to the fact that people (even powerless people) matter to him. I think he's been around: He spent part of his childhood in a Muslim country. He faced a racial identity crisis, and chose to identify as a black man. He's not a natural gladhander. He reads. He's written. He chose his religion rather than mindlessly doing what his family did. His reputation is as a conciliator. I think he is a wise person.

That doesn't mean I trust him in all ways, or that I agree with everything he's ever said or done. I agree with the idea of checks and balances, although I think that the current Republican party lacks the good faith to exercise checks and balances appropriately. Frankly, I'd trust Obama's unfettered judgment before I'd trust anything touched by Mitch McConnell or his checks or balances.

As for the drone report you cited, I've read it (and a criticism of it). Pakistan is a war-torn country. I'd hate living there. I would have hated it without the drones. I would have hated acid being thrown in my face or my head shot if I were a woman trying to go to school. Pakistan has a whole lot of things about it that would make me sick living there. Oddly, even worse than the U.S.!

Iran being full of swarthy men in turbans, I think we need to call in The Phantom.

"I agree with the idea of checks and balances, although I think that the current Republican party lacks the good faith to exercise checks and balances appropriately."

Well, it'd be nice to see some liberal Democrats challenging him from his left. It happens sometimes. Not enough. I'm fine with it not happening that much in the next two weeks, but after that, it should happen a lot. Or rather, I wish it would.

Just checked Nate Silver. His model has Obama with a 70 percent chance of winning. Slowly creeping back up. I hope that's right.

Will the drones find their way to the targets under a Romney geographical regime?

Study the maps:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/10/23/romney-middle-east-geography-fail/

Countme-in, I'd rather live in that world than this one.

Nonproliferation is a lot easier than disarmament though.

The history of ignorance is clear. The logic of the awesome destructive power of nuclear weapons coupled with the idea of nation-state sovereignty leads inexorably to proliferation.

Israel has The Bomb. They came very close to using it in '73. Are we so stupid as to believe that other powerful nations in the area can resist the lure of joining the nuclear club?

Our current "serious" policies in the ME verge on the insane. If Donald cannot abide my bloodthirstiness, well fine. Let everybody have nuclear weapons. Then when the other side talks, we might actually 'effing listen.

I once read a book a long time ago where the author argued that the US should unilaterally disarm. Made a good case, too. But I smoked a lot of pot in those days.

I'll try to find it at my local Socialist Public Library.

Just checked Nate Silver. His model has Obama with a 70 percent chance of winning. Slowly creeping back up. I hope that's right.

Me too. I live in Virginia, and I'll be out canvassing this weekend, and maybe doing some other stuff in the meantime for the folks at Obama headquarters. They're unbelievable. Heroic really.

That doesn't mean I trust him in all ways, or that I agree with everything he's ever said or done.

On the head of which pin shall be inscribe this missive?

On the topic of Iran:

Is there actually some kind of legal basis - international law, treaty obligations, UN proclamations, whatever - for denying Iran nuclear weapons?

Or is it just a matter of them being Not Quite Our Kind Or People, Dear?

I think a world with a non-nuclear Iran will be a much better place than a world with one. Then again, I think a non-nuclear world, period, would be a better place than a nuclear one.

But I'm curious to know, other than the undesirable disruption to the balance of power, what basis we have for saying Iran CANNOT have nukes?

But I'm curious to know, other than the undesirable disruption to the balance of power, what basis we have for saying Iran CANNOT have nukes?

My guess: because we can, as in, we have the power to, given our military, political and economic might.

What else is there when you really get down to it?

what basis we have for saying Iran CANNOT have nukes

Iran is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Treaties aren't voluntary (supposedly). Once you sign up, it's the law.

Or is it just a matter of them being Not Quite Our Kind Or People, Dear?

i hope that wasn't aimed at me. i certainly don't think what i think because they're Not Quite Our Kind Of People, Dear. i don't think they shouldn't have a nuke because of i'm afraid of their culture or their upbringing or their genetics (or whatever else that phrase implies). i think what i think because Iran's leadership have proven themselves, over and over, to be belligerent, untrustworthy, aggressive, and a threat to everyone around them. they fund and support Hezbollah, for crying out loud.

and no doubt the US is perceived in quite the same way by many in the world. but we already have nukes, like it or not. that ship has sailed. getting rid of our nukes would be great, but that is never going to happen while countries like Iran are actively trying to get them.

It's because of their swarthiness. And because of the turbans.

Maybe we should treat Iran as a civilized nation of 75 million people and then see how that goes, before we get all air-strikey.

By what criteria are the current Iranian leaders civilized?

Boom. That's how they teach you to move goal posts in law school.

Very insightful. Of course Iran's leadership is immaterial. It's the people who matter, the people who are building the nukes and the people who support, inter alia, Hezbollah. Thanks for straightening me out.


Or is it just a matter of them being Not Quite Our Kind Or People, Dear?

Maybe it's their leaders?

sapient: Iran is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Signed by...?

Iran is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Bingo. Thank you sapient!

i hope that wasn't aimed at me. i certainly don't think what i think because they're Not Quite Our Kind Of People, Dear.

Not aimed at you. Or at anyone here, really.

I will say that, as belligerent untrustworthy aggressive threatening states go, Iran seems, to me, to be no more than middling.

Not an argument in favor of looking the other way while they develop a nuclear capability, certainly. Just noting that they're not particularly unique, either among nuclear or non-nuclear states.

"what basis we have for saying Iran CANNOT have nukes"

Actually, we should probably take a few steps back and ask, "What is the basis for saying that Iran is even trying to obtain nukes".

I mean it is a big leap to assume that they are. They've had a nuclear power program since the 1950s. The original revolutionary religious leadership issued a statement that was certainly ahered to in the 1980s declaring nukes to be against Islam.

So based on what are we even having this discussion about programs to develop nukes? Mossad once again? If not Mossad, where is it coming from?

Sounds to me like another Iraq war type black flag op., but maybe someone can show me the evidence that Iran is pursuing nukes and needs to be subject to harsh sanctions and even bombardment in order to thwart their plans.

Because, if it's just civilian use of nuclear energy - as Iran says it is - then this discussion is moot at best.

Iran's leaders don't like each other either:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/world/middleeast/dispute-between-ahmadinejad-and-rivals-in-iran-takes-bitter-turn.html?pagewanted=all

I heard a guy recently on NPR talking about how the Iranian people, unlike their leadership and of all of the Muslim populations in the Middle East, have the highest regard for America.

I suspect we'll ..... (America: Now, which ones are the Shias and which ones are the Sunnis? Who let the dogs out? I love the Shias. Oh, you're a Sunni? I love the Sunnis. I forget, which one of you have we armed? Both? I love both of you. Here's some money. Now, about that oil. Would you please speak English when asking whether or not my crypto-religious/business base in America thinks you're all a bunch of sand others who, if you were Pennsylvania residents (I love the Amish) sitting atop the Marcellus Shale, we'd have to trespass on your property at night to get those soundings, please sign here because we're tunneling under you as we speak, etc.) .... all of that goodwill out of our a*ses.

Very insightful. Of course Iran's leadership is immaterial.

Yes, well, they aren't the ones who are going to be in the path when we start with the airstrikes. It's going to be those other 75 million people.

I heard a guy recently on NPR talking about how the Iranian people, unlike their leadership and of all of the Muslim populations in the Middle East, have the highest regard for America.

The sanctions aren't working, then.

McTx: Very insightful. Of course Iran's leadership is immaterial. It's the people who matter, the people who are building the nukes and the people who support, inter alia, Hezbollah.

It's like the people who operate the drones and support, inter alia, MEK.

Yes, well, they aren't the ones who are going to be in the path when we start with the airstrikes. It's going to be those other 75 million people.

I think that Obama really, really wants to avoid that.

Ultimately, I think this is going to come down to a question of "what are you going to do about it?"

The plain fact is that it will be really hard to completely prevent Iran from moving ahead, if that's what they really really want to do. It will likely take a real live shooting war, and that will be a REALLY ugly mess.

I mean really ugly. Order of magnitude greater level of effort, as compared to either Afghanistan or Iraq, or even both combined. If my understanding of the situation is correct.

It will cost a lot of money, a lot of people will be killed and many of them will be American. It will take years. The end game is totally unclear - if we achieve a military goal sufficient to eliminate (in one way or other) the current government, what happens then?

What price are we willing to pay to prevent a nuclear Iran? How much money, how much debt, how many other things get crowded out, how many dead mangled or otherwise FUBAR young American people?

I'm sure that, at some price, we can prevent a nuclear Iran. We are going to have to decide if the price is worth it.

Maybe there's something else they - the Iranians - want more than a nuke, that we can make happen for a lower (to us) price point. My druthers, I'd look down that path before putting on the battle armor.

War is not just another foreign policy option. And Iran is not just another "shitty little country" that we can "throw against the wall".

It's going to be those other 75 million people.

i'd be pretty surprised if any of our stop-the-nuke bombing scenarios included intentional bombing of Iranian civilians.

not that sanctions don't hurt them, but there's a difference...

I agree with russell that strikes against Iran might well lead to a very ugly war, which is why Obama has tried to stop the possibility with sanctions, and perhaps with talks. I hope that we can find a way not to go down that road. My belief is that Obama's exploring every other option. "Just say no," unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an option if Israel decides to strike Iran, since Iran will retaliate against the United States.

since Iran will retaliate against the United States.

really?

i'd think Iran would have its hands full just dealing with Israel. pulling the US (and therefore all of NATO) into things would be suicide.

"....which is why Obama has tried to stop the possibility with sanctions...."

Does anyone understand what is being said here?

The "possibility"?

We wage war because there is a *possibility* that a country might do something they haven't done and claim to not want to do (i.e. Iran says it wants peaceful nuclear power).

Does this strike anyone as being wrong in some higher moral sense as well as illegal in an international law sense?

I mean, why not just militarily colonize the entire planet because, after all, there is a possibility that some country or another will do something that we perceive as a threat at some point in the future. Oh yeah....wait a minute.....that's what the neocons proposed doing in the PNAC manifesto as well as other published papers.

BTW, I concur with Russell's assessment of what a war with Iran would be like as well as his approach to making such decisions.

"unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an option if Israel decides to strike Iran"

In that case, Israel would be in violation of international law and the UN/NATO should attack Israel and destroy its government with any survivors being tried for war crimes (e.g. waging a war of aggression).

There are options once we stop believing that we have moral obligation to protect Israel no matter what it does.

Israel is NOT a 51st state, you know.

i'd think Iran would have its hands full just dealing with Israel. pulling the US (and therefore all of NATO) into things would be suicide.

Maybe, but dealing with Israel would likely end up meaning dealing with us. I hope that it all becomes moot.

ditto

likewise

i'd be pretty surprised if any of our stop-the-nuke bombing scenarios included intentional bombing of Iranian civilians.

Since at least the Elder Bush's Iraq war, it has become a central part of US military campaigns to attack infrastructure like power plants, bridges etc.
Rumsfeld was not happy about going into Afghanistan for the reason (among others) that there was no infrastructure to bomb anymore ('not enough targets').
It does not necessarily need direct collateral damage (let alone intentional carpet bombing) to hit the civilan population hard.
Also a lot of primary targets in a 'denuclearisation' bombing of Iran are located within population centers (not totally by chance). Experience shows that even seriously trying not to miss with a significant number of bombs, it does not really work.

Israel is NOT a 51st state, you know.

I bow to your superior knowledge.

Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty. They are subject to IAEA oversight. Due to intransigence over revealing "completely" what they have been up to, the UN has passed a number of condemnatory resolutions against the country. Sanctions (an act of war) of one sort or another have been adopted by the UN, NATO, US, and other international organizations.

Meanwhile, the many UN resolutions passed as regards Israel's ongoing oppressive occupation of Palestinian land go largely unremarked, unnoticed, ignored....well, you get the picture.

Funny how that works.

You want the thrill of scary politics?* Start reading the Israeli press regularly.

*and by this, I do not mean "vote Republican".

"....since Iran will retaliate against the United States."

Gosh. Whoulda' thunk? Most likely they would try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. This would be a retaliation against the entire industrialized world, not just the US.

A aserious and direct attack against the Sacred Homeland is pretty much out of the question.

Meanwhile, the many UN resolutions passed as regards Israel's ongoing oppressive occupation of Palestinian land go largely unremarked, unnoticed, ignored....well, you get the picture.

Preaching to the choir. Unfortunately, it took a long time to develop a functional civil law that would apply somewhat fairly within countries (and, obviously, we're not really there yet). International law is still developing. We can only work towards it. We should really have a separate thread about Israel. (I realize that we sorta just had one, but it was a bit arcane for me.)

Gosh. Whoulda' thunk? Most likely they would try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. This would be a retaliation against the entire industrialized world, not just the US.

True too. But who represents the military might of the entire industrialized (especially Western) world? That would be us. I mean US. I mean NATO, including US. This isn't a situation we want.

A aserious and direct attack against the Sacred Homeland is pretty much out of the question.

Most analyses, including from folks ranging from the Russian military to the FAS, is that Iran has a well-developed asymmetric warfare capability.

So, Gulf of Hormuz, but significant deployments of US troops are also well within reach of Iran, as are lots of other military and infrastructure assets important to us and our allies.

They don't have an overwhelmingly strong conventional military, but they have the capability to make it very, very painful for anyone who wants to take them on.

I have no doubt whatsoever that, if it came to it, that we could prevail. It would just cost us a lot, in a lot of kinds of coin. And not just us.

That's how it looks to me.

That's certainly my understanding too, russell.

Slightly off-topic, but if people here are supporting Obama (even as the lesser of two evils :) ), there are some things you can do. If you don't think canvassing or phone calling will work for you (say, if you can't do that, or you live in a place that is very safe), you might consider sending some kind of moral support to office workers at various Obama headquarters in swing states. I can personally testify that these people are crazily working their butts off. i'll leave it to people's creativity to figure out what to do, but just a thought.

"So, Gulf of Hormuz..."

The US Navy would waste whatever Iran tosses into the fray in the Gulf. There'd be some US losses, but not beyond acceptable limits.

"...significant deployments of US troops are also well within reach of Iran"

Yes. True, but the real problem becomes ensuring that Iran's nuclear capacity is verily destroyed and that means ground troops going into Iran, seizing and holding territory, just like ground troops are meant to do and exactly as is necessary to accomplish anything in warfare. That is where the real trouble begins - trouble as in bloody, economy destroying quagmire. Iraq X 100.

This faith in the ability of air power alone to achieve military objectives should have been recognized as the crock of crap that it is (along with COIN) long ago. It has never worked.

I feel all warm and fuzzy finding myself in total agreement with Russell :-)

"I can personally testify that these people are crazily working their butts off."

My wife is working at Dem HQ in our area making the calls and rallying the voters for BHO. She is putting in time every day. We got good seats to see Bill Clinton as a reward for her efforts. That man truly is a great communicator. Makes BHO look like a rank ammateur, but yeah, he is still less evil by several degrees than the republican toad.

Me:"Israel is NOT a 51st state, you know."

Slarti: "I bow to your superior knowledge."

Good. You should.

So, now that we recognize that Israel is not a US state,. Now why don't you tell me why we need to back the zionist play when they are out of line with international law and out of line with US interests.

There was a story recently about how a serious air campaign against Iran's nuclear program would probably cause thousands of casualties in the short run and possibly tens of thousands of deaths from illness. I might have even linked to it in some earlier thread on this subject. I might or might not look for it--feeling a bit lazy.

Someone mentioned Iran's support of Hezbollah--while I'm not a fan of Hezbollah and they have been guilty of terrorism against the US, the US also supplied Israel with the cluster munitions they spread liberally on Lebanon at the close of the 2006 war and anyway, Americans (and Israelis) are in no position to lecture Iran on the sorts of groups they support. Hezbollah is no worse on human rights than some of our allies. (I'd include Israel there.) We recently took an Iranian group with a rather shady past (the MEK) off the terrorist list (which is a joke in itself).

Israel may not be the 51st state, but they sure get a lot of love in our Presidential debates. Plus weapons. One Romney flipflop that Obama didn't go after--Romney dismissed the 2SS in his 47 percent secret talk, but embraced it a couple of weeks ago.

That's how it looks to me.

Ok by me, too. But when I stated "Sacred Homeland" I was refering to the lower 48, Alaska, and Hawaii. If you want to throw in Samoa and Puerto Rico, OK by me.

If we are really serious about ending US hegemony in the world, I'd suggest invading Iran, or the Romney tax plan.

On another note....when the Shah was running things, there were a lot of Iranian students over here. I was friends with several. Great folks, and I think a source of ongoing good will towards us. Hang on a little longer guys! Freedom!!!!!

"Israel may not be the 51st state, but they sure get a lot of love in our Presidential debates. Plus weapons."

The zionists spy on the US and the US continues to give them access at top security cleance levels. The zionists take the weapons systems we give them and sell them to the Chinese who in turn sell them to Iran. And then demand more.

Pure unmitigated avarice and non-symbiotic parasitic relationships with host countries should have already been the zionists undoing - probably will be in the long run.

I, for one, will loudly oppose any more US blood or treasure being sacrificed to further the corrupt and illegal zionist agenda.

My wife is working at Dem HQ in our area making the calls and rallying the voters for BHO. She is putting in time every day.

I am totally grateful to her!

I'm opposed to what Israel does to the Palestinians. The arms trade in general stinks--I think the US is the leader in that area.

On the other topic--my help for Obama is going to be financial. Which is unusual for me. Normally giving money to politicians seems like a really rotten way to spend it, but I'll make an exception this time.

If we're mentioning support for terrorists, anyone remember NORAID? Probably not many, but for Britons of a certain age, it's hard to forget that there were some prominent Americans happy to support terrorist groups attacking a democracy that was one of the US's closest allies. For British people, terrorism didn't start in 2001. (That doesn't mean I support all of the British policy in Ireland, by the way).

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