February 28, 2007
WAR: I Will Get Fooled Again
Bill Richardson may or may not be a serious contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination - he does, at least, have far more experience in executive and foreign policy roles than the top three contenders combined - but it's a safe bet that the former Clinton Administration UN Ambassador and current New Mexico governor will play a significant role in the next Democratic Administration, and may well be a frontrunner for the VP job. So, Gov. Richardson's foreign policy op-ed piece in Saturday's Washington Post deserves some scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the results aren't pretty. Gov. Richardson wants us to use the recent nuclear deal with North Korea as a model to deal with Iran. Let's start with his description of that agreement:
The recent tentative agreement with North Korea over its nuclear program illustrates how diplomacy can work even with the most unsavory of regimes. Unfortunately, it took the Bush administration more than six years to commit to diplomacy. During that needless delay North Korea developed and tested nuclear weapons -- weapons its leaders still have not agreed to dismantle. Had we engaged the North Koreans earlier, instead of calling them "evil" and talking about "regime change," we might have prevented them from going nuclear. We could have, and should have, negotiated a better agreement, and sooner.
Of course, this is rather a different tune than Richardson sang on his visit with the North Koreans in 2003:
North Korea has no intentions of building nuclear weapons, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Saturday as he concluded three days of talks with two envoys from the communist nation.
"We discussed issues very frankly, but in a positive atmosphere," Richardson said.
North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Han Song Ryol, said during the talks that "North Korea has no intentions of building nuclear weapons," Richardson said.
Well, so much for that. But has he learned anything from the experience? The agreement with North Korea is an improvement over the 1994 Clinton Administration agreement because it involves North Korea's patron and powerful next-door neighbor, China. That's worth something in terms of the costs to the North Koreans of violating the agreement, or at least the costs of being publicly caught again violating the agreement. But other than that, the deal is essentially the same leap of faith, with little in the way of verifiable benchmarks North Korea can be held to. As even Gov. Richardson now concedes, the agreement doesn't even require North Korea to dismantle its weapons, plus it rewards the North Korean strategy of nuclear blackmail.
The virtue of the North Korean agreement, if there is one, is in getting a temporary delay in the day of reckoning with the North Korean threat so that more of our military and diplomatic resources can be focused on the primary theater of the current struggle against international terrorism: the tyrannies and struggling democracies of the Muslim and Arab worlds, in particular the Middle East and Central Asia. While North Korea is a serious threat in itself and - to the extent it proliferates its weapons and technology - also a part of that broader struggle, a temporary mollification of the North Korean regime, even at the price of more suffering and starvation for its downtrodden people, can help our strategic position in dealing with the major front.
But Richardson instead wants to see the Band-Aid that's been stretched over this side injury applied to the major wound. He throws around appeals to sensible propositions like "speaking credibly from a position of strength" and having "a record of meaning what you say." And, to his credit, he eschews the bizarre insistence of some Democrats that the U.S. should insist on unilateral negotiations, and recognizes that Russia would need to play the role with Iran that China does with North Korea (left unsaid is the fact that Russia appears to have no interest in taking the U.S. side in this fight). But his ultimate message is an exclusive focus on a negotiated resolution that appears to ignore the multifaceted nature of the Iranian menace:
A better approach would be for the United States to engage directly with the Iranians and to lead a global diplomatic offensive to prevent them from building nuclear weapons. We need tough, direct negotiations, not just with Iran but also with our allies, especially Russia, to get them to support us in presenting Iran with credible carrots and sticks.
No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don't.
Now, lining up a diplomatic coalition to pressure Iran on its nuclear program is all well and good - that's largely the path the Bush Administration has signalled in recent years - but at the end of the day, an agreement with the Iranians is no more likely to hold up than the current or past agreements with North Korea. The problem with Iran - as it was with Saddam Hussein's Iraq - is inherent in the nature of the regime, and by no means limited to the nature of the regime's armaments. Validating and rewarding that regime in exchange for nuclear concessions of dubious enforceability will only weaken our position in dealing with Iran's support of terror groups in Iraq and Lebanon. Unfortunately, Richardson - whether out of naivete or an effort to appeal to the ostrich faction in the Democratic primaries - is all too willing to get fooled again.
To be precise and show why the Crank is correct, use simple mathmatics and science principles. Using a model almost assumes using a template. If you've ever seen NASCAR officials use the same template over one of its cars before the race, picture the obserdity of doing something similar with a complicated geo-political issue like this. Richardson has to know the modalities of both Iran and N Korea and is just submitting a contrarian view for partisan reasons.
Comments will probably become an echo chamber for this one. Governor Richardson, please recount for me all the instances since the Islamic Revolution when the mullah government of Iran has conducted good faith negotiations that showed them to be trustworthy and dependable. If you can find one instance where they did not lie and use the other side's naive hopes of reconciliation to their advantage and to nobody else's, I will then agree that speaking to them in a diplomatic sense is worth the time. These men understand force only.
You're saying that negotiations are a failure, so the model that your hero Dubyah espoused, "invade now, figure out what to do later," is better?
Are you guys crazy? The president lives in some sort of alternate reality if he really believes that invading Iran while embroiled in the bitter failure of Iraq is some sort of solution.
Darryl, please respond to my theoretical question to Governor Richardson. Have any of the Iranian mullahs ever conducted honest negotiations of a give and take nature? Are they honest or duplicitous? Tell me why you would trust anything that they say.
If they allow us to verify everything they might claim to do, I would be willing to talk. This was expressed by a much better man than any of us will ever be as, "Trust, but verify". In your wildest dreams, will the mullahs allow us to verify anything?
If you find the mullahs to be trustworthy, I suggest that you are the one living in alternate universe.
I'd like to add one more thing about the trustworthiness of the Iranian mullahs. The Koran sanctions lying to non-Muslims. Check out Surah 3.28 and 16.106.
Look for explanations of Al-taqiyya and dissimulation which refer to the practice of Muslims blatantly lying to non-Muslims, but the principal goes beyond mere lying for propaganda purposes.
In accordance with this license to deceive, during time of weakness the Qur'an allows Muslims to have both a declared agenda and a secret agenda. The theological principle of Taqiyya means hiding one's true beliefs and intentions to confuse ones adversaries and enable mujahedeen to operate freely amongst enemies.
The point about the trustworthiness of Iran's leaders is a moot one. If we don't trust or negotiate, the only other alternative would be military action.
Only one failed Mideast war per generation, please...
Secondly, the idea of us dictating to any nation, even one as dubious as Iran, about reducing/eliminating nuclear arms is fairly ironic. We are, to date, the only country to have used atomic weapons on our enemy. I mean, I completely agree with the decision to use them to end WW II, but it doesn't erase the fact that we, not Iran, are the ones who have used nukes.
Thirdly, George Bush's bogus pretext for invading Iraq (WMD) and his subsequent dismissal of the United Nations completely emasculated said organization. The UN was created to deal with issues such as these. It wasn't always perfect, but it is completely impotent now, in my opinion, due to the disaster of 2003.
Fourth, the United States' completely biased favoritism toward Israel really hurts us in our relations with Iran.
Why do we unconditionally back Israel? Is it because of the Holocaust? Is it because we have prominent leaders of Jewish descent? Is it because we have ridiculous Fundamentalist Christian leaders and citizens who believe the Rapture/Armageddon are imminent, and these "events" will take place only in a Israel? Who knows...? But the fact remains that this bizarre one-sidedness has hurt us at the negotiating table.
The only question that remains is this: will the Republicans be able to scare the voters enough by 2008 for them to feel:
1. Iran is a world threat, not just a regional one.
(We heard that one before in 2003)
2. That they harbor/aid terrorists. (Wow, if that's the case, how do you define the Bushes' great friends in Saudi Arabia?)
3. That a pre-emptive strike into Iran is necessary.
4. Most importantly, that even thought the campaign in Iraq is a disaster and the overwhelming majority of people want us to pull out, that we must, somehow, open up a *second* front in the Mideast.
If the Republicans can spin this to the public -- and with their past history, lack of morals, and ability to re-define reality, there's no reason to believe they can't -- it all becomes moot, for it will prove just how stupid and/or fearful Americans are in the insane climate that Bush and Co. have created since 9/11...
If we don't trust or negotiate, the only other alternative would be military action.
In the long run, perhaps so. But in the short run, if you gain nothing by negotiating, why negotiate? Sometimes, leaving the status quo in place, however bad, is better than taking a bad deal that gives up something of value for nothing and constrains your options in the future.
I actually agree that we should make less of a big deal about countries getting nuclear weapons as such, and focus more on who should not be trusted with nukes.
"From Darryl: The point about the trustworthiness of Iran's leaders is a moot one. If we don't trust or negotiate, the only other alternative would be military action."
I disagree, there is another way: Remember, while Iran is an oil exporter, they are an energy importer. They also pay enormous subsidies for cheap energy. Those subsidies have little to do with rational economics, something the mullahs don't qite understand (bullying with oil they get). This energy payment program is an attempt to buy off what is a fractured society. And it's not working. While they do want the nuclear technology for weapons, they do need it for energy as well. So we don't invade, we do what we can (remember I'm big in fighting battles on our terms) to have them spend themselves into blivion. Once the Iranian government reaches the point where they can't really pay for the guns and butter (well nukes and gasoline) the enormous fractures in their society will break them apart. With some help from the Sunni nations around them that really don't trust them.
American know how with regards to economics is among our best products.
To dismiss trustworthiness of the Mullahs as moot is to deny reality and create a model for action thats essentially a false choice.
You can never disregard the examples of history where countries (USSR and North Korea) and individual tyrants (Hitler/Sadam) demonstrated for the world they had no intent to follow any agreement they made diplomatically. They in fact used the perception of negotiating as a tool to acheive their agendas. It many cases it served as delaying tactics.
Democrats who have experience like Bill Richardson or Madeline Allbright clearly continue to pass contrarian views for partisan reasons. Their goal is domestic politcal power. And its a disturbing trend that the Democrats take these sorts of stances when our nation security is in question-let alone when we have troops in the field.
I for one am not afraid to conclude that this is an example of prioritizing their own political power over that of America's security and well-being. And sadly, yes, it does bring into question their patriotism.
Oh, please. This "can't be trusted" argument you've all been bandying about is farcical. If there's any nation that hasn't been trustworthy in its dealings with middle-eastern relations, it's the nation we're all really familiar with. Who armed Saddam? Who overthrew Mossadeq? Who enabled the Shah, and defended his human rights violations? Who lied about WMDs? Who began a war of aggression in Iraq?
Just stop it.
I'm not saying I either like or trust A-Jhad (I don't), but he's not a threat to us! Nor do I like or trust Musharref, or the Saudis, or Hamas, or Maliki. I don't like or trust any of those bastards. But they aren't threats to us either. There is a guy that's a threat, but we don't seem too interested in going after him for some reason. Any suggestions why that might be.
If you guys wanna come out say, "F*ck Iran, let's start bombing," just come out and say it. But please, for the sake of your own dignity, stop with the pathetic rationalizations. Enough.
And as an American, as a Jew, and as a human being, your tired and lame Hitler=Saddam bullsh*t is repulsive. Give it a rest, will you?
Mike, trust is crucial to negotiations. Of course, the more crucial issue is verifiability, and if we learned anything from the past six decades it's that our ability to get good intelligence on WMD programs in police states is very limited (this was not a new problem with Saddam - think of the "missile gap" or us being caught flat-footed when the USSR and Red China got the bomb). Absent either one, there's no real upside to negotiating. Like I said, that doesn't automatically mean war, but it does mean that you can't wave a magic "process" and make the problem go away.
trust is crucial to negotiations.
Of course it is. Yet nations who have no reason to trust us want to negotiate.
Anyhow, enough snark. On the serious side, you say there's no real upside to negotiations. I'm not sure I agree, but more to the point: what's the downside to negotiating? Why are we, as Americans, suddenly so concerned that the world will think we're a bunch of "wimps," afraid to go to war if necessary.
I think it's safe to say the world is well aware of our hawkishness at this point.
And . . . if you really believe that Iran is getting closer to creating a deliverable nuclear device . . . and you won't negotiate, doesn't reasoning lead us to only one eventual conclusion: War.
Like war, hate war, want war, whatever, a salient point exists which many continue to ignore -- we, as a nation, are in no position to start yet another war. Even if we need to, we have neither the troops, the endless finances, nor the national will to do so.
We should be negotiating unless we believe -- as I do -- that Iran represents no threat to us. In that sense, I'm with you in agreeing that negotiations are unnecessary. But we're dealing with different predicates.
Negotiations.....or better yet diplomatic inquires are useful, but taking anything of the table is bad for negotiations and ultimately leverage. The trust but verify point of view of Ronald Reagan is instrtuctive here.
In Iran example, it appears that sanctions are causing some internal difficulties for the mullahs. The presence of a carrier force into the Persian Gulf was also useful.
Feeling Iran is not a threat has already been, well, just proven to be wrong. Supplying arms to both all sides save the Iraqi government is threatening. Having their special ops forces killing US soldiers is threatening. Being the pay master for Hezbollah is threatening. The list goes on.
If conventional weaponry is being supplied to terrorists that already are killing Americans isn't threatening, then nothing with your modle nothing can be.
For many of us, if a nation has already demonstrated a willingness to provide tools to kill Americans and its allies, we consider it a threat. Its easy to dismiss the Iranian president's words are meer taunts, but not its actions. The thought of an Iranian capability to put a nuclear weapon in the hands of an individual who's willing to lose their own life, is far too large a chance to take.
Bob, you make some legitimate points (notwithstanding your paeon to Ronald "Lets Trade Arms To Iran For Hostages" Reagan). But:
1. Supplying arms to both all sides save the Iraqi government is threatening. Having their special ops forces killing US soldiers is threatening.
I still fail to see how any of this threatens The United States. If we'd get our boys & girls out of harm's way, this would be a non-issue. Iran is doing what any nation would do under the circumstances -- looking out for its own well-being. If China invaded Mexico, would we take it sitting down? I certainly hope not.
2. Being the pay master for Hezbollah is threatening.
I'm as pro-Israel an anyone on this site, I assure you, but I'm careful to make a distinction: Israel is not the US; Hezbollah does not threaten the US. I'm Jewish, but more importantly, I'm American. No US children should be dying for Israel. Sorry, but that's the ugly truth.
3. The thought of an Iranian capability to put a nuclear weapon in the hands of an individual who's willing to lose their own life, is far too large a chance to take.
Ok. Let's assume you're correct, for the sake of argument. What are we gonna do? We don't have the troops! Are you volunteering? Are you advocating a draft? Do you want your son or daughter going? Who's paying for this? Are you willing to pay double the taxes you now pay? Willing to increase the debt? See more inflation as we "print" more money to finance yet another bit of adventurism?
I say "no" to all those questions. Should I assume you say "yes." Seems that way.
I wish the US had more power with which to bargain too, Bob. But with two wars that don't look to be ending anytime soon, I don't see where this power is.
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