Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 13, 2009
WAR: In Praise of Chaos In Iran

Iran, we are told, is on the edge of, if not sliding immediately into, chaos. Both sides of the presidential election have claimed not only victory but landslide victory, and as happens in such cases in states that are not genuine democracies, the candidate who is out of power has apparently found himself under arrest, and the population is edging from restive to explosive. The usual voices of the status quo will undoubtedly tell us that America needs to be worried about this. But while chaos in Iran is not without risk, it is greatly to be encouraged.

First, Iran has been a thorn in the side of the United States, both in Iraq and more broadly around the region, and as often as not it has meddled in our and others' affairs without cost. There are few principles of international relations more critical than always giving the other guy a downside for making trouble. The disputed election makes the Iranian regime vulnerable; it is precisely at such moments of vulnerability that the regime can be made to suffer the downside of making us an enemy.

Second, the Iranian regime is bad for the Iranian people. Anything we can do to improve the chances of eliminating that regime improves the odds of cracking open Iranian society for the better. Violence is, unfortunately, the rule rather than the exception in revolutions, but freedom often isn't free - and as we have seen in recent decades, a surprising number of brutal but brittle regimes have crumpled in the face of popular uprising when they lost the will to stage their own Tianamen Square moment. There is only one way to find out; if the Iranian people are ready to take the chance, we should do whatever we can in our power to encourage them.

Third, a weak and inward-facing Iranian regime will be a lesser threat to continue pursuing its nuclear program and other forms of mischief, and may even provide opportunities for well-funded intelligence operations to take advantage of an unstable situation to further weaken Iranian capabilities.

Fourth, Iran has long stood as a propaganda victory for the Islamists, proof of a sort that an Islamic revolutionary state could stand against the West. That victory has inspired even Sunni Islamists who otherwise have little in common with Shi'ite Iran. The collapse or weakening of the regime at the hands of popular unrest would further demonstrate the dead end that is the radical Islamic political project.

America today has a great opportunity to make trouble for a hostile government while at the same time potentially lending an opportunity for freedom to its oppressed people. We should use whatever resources are at our disposal to make the best of that chance.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

There must be a full moon tonight. I totally agree with this.

Posted by: Magrooder at June 13, 2009 11:27 PM

Hopefully the US (intelligence, military, and mostly political leadership) are up to the task. You never want a good crisis to go to waste :)

Posted by: Brendan at June 13, 2009 11:42 PM

An opportunity for the Obama-meister to show if he has the chops for the job or not. What will he and the Hillary do? Can they find a way to turn this situation into one that is "hope and change"? Also, how long before Biden says something stupid?

The next few days will tell us alot about these people.

Posted by: Lee at June 14, 2009 9:04 AM

There isn't much we can do overtly. There's a squishy middle in Iran that will swing with regime change but they'd be pretty easy to mobilize behind the mullahs if we took this opportunity to strike at their nuclear facilities or at any terror camps we (may) know about.

During the Cold War it was trendy to believe that the east and west were being manipulated into fearing each other by our power-hungry leaders. Looking back, there was slightly more than an inkling of that going on. There's a huge number of Iranians who believe this is the case today between the west and Iran and that the threat to Iran comes from Russia, as it historically always has.

This would be big if the OA could pull a master stroke here. I have little confidence they can. But if they do, really and not just take credit when somebody else's ass is on the line, I will give them serious props.

Posted by: spongeworthy at June 14, 2009 9:23 AM

You should really stick to baseball. Your views regarding Iran are barely veiled rightwing nonsense. We followed your advice in Iraq, didn't we? We "made trouble" for a hostile regime. How'd that turn out?

Posted by: Toppy at June 15, 2009 10:52 AM

You should really stick to baseball. Your views regarding Iran are barely veiled rightwing nonsense. We followed your advice in Iraq, didn't we? We "made trouble" for a hostile regime. How'd that turn out?

Posted by: Toppy at June 15, 2009 10:52 AM

Well, first of all, we did something different in Iraq: we used military force to topple the regime, rather than supporting internal opposition, as that option wasn't feasible in Iraq.

How'd it work out? Even Tom Friedman conceded in his column this weekend that the winds of democratization in Iran and Lebanon were helped along by the Iraqi experience. Look at the current situation in Iran and think how much more difficult it would be if they still had Saddam squatting on their border.

Posted by: The Crank at June 15, 2009 11:18 AM

Well Saddam's been dead for a while now...

Actually a relatively democratic and free Iraq puts a lot of pressure on Iran - since the major holy sites of Shia are in Iraq and which means Iranian pilgrims are exposed to a much freer society. Obviously, the mullahs cannot restrict such travel.

Posted by: phwest at June 15, 2009 11:20 AM

"Even Tom Friedman..."
What, Hannity was busy?

Toppy,
Crank and his followers have no problems with war, as long as his car mechanic's kids do the fighting.

Posted by: Berto at June 15, 2009 12:10 PM

I'm at a loss to find anything advocating war in Crank's post. Perhaps one shouldn't use the Obama's favorite (and dishonest) tactic of response: create a straw man and then attack it instead of the merits of the actual position.

Posted by: per14 at June 15, 2009 2:10 PM

Yeah, I can't see how this leads to a situation where it would be a good idea to invade Iran. Perhaps that should be obvious.

We could end up in a situation where it became necessary to do air strikes on their nuclear facilities, but at the moment that would be a horrible idea. What we want is for Iran to go the way the Sovier bloc did after Reagan.

Posted by: The Crank at June 15, 2009 2:15 PM

"We could end up in a situation where it became necessary to do air strikes on their nuclear facilities . . . ."

That would be my preferred solution, should it come to that.

Posted by: MVH at June 15, 2009 2:39 PM

Berto doesn't even know who Tom Friedman is, does he?

And he follows his ignorance with a crack that would earn him a beating if he had the guts to say it to anybody's face. And by "anybody", I mean pretty much anybody, even toddlers.

Berto, you are the absolute dregs. They just don't come any worse.

Posted by: spongeworthy at June 15, 2009 2:40 PM

At the very least, recent events in Iran should contribute to the end of the "realist" theme that post-2001 US activity in the Middle East gave Iran a strategic victory.

"Never mind those hostile, resourceful and well-trained military forces on Iran's western and eastern borders all but eliminating its area for strategic manuever, we don't like George Bush. So, Iran wins", the logic went.

Silly then, to anyone paying attention. Silly soon (if not earlier), to everyone else.

Posted by: seamus at June 15, 2009 2:50 PM

"Berto doesn't even know who Tom Friedman is, does he?"

My guess is that Berto is a pacifist, and if that's the case, there really isn't any point debating with him any policy option that involves force.

Posted by: MVH at June 15, 2009 3:05 PM

My guess is that Berto is a pacifist

I think a more accurate description of Berto is as a troll. Someone who finds his sole purpose being defined as the obstinate opposition to everything Crank says.

Posted by: Agent W at June 15, 2009 3:22 PM

What makes you think Obama is the least bit interested in the freedom of 65 million Iranians? What's in it for him, politically?

Posted by: ShoelesJoe at June 15, 2009 4:28 PM

What actions would you specfically advocate for pressuring the mullahs, Crank? More speechifying from the UN? A declaration of moral support for the opposition? If you ship weapons covertly, whom do you send them to?? What happens to our international reputation if we get caught doing that? As for the nuclear program, I would bet it will continue on, whatever government would succeed the mullahs. When Iran gets the Bomb, the population will react the same way the Pakistanis and Indians did, with cheering and dancing in the streets. Nuclear weapons will be a great source of national pride.

Posted by: feeblemind at June 15, 2009 5:06 PM

I've been thinking a lot about the same thing. Talk can be cheap, but publicly denouncing the corruption of the current regime and of the "election" would be a necessary start, and pushing to get some UN statements couldn't hurt. Whether to ship weapons covertly would depend on whether there's a meaningful armed opposition in place.

I'm perhaps in the minority, but while I'd certainly rather the Iranians not have nuclear weapons, I'm much more concerned with the nature of the regime than with its military capabilities.

Of course, the difficulty of controlling proliferation is all the more reason never to back down on SDI.

Posted by: The Crank at June 15, 2009 5:19 PM

Tom Friedman is the guy who said this:
"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

In other words, he's just another douchebag who will follow along to the wars he advocates by watching the evening news.
As for the Iraq War, we didn't show the world how strong we are, we showed them how stupid we are.

spongeworthy,
I'm not afraid of speaking the truth just because someone's afraid to hear it. A.K.A. No 5 deferments for me!
Crank is a follower of a dead ideology (Conservativism), which has failed EVERY time it's been tried in the US. He also believes Democrats like Obama and the Clintons are "left-wing". It's either an act, or he's delusional. Why shouldn't he be called out on it?
OTOH, his baseball posts are usually well thought out (even if he is a Mets fan--je je).

Posted by: Berto at June 15, 2009 6:08 PM

Well, for some reason I felt the need to check Berto's attribution of that quote to Friedman. Possibly because quotes only take about 10 seconds of searching the internet to find if the source is right.

At any rate, in this brief search, I have not found that quote attributed to Friedman. Rather, it is Jonah Goldberg's tongue-in-cheek summary of the views of Michael Ledeen. That is, no one has said this as a policy prescription. See: Michael Ledeen, Controversial Theories on wikipedia. (Yea, wikipedia isn't a great source, but anything else I found seemed rabidly liberal.)

Berto: next time you want to post an exact quote, please take the time to at least research it and post a nominal source. Sources for your other contentions would be helpful as well.

Posted by: DKH at June 15, 2009 6:36 PM

DKH is right, that wasn't Friedman. But Mustache Tom has hardly been right on many matters related to the Middle East and elsewhere.

In my mind, Obama and the United States need to STFU and let things unfold in Iran. Any whiff of a U.S.-backed "revolution" in Iran will spoil the legitimacy of such a movement, and any reason for Ahmadinejad to be able to point to remarks by Obama or anyone else helps his cause.

We can clearly pick a side, but should stay out of the game, or so far below the radar no one will know.

Which of course Crank & Co will use against Obama—because subtlety is the proper course rather than bellicosity.

Posted by: Mr Furious at June 15, 2009 9:00 PM

I think Crank is correct (my fingers are burning from typing that), in preferring an effort to bring about a Soviet Union type collapse, which would take a level of subtlety in the government and its leader's that we are fortunate to have at the moment. Also, I agree that if we need to take out nuclear capabilities by air, we should do so.

As to SDI, well, not so much. It is enormously expensive and has not shown much promise technologically. RR's fantasies from his eyars in Hollywood are nice, but the real world intrudes from time to time.

Posted by: Magrooder at June 15, 2009 9:58 PM

I generally agree that it's better for the U.S. to just stay out of this. The fraudulent and oppressive nature of the Iranian voting process and regime is apparent on its face. I think intermeddling could risk the validity of any positive changes that might come about.

That said, I agree with Magrooder that if something subtle can be done, then do it. This will be difficult but I think it's possible.

What is beyond me is why, however, anyone thinks we are "fortunate to have at the moment" a government and leader that is capable of the appropriate subtlety. What have you seen in Obama that even suggests he is capable of this? Obama is a lot of things but he's not subtle, (unless you equate his frequent incoherence with being subtle.)

Posted by: per14 at June 16, 2009 10:14 AM

Obama is a lot of things but he's not subtle

As compared to zipping on flightsuits and strutting around on a battleship? Declaring countries part of an Axis of Evil?

Or like McCain?

Deft might be a better word than subtle for Obama, but either way, he's a preferable figure at this moment.

Posted by: Mr Furious at June 16, 2009 11:08 AM

I think we were all looking for an example of this quality you find in Obama, regardless of what you call it.

Stammering out platitudes is not a foregin policy position.

Posted by: spongeworthy at June 16, 2009 11:22 AM

Mr. Furious,

This has nothing to do with Bush. This is about Obama. It's almost embarrassing that six months into his administration, Obama supporters STILL have to use this as their main defense of him. Can't you think of anything better?

Posted by: per14 at June 16, 2009 11:38 AM

1. Apparently "subtle" is the new word for doing nothing.

2. Airplanes don't land on battleships, they land on aircraft carriers.

3. The US shouldn't sound like it *supports* Mousavi; not only would that help Ahmadenijad, but Mousavi's no prize either, being in the race only because he was acceptable to Khameni and the rest of the mullahcracy. But the truth can be a wonderful weapon against repressive governments. If Obama got up and laid out forcefully what's really happening in Iran - the farce that is Iranian 'democracy' in a mullah-controlled government and electoral process, the shabbiness of rigging even the limited elections they allowed, the brutality towards dissenters - he would peel back a lot of the facade of legitimacy the regime is trying desperately to maintain. That's what Reagan did with the Soviet bloc; liberals said the "evil empire" speech was unsubtle too, but it was the truth (just as "Axis of Evil" was the truth) and the truth empowered dissidents behind the Iron Curtain to keep the faith.

Too much of what we call "diplomacy" is simply the avoidance of truth. If Obama stood up for the truth, history would vindicate him.

Posted by: The Crank at June 16, 2009 1:40 PM

Reagan and the Soviet bloc is not a good comparison. That was two superpowers—on equal footing, each with MAD capabilities. More aggressive positions and statements were perfectly appropriate in certain circumstances.

The U.S. relationship and reputation in the Middle East—Iran in particular—is more complicated and represents a wholly different dynamic. We are the sole remaining superpower and would be weighing in on the internal affairs/strife of a sovereign nation orders of magnitude less powerful than us.

A country in which we have a history of overthrowing existing governments and installing and supporting an autocrat-cum-despot for some forty years...

So, yeah, I think we should "officially" butt the hell out, and the less Obama says out loud, the better.

The U.S. should have no intention of actually getting involved, so overt support from Obama without action to back it up will simultaneously make him and the US look weak, and will play right into Ahmadinejad hands.

I'd say my extreme leftist stance is somewhere between Pat Buchanan and Daniel Larison...

Posted by: Mr Furious at June 17, 2009 3:05 AM

Furious, if I were you I would not be bragging about ending up in the company of Larison & Buchanan, especially about Middle East policy.

What's hilarious about all this "Obama better keep quiet" stuff is it's coming from the same people who thought his Cairo speech was wonderful. I guess the illusion that Obama could talk his way out of things popped pretty quickly....although there is certainly a common thread in his thinking between (1) throwing his weight against Netanyahu and the settlements and meddling in internal Israeli politics, (2) renouncing any intention to interfere in Iran's nuclear program, (3) stating as a goal that he doesn't want an Iranian nuclear program to trigger an "arms race" in the region, and (4) refusing to meddle in Iranian internal affairs - and that common thread is essentially a complete buy-in to the Iranian regime's view of the world.

Posted by: The Crank at June 17, 2009 11:48 AM

Since we give Israel huge sums of military surrport, it's perfectly in Obama's rights to hold Israel to it's treaty obligations if he sees fit.

It has nothing to do with Iran other than the fact that Israel's actions make his job more difficult regarding Iran and the rest of the Arab world.

Placing pressure on an ally is worlds apart from meddling in the internals of an enemy.

Buchanan is in stopped clock territory with this issue—he and I rarely agree, but I'll place my lot with Larison over almost anyone else on the right, and not be shy about it.

Posted by: Mr Furious at June 17, 2009 12:49 PM

Broad policy speeches (Cairo) also have nothing to do with direct or indirect interference in another countries elections.

Posted by: Mr Furious at June 17, 2009 12:53 PM
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