Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No attack on Iran!

How to respond to the administration's threat of war against Iran?

Whether you can bring yourself to believe that they would actually do it or not, we have to proceed as if they are going to. To sit quietly, hoping they won't, is to refuse to learn from quite recent and bitter experience. It also hands them the political stick they want to use against Democratic candidates.

So, what to do?

The most important thing is to counter the characterization of the situation as a crisis. There is no crisis.

It is almost certainly the case that nothing we and the rest of the world in concert can do will prevent Iran from having nuclear power technology. It is their right, as it is that of any other developed country and signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It may be that nothing can prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But they are many years, at least a decade from having that capacity.

This is not about weapons. The administration's threats and war-drumming are not about weapons, any more than was their drive to invade Iraq. Are theirs the actions of people concerned with nuclear proliferation? They have unilaterally abrogated the ABM treaty, defunded the disposal of Soviet client nukes, adopted an official first-strike nuclear posture, developed new nuclear weapons, encouraged favored governments to undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty, bullied international arms control agencies, purged arms control experts from the State Department, weakened international agreements and alliances of all kinds, and on and on.

Nor is the war drive about spreading democracy. This point doesn't need to be elaborated, other than to note that of course being the target of military attacks (and threats of military attacks) drives people closer to their government, however unpopular that government is. An assault on Iran would end the pro-democracy movement there for many years to come.

U.S. troops occupy the countries on either side of Iran. U.S. bases ring Iran. The war against Iran is about strategic control of the Middle East and Central Asia.

War is not the answer. Public, repeated threats of bombing are not diplomacy. "Coercive diplomacy" is not diplomacy. It's war-mongering.

Our ruling regime has a first-strike policy. This policy was explicitly stated in the National Security Strategy papers of 2002 and 2005, underlined in the Pentagon's new official nuclear posture, and put into action in the invasion of Iraq.

Set aside the more fundamental rogue-superpower, endless-war-creating aspects of a first-strike policy. Just on the amoral level of execution, such an approach requires plentiful and high-quality intelligence. Our intelligence on Iranian capabilities, intentions, political dynamics, and virtually everything else is very poor. Twenty-five years of no embassy, trade, consulates, or remotely normal exchanges will do that for you. On top of that, a credulity-straining set of screwups have wiped out many of the intel channels we did have until recently (the Chalabi-INC debacle, the outing of Valerie Plame who was apparently monitoring Iranian nuclear activity, and other serious gaffes detailed in James Risen's book), not to mention the vast increase in Iranian access to U.S. military information made possible by our occupation of Iraq and close work with Shiite parties in Iraq.

A policy toward Iran that is in the national interest would be the exact opposite of this administration's. Begin direct negotiations, open channels of communication. We are the threat, and only we can de-escalate it.

To sum up:
There is no crisis. This is not about weapons.
War is not the answer.



At 2:56 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger C-Nihilist said...

Nice post, Nell. I quoted you over here.

At 3:13 PM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Nell. Thanks.

At 8:54 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger Tom Hilton said...

Well said, and the only thing I'd add is that even if war were the answer (and I think there are situations where it may be, although this isn't one of them), war conducted by this administration still wouldn't be the answer. Even if this were a crisis, even if there were a compelling reason to use military force, doing nothing would still be preferable to the catastrophic clusterfuck that would result from whatever these people do.

At 9:42 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger elendil said...

Three good points that can be summarised with "What!? Have you still not learnt your lesson from Iraq?"

At 3:34 AM, April 13, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Tom, your additional point is an excellent one for Dem candidates. But without laying the fundamental 'no crisis' groundwork, and without discrediting the Bush regime's actual concern about weapons, that can slide too easily into "Yes, Iran is a growing threat, and we'd attack more competently than Bush."

Instead, as Elendil says, that point needs to make use of the vivid and painful Iraq experience to paint the real picture: a weak, incompetent, untrustworthy and unpopular politician looking to whip up another distraction from the hole he's dug for himself and the country. This crowd has forfeited any right to be trusted on such serious matters.

At 7:30 PM, April 13, 2006, Blogger Gary Farber said...

"Our ruling regime has a first-strike policy. This policy was explicitly stated in the National Security Strategy papers of 2002 and 2005,"

This actually goes back to every National Security Directive since the invention of the bomb. Just for the record. There was never a credible threat against the Soviet Union without it, was the rationale. Thus, without it, no deterrence against their going through the Fulda Gap. Etc.

At 12:32 AM, April 14, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Observers with a longer view than mine seem to find something new in the Bush administration's formulation, both in the National Security Strategy and in the Nuclear Posture Review.

It's late; Thrashers squeaked out a win to keep playoff hopes alive, and I'm hoarse and exhausted. But when I'm back home (Monday) I'll dig up some of the alarmed analyses. It would be a relief, in a way, to think that this group isn't uniquely insane....

At 1:02 PM, April 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Nell,
I saw your post over at Tiny Nation, and i wondered what kind of local activism you do. I'm starting to see the light, that national change has to start by making local changes, but it's such a different frame of mind, that I'm not sure where to start.

At 1:49 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Liz, thanks for clicking over here. (Readers interested in the debate sparked by Scott Ritter's recent criticism of the antiwar movement should take a look at the threads at A Tiny Revolution and Max Speaks, as well as this response by two activists.

Truthfully, I've worked more and harder locally on national, antiwar issues on truly local ones. Here's a taste of that related to our upcoming Rumsfeld protest.
[Roanoke Times link may decay after 4/18.] The Baltimore Sun had a nice profile of our early antiwar organizing in November 2002.

My main contribution to work on local issues is in building the capacity of the local Democratic Party. I've been a big part of fundraising and staffing headquarters during the last two years' campaign cycles, and hope to make a lasting contribution through improvement of infrastructure like lists, communication with other area Dem committees, and maybe a long-term HQ and the fundraising to underpin it. This next couple of years I'm aiming to help develop the skills of local activists so I can step back a bit.

Looking locally is a very different lens. Everything in my background and disposition leads me to focus on foreign policy and national human rights issues; I'm just a big-picture kind of person.

This is a pretty small and overall relatively conservative community, and I grew up and have deep roots here. That has its advantages and disadvantages. Among other things, it's made me very sensitive to the language in which disagreements are expressed.

The truly local issues here that have activated people have to do with development. For the most part, I've worked to support friends who're active in those efforts rather than jump in directly.

At 3:05 PM, April 22, 2006, Blogger Tom said...


Bombing Iran is not only illegal and unjust, it is an unacceptable risk. The risks of "stopping Iran" are greater than not "stopping Iran." It isn't just my opinion that the risks that come with military actions against Iran are unacceptable. Look at the conclusion drawn from war-game simulations of attacking Iran. The final conclusion after running through many options was expressed by General Gardiner, a simulations expert at the U.S. Army’s National War College:

"After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers," Sam Gardiner said of his exercise. "You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.""

The CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. No one liked the outcome. As an Air Force source tells it, ‘The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating.‘” I HOPE BUSH LISTENS! But the Bush Administration OFTEN IGNORES advice from intelligence.

The example of the USSR is an important one to analyze. The biggest close call was because of U.S. policy maker's recklessness and aggression toward Cuba. We don't want to repeat the same kind of mistakes. And the sick part is President Kennedy didn't know about the hypocrisy of U.S. nukes already based a mere 150 miles from Soviet boarders, in Turkey.

As far as the habits of other nuclear countries, the U.S. and Israel are heavily involved in terrorism. The U.S. has inflicted massive amounts of terrorism against Cuba, just one example. And the hypocrisy is incredible. Look at the case of Orlando Bosch. The U.S. Justice Department, which was overruled by Bush I, complained that the U.S. harboring Bosch put the public interests at risk because "the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists." Look also at the shameful case of the Cuban 5.

We also need to look at what Israel actually is, and it isn't pretty. For example, if all the people living in Israel had equal rights, the same rights we demand for ourselves, that would be the destruction of Israel by definition. Keeping in place a system of discrimination based on religion is not something Americans should risk their lives for. Keeping in place a system of injustice is not something Americans should support. Should the Confederacy have been wiped off the map?

At 1:20 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Tom, your comment is much appreciated, right up to the last few sentences. The conclusions of the war-gamers are particularly valuable, and should be more widely publicized. Even my conservative Republican Congressman's rep agreed with me, when I met with him this week, that there is no effective or acceptable military option.

But the last few sentences of your comment come right up to the edge of suggesting that Israel be wiped off the map, because of internal injustices.

Should the Confederacy have been wiped off the map?

Um, no. Slavery needed to be abolished, and it was; the Confederacy's effort to secede needed to be defeated, and it was.

I say this as the descendant of men who fought on the side of the Confederacy.

Our own government is openly considering attacks that could kill millions of Iranians. That is the threat. This action is not being contemplated on behalf of Israel, which as Martin van Creveld says, "has long had what it needs to deter an Iranian attack."

Our government's planned attack on Iran, like its history of support for Israel's right wing, is in the service of strategic control -- military, political, and economic -- of Central Asia and the Middle East.


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