03 November 2005

Next in line: Iran

The White House is now talking about how military action against Iran is “a last resort”, which I think means the decision has already been made.

I opposed invading Iraq. I'm not sure about Iran. There are a lot of differences. To start with:

  • Iran really is seeking to build nuclear weapons and has already acquired the nuclear material to do so.
  • Iran's government really is a theocratic regime with ties to Islamist terrorists.
  • Iran might be a lot tougher militarily—it's bigger and in better economic shape.
  • If we invade Iran, we have to worry about Iraq disintegrating.
  • We won't have any allies this time. Britain has already publicly and repeatedly opted out.

So: harder, but more justified. The doctrine of preemption certainly would seem to require war. Does anyone see the case for war in Iran as seriously weaker than the case for war in Iraq?


Jim Jinkins said...

If overt or covert military action against Iran can be justified, the US will need a staging area to attack from.

Iraq appears to be ideal.

Is this an argument - not necessarily conclusive by itself - for the earlier invasion of Iraq?

jto said...

No, our involvement in Iraq makes it harder, not easier, to act against Iran. Harder politically at home, harder diplomatically. More costly in terms of U.S. casualties, as overt action against Iran is likely to destabilize Iraq. More costly in terms of U.S. interests: a lot is at stake in Iraq.

Iraq might be great from a logistics standpoint, but it seems like a huge net negative. For staging areas, we already had Afghanistan. (And the Gulf, for air strikes at least.)

jcsahnwaldt said...

> Does anyone see the case for war in Iran as seriously weaker than the case for war in Iraq?

hmm... one tiny little thing comes to mind... Iran is a... whaddaya callit... 'democracy'?

Seriously - Iran's democracy is not perfect, but it is a democracy. Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator - the people of Iran chose their president in reasonably fair elections. George W Bush can hardly claim he wants to spread democracy and then go ahead and kill one.

jto said...

"Iran's democracy is not perfect" is an understatement. The U.S.'s democracy is "imperfect". Iran's is a sham: the unelected Guardian Council has the power to bar any candidate from running for office. Over 2,300 candidates were barred from 2004 elections. Freedom of speech is a joke in Iran. Same goes for freedom of the press: Iran ranks fourth from the bottom in that category, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Overthrowing a nominal democracy and replacing it with a real, free democracy is not something I think Bush is going to have a terribly hard time justifying.

jcsahnwaldt said...

> Over 2,300 candidates were barred from 2004 elections.
Two (of seven) candidates in the presidential elections were reformists. People chose Ahmadinejad.

> ...replacing it with a real, free democracy...
Out of 167 countries on the press freedom index, Afghanistan currently ranks at 125. Iraq is at 157. One of America's good friends in the region, Pakistan, can be found at 150. The central Asian countries are all in the lower third, but as long they are cooperating with US military actions, you can bet they won't show up on any list of 'rogue states' or 'outposts of tyranny'.

Bush is always talking about promoting democracy, but America's track record in that respect is rather bleak. Much less well known than the support for Pinochet in the 70s and Saddam in the 80s is the fact that the US brought the Shah back into power in 1953 (mostly for oil), who then installed a dictatorship that was far worse than the rule of the fundamentalists today. Iranians know this very well. Guess what it does for their feelings towards the US.

Not even the reformists want their country to be attacked by America: we will never kowtow to any threat or intimidations made by the big powers or submit to their double standards.

A war on Iran would be not only ill-founded, but suicidal.

jto said...

Your point, I thought, was that the U.S. ought not invade Iran because Iran is a democracy.

In fact Iran is not much of a democracy. To think of Iran as a democracy is really very silly indeed. Besides, our reasons (such as they are) for invading have little, if anything, to do with its form of government.

Doubtless Iranian's don't want to be invaded. The Iraqis didn't either--as I pointed out to anyone who would listen, prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom--and behold they were right, it's a mess. But let's portray the situtation accurately.

Iraq is in serious trouble. But freedom of the press is not one of the major problems there. In fact all the democratic freedoms are dramatically improved since Saddam's days, and they are all much better there than in Iran. Freedom of candidacy is better. Freedom of the press is better (and it'll improve more once the U.S. military leaves). Freedom of speech is much, much better. Women's rights are much better.

Iraq's low rating in the Reporters Without Borders survey is largely due to the fact that reporters are frequently killed there. That is, it's a security problem. Iran has no such excuse.

And I find it naive to think that the Guardian Council's unsubtle efforts to crush the reformists were without effect.