William R. Polk
William Polk has a guest piece at Informed Comment warning us about what is likely to happen if we carry down our current track to a war with Iran. How many M.E. specialists, historians, soldiers, reporters–none of them alarmists or peace-niks–do we have to hear? This is just what was happening in the run-up to the Iraq war, except the stakes are much, much higher (for us). It is like we are stumbling along the edge of a precispise with only some aware of what we are doing and praying that we pull away from the edge. But on we go.
Via Juan Cole, we have this video report from the Guardain. It is heart-breaking.
The Syrian and Iranian leaders, Bashar al-Assad, left, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Tehran on 3rd August
Check out Fisk’s latest article describes the hilarious attempts by Sarkozy and others to detach Syria from Tehran.
In other words, Syria kept its cool. When the US invaded Iraq, the world wondered if its tanks would turn left to Damascus or right to Tehran. In fact, they lie still in the Iraqi desert, where US generals still variously accuse Iran and Syria of encouraging the insurgency against them. If Washington wants to leave Iraq, it can call Damascus for help.
And the real cost? The US will have to restore full relations with Syria. It will have to continue talks with Iran. It will have to thank Iran for its “help” in Iraq – most of the Iraqi government, after all, was nurtured in the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US took Saddam’s side. It will have to accept Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. And it will have to prevent Israel staging a bombing spectacular on Iran which will destroy every hope of US mediation. It will also have to produce a just Middle East peace. McCain or Obama, please note.
Sometimes a picture is really priceless. The Iranians have repeatedly made clear that they have no intention of attacking Israel, that they anticipate Israel falling apart through its own internal contradictions. there is not the slightest indication that the Iranians are preparing for any such military intervention or that they would ever be capable of it. The real point of course is that it is a political attack, and the whole is part of the ‘cold war’ being fought between Iran and Israel, the USA and the industrial nations, a war that the Bush administration decided to fight, and the Israelis appear to be making sure that the Bush administration makes good its promises of taking out Iran after Iraq.
With such confusion and disingenuousness one can only presume that this is political manouevring to prepare for military should it come to that. Should that come to pass the wealthy people that gave us this mess will not be the ones to pay the price: that will fall to the poor people.
I missed an article by Scott Ritter at TruthDig on the 14th on the consequences of such a war. Elsewhere Gershom Gorenberg picks apart Benny Morris’s Strangeglovian fantasies about Israel using its nuclear wepaons aresenal to settle up with Iran and Commander Huber surveys the inanity of the discorse on the Iraq war.
Posted in Foreign Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Middle East
Tagged Benny Morris, Gordon Brown, Iran, Iraq, Israel, nuclear strike, war
Reflecting on my previous article on our seeming determination to smash our economies on the rocks of Iran I thoght of the the Taijitu or yin-yang motif, which I think may summarize the situation. My understanding is the the motif is intended to symbolise the cyclical waxing and waning of the yin and yang qualities in a given situation. Notice that when dark yin or light yang are at their maximum, the other is present in the middle, and of course the dominating one must then give way.
This seems to me to symbolise where the industrial powers are today. Their military-industrial dominance has been derived on the mastery of coal and then oil. Dominating the oil lies at the heart of the industrial nation’s involvement in the region from the beginning of the oil era at the opening of the 20th century. It drew the British into the region with their 1914 invasion of Iraq, the carving up of the Arab world after beraking up the Ottoman empire, the overthrowing of Mosadegh and so on.
Of course oil supplies are probably maxing out and can no longer feed the colossal displacement activity that we normally call economic growth. The underlying source of our power is set to decline. It is the impotence and frustration that comes from this realistation that may be driving some of the irrational and destructive behaviour.
I read an account by a member of the paratroop regiment serving in the Falklands conflict. After the surrender of the Argentine forces some bored members of the regiment were play a game of cricket, with hand grenades and some improvised bat. The batter would have to hit the grenades into the sea where they could safely explode.
This reminds me of the games that we are playing at the moment with Iran. Maybe we are all bored and in need of some entertainment–not able to get the kick out of destroying other people’s countries we need to make the game a little more exciting. Let us hope that we keep on hitting the grenades into the sea.
Many with a good knowledge of what is going on, and a good track record in finding things out, are saying that we are nat making any sense. Nothing has changed since the Iraq fiasco. But when the fireworks start this time we are all going to get seriously hurt. Before we started destroying the Iraqi people and their country they were an industrialized country with cities, hospitals, schools, power grids, water treatment and so on. We systematically wrecked that so it makes a good study of what could happen in the industrial world if we pull down all those systems. They, and our economies, are all dependent on oil.
This is why the Iranians have no need for a strategic nuclear deterrent. They just need control a single narrow shipping lane. They have always been clear about this, and they have had plenty of time to prepare.
Nothing that we are doing makes any sense at all. We accuse them of undermining the nuclear weapons proliferation agreements, but it is us that are destroying these agreements. We accuse them of destabilising the middles east but it is us that are doing so. We accuse them of supporting terrorism and yet we hear that the Bush administration has asked for $400m from Congress to terrorize Iran and Congress are playing along and considering authorizing a naval blockade of Iran. And we continue to terrorize and kill people in the region in quite high numbers, far, far higher numbers than the paramilitary groups that we obsess over.
We are nuts. I don’t know how it is going to play out and it is not worth losing sleep over. Worrying is a mug’s game. All I can do is call it as I see it.
For those that are interested, Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter have interviews (Hersh, Ritter) and articles (Hersh, Ritter) spelling out what is going on. Gordon Prather’s articles on nuclear weapons proliferation are excellent, as are Gareth Porter’s on the wider issues.
[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Crooked Timber) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]
I have completed Taleb’s The Black Swan and will say more about it later but I first want to take him to task on one of his opinions (one that he doesn’t really hold as it turns out). From page 171:
Popper’s insight concerns the limitations in forecasting historical events and the need to downgrade “soft” areas such as history and social science to a level slightly above aesthetics and entertainment, like butterfly or coin collecting. (Popper who received a classical Viennese education didn’t go quite so far; I do. I am from Amioun.) What we call the soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies.
To confuse historicism and history is a horrible conflation, and no claims to rural roots should excuse this kind of boorishness. As Aristotle by way of Aquinas and Schumacher reminds us,
‘the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.'(*) ‘Slender’ knowledge is here put in opposition to ‘certain’ knowledge, and indicates uncertainty.
(*) Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, 1, 5 ad 1.
Posted in BLOGROLL REVIEW, Causation, Epistemology, FEATURE ARTICLES, Foreign Affairs, Iraq, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, The Black Swan
Tagged Black Swan, Causation, Foreign Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Richard Feynman