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The United States has threatened a nuclear strike on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Government of Iran has responded to this threat by publicly humiliating the United States. Iran has declared that it has officially joined the Nuclear Club. Though Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, its announcement that it is now capable of enriching uranium puts the United States, and the international community, on notice that Iran is rapidly becoming the newest nuclear power in the world.

In his latest column in The Washington Post, David Ignatius compares the current impasse with the Cuban Missile Crisis. He writes about the choices President Bush is presented with:

[Professor Graham] Allison argues that Bush's dilemma is similar to the one that confronted Kennedy in 1962. His advisers are telling him that he may face a stark choice -- either to acquiesce in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a dangerous adversary, or risk war to stop that nuclear fait accompli . Hard-liners warned JFK that alternative courses of action would only delay the inevitable day of reckoning, and Bush is probably hearing similar advice now.

He argues that an attack on Iran will undermine America's pre-eminent position in the world. He cites Zbigniew Brzezinski to drive home the point:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told me this week. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."

While I agree with Mr. Ignatius and Mr. Brzezinski that an attack on Iran will further undermine America's relevance in the world, I disagree with the suggestion that we are not already there. I think it is a direct consequence of the war in Iraq that Iran and to a similar extent North Korea are able to throw dirt in America's face with impunity. By threatening war we have rendered impotent our ability to wage war. Our adversaries know this and know that the vast diplomatic playing field between war and peace belongs to them.

While Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis realized that the goal of war is to achieve your will and not war itself, the Bush administration considers war as an end by itself. Kennedy deftly employed the tools of war, gunboat diplomacy, and the art of political communication in combination to achieve the primary goal - to avoid a nuclear Cuba. His genius, as Mr. Ignatius points out, was to realize that the other side does not necessarily want war. Kennedy cultivated this notion and pounced on it in one brilliant act in high stakes diplomacy: he received two contradictory messages from the Soviet Union, one belligerentone conciliatory, he chose to ignore the belligerent and act on the conciliatory. That single act shifted the dynamics of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The detente that followed can be traced back directly to this triumph of uncommon common sense alone.

The Bush Administration, by contrast, has played the diplomatic game with the subtlety of a jackhammer. It may work well in movies, where you draw a line in the sand and your opponent quickly crumbles and grovels at your feet, but in the real world a show of force is underpinned by multiple of acts of mutual compromise. The Administration however, due to its misadventure in Iraq, has lost the ability to make a credible show of force. When the United States says that we will strike you militarily if condition A is not met, the opposing party knows that this is not a starting point of diplomacy but an inflexible ultimatum. The choices for the adversary now are either capitulate or wage war. From anyone else's perspective except perhaps that of the United States, the sounder choice is to prepare for war. It is better to fight a war under these circumstances with the final political outcome in doubt than to capitulate with its assured outcome of defeat. This is not to say that the United States cannot win militarily against Iran, it certainly can. But war is not about military victories. War is a political act and its final outcome must be measured with a political yardstick. By that yardstick, a prospect of an American victory in Iran is remote.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran has in recent days struck both a conciliatory and a belligerent tone in his public remarks. This is not a sign of an unstable personality, as many in the Administration appear to believe. It is, on the contrary, a sign that Iran is practiced in the art of diplomacy. The Bush Administration should now be at a moment of decision. Past experience suggests that the Administration perhaps does not realize this and may already have made the decision to go to war. That is a shame. This crisis offers the United States the opportunity to truly remake the Middle East - but perhaps not in the way they had originally envisioned. Iran is destined to be, with an assist from the United States in Iraq, a major power in the Middle East. The United States has an opportunity here to get ahead of this development and broker a new status quo in the Middle East that can usher in an era of regional and global stability. This development is in our National Interest, far more so than a full-scale war in the Middle East.

It is now time to move the conversation to the achievement of this new order in the Middle East.

Also posted at my web site.

Originally posted to Mash on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:08 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ignatius compared this situation to 1914 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, SallyCat, Mash
    and (as I read it) suggested that this parallel was better than the Cuban Missile Crisis due to the inexorable chain of events that would result from an attack on Iran.

    But expecting Bush to step back from the brink and reap the fruits of successful diplomacy the way that Kennedy did is absurd, given what we know of the man.

    I differ with Ignatius on the WW1 parallel on this point, however. IMHO, the Brits were RIGHT to fight that war, but wrong in the way they fought it.

    Ignatius is wrong in his use of Britain as the parallel here to.

    America is playing the role of Germany in 1914 in this crisis, and Bush does a very good Kaiser Bill.

    THAT parallel fits disturbingly well.

    The Perfect is the Enemy of the Better

    by dabize on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:18:14 AM PDT

    •  1914 analogy (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dabize, Shockwave, SallyCat, seanleckey

      Ignatius compared the logic of this war to WWI and he compared the choices facing Bush to that of Kennedy. I think the logic of the march to war is pretty clear and I chose not to address it here as many are addressing that topic as a matter of news.

      I chose to focus here on how to intelligently deal with our enemy and what the actual dimensions of war are beyond the military victory.

      In that sense, how Kennedy averted disaster in 1962 is very instructive.

      Do I believe this Administration is capable of that. Absolutely not, atleast not from what I've seen. Nonetheless, that does not preclude an examination of the policy options.

      •  I agree with you about JFK (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, SallyCat, Mash
        Diplomacy COULD reap great returns here, if (a BIG if) it weren't for the fact that Bush's behavior in the region wasn't already a huge part of the problem.

        The policy options are irrelevant if the leader will never take any of the good ones. We KNOW what Bush will do.

        I bring up 1914 because of the (to me) compelling parallel of Wilhelmine Germany (a hugely powerful, arrogant, but insecure country......resentful of the disdain for its attitude and culture by other Western states, and unreasonably fearful of being encircled or attacked from without - remind you of anyone?).

        Wilhelm was generally feared and disliked in Europe  for his militarism, arrogance and saber-rattling. His personality was quite similar to that of Bush (insecure, insular, disdainful of anyone not in his own tiny circle) - except that he was far more intelligent and witty than Bush.

        In the end, Wilhelm tried to stop the juggernaut of mobilization and stop war (on August 2, 1914, just 2 days before the invasion of Belgium), but was told by his Army Chief of staff that stopping would wreck all of the train timetables required to implement Army's great plans for the invasion of France within 40 days (the famous Schlieffen Plan).

        Wilhelm was too weak to override this.

        Bush looks to do the same unless somebody ELSE stops him. Unlike Wilhelm, Bush wouldn't even have a last minute conversion.

        The Perfect is the Enemy of the Better

        by dabize on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:38:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  stark differences (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dabize, Shockwave, seanleckey

          Its amazing the differences that you point out between the two leaders - Kennedy and the Kaiser.

          Almost a century after WWI, people are scratching their heads wondering at the stupidity of those leaders. I suspect a hundred years from now, the same will be true for our leaders.

          As I write this, I look to the right of the web page and see the Frontline cover for "The Tank Man". I think we need a lot of Tank Men, and soon, for this tank to stop.

          The real scary thing is that public opinion matters zero to this Administration. Saying "blah blah blah..." when everyone is telling you you are about to fall off a cliff is the height of stupidity. I'm kind of reminded of John Candy driving down the wrong side of the highway in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles".

    •  What did the British do wrong? (0+ / 0-)
      They cultivated America as an ally, subordinated themselves to overall french command, held onto a strategic area called Flanders and took the brunt of a variety of German offensives.  They bottled up the German fleet and dismantlesd the german empire bit by bit.   They funded and bankrolled the Russians and French and scraped through against a superior fighting machine withe Empire intact.  It wasn't their fault that the Germans had better artillery and more machine guns.
      •  They attacked WAY too much (0+ / 0-)
        They SHOULD have put more emphasis on machine guns.

        But the biggie is that hey had had 50 years to learn the lessons of Cold Harbor, and yet they deferred to the French doctrine of the offense.

        They probably lost 3-4x as many men as they needed to in hopeless assaults against utterly impregnable positions (as on the Somme), even though it must have been clear after First Ypres (and especially after the failed offensives of 1915) that this was utterly useless.

        The loss of their best men and the protracted nature of the stalemated conflict ran up the debt that eventually killed the Empire.

        Oddly enough, the guy who had the strategics right was our pal W. S. Churchill, who tried for a war of motion by attacking the Dardanelles (with too few troops, though, and too late) and later, by pushing the development of the tanks, which was critical to the allied effort  in the end.

        The Perfect is the Enemy of the Better

        by dabize on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 08:31:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Let them build themselves up. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SallyCat, Mash

    Then they can be dramatically torn down.

    My take on American foreign policy is that it's first and foremost about securing the resources and riches of other countries for our elite. A convenient side effect of the primary goal is that new enemies with more resources to steal are always popping up.

    The madmen in charge got used to being able to invade anyone they wanted in the interest of fighting communism. That excuse lost its relevance so now terrorism, Islam really, is the new boogieman.

    I'm not sure if Bush is really about to nuke Iran, but I know for certain our Middle East misadventures are far from over. Too many people are getting too rich for it to stop.

    Eat the rich. Their toes taste like chocolate.

    by rjo on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:23:03 AM PDT

  •  I cannot think of a less apt analogy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David in Burbank, corvo, happy camper

    anyone who compares this to the Cuban missile crisis is an ass and a fool, not to mention a cutout and a tool of the neocons.

    Absolutely freakin ridiculous.

    Bush gives pubic hair a bad name.

    by seesdifferent on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:55:50 AM PDT

    •  As a parallel, I see your point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mash
      but as a contrast, it is worth considering.

      The starkest difference between the two situations is the status of the United States, and the character of the leaders involved.

      Then, there was a real critical threat involved - a fully nuclear power with a history of ruthless expansionism.

      Now there is a non- expansionist power with no present capability.

      Then, we had a President of courage and vision - and who incidentally was fully aware of the WW1 precedent - JFK was reading "The Guns of August" at the time. JFK HAD to act in some way, and managed NOT to get into a war anyway.

      Now, we have a dumber, more ignorant Kaiser Bill, who is USING a theoretical future threat in an atmosphere of hysteria that he created to justify action where diplomacy is urgently needed.

      The Perfect is the Enemy of the Better

      by dabize on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 08:03:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  meant to post my response here...so here goes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      seanleckey

      Please read the article before flying off the handle and calling names. You really show your maturity by your name calling.

      You may be the first person on this planet that has actually accused me of being a neo-con.

      This comment of yours I will print out and save.

      To dispell you of your fears, I recommend you read my other diaries on dKos and the many articles on my website.

      •  Hey Mash ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mash

        I don't think seesdifferent was was painting you red.  I might be wrong but I take it as a slap at the idea that anybody could compare the two; like to really justify the sabre shaking. Just read the first half of the first sentence after the break out of context.  Just a thought...but...

        American Engineer :== loser!

        by jnmorgan on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 06:34:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  did you read this article? (0+ / 0-)

    You may be the first person on this planet that has actually accused me of being a neo-con.

    This comment of yours I will print out and save.

    To dispell you of your fears, I recommend you read my other diaries on dKos and the many articles on my website.

  •  Actually (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mash

    the only head of state to threaten Iran with a nuclear strike has been Chirac of France.

    Zbig is not someone who I would rely upon for advice on Iran given the total Iran policy failure of the administration he served. The only country to actually take American soverign territory since the British in 1812, was the Iranian seizure of the US embassy that occurred on Zbig's watch.

    Even the Hersh article did not mention war with Iran. What is more likely is an extended bombing campaign, similar to what Clinton did against Iraq after Iraq kicked the UN weapons inspectors out in the late-1990s.

    There is nothing conciliatory about anything that Ahmadinnerjacket has done or said. He has been very clear about what his intentions are. We can listen to what he says and act accordingly. Or we can put our heads in the sand.

    •  agree with you on your last point about listening (0+ / 0-)

      We in fact have our head in the sand right now. Dealing with an adversary is not the same as having him over for dinner and being buddies with him.

      A bombing campaign in Iran will be a war. Or are you expecting that they wont shoot back. Iran is not our whipping boy like Saddam was. Read the comment by dabize above about dealing with real versus potential threats. Bombs may make you feel good about being a kick-ass kind of guy or gal, but once the bombs are away our policy has failed.

  •  This is a non-event (0+ / 0-)

       Iran is 5-10 years away from building a weapon. The ones hyping this are the same ones who wanted war with Iraq, and now want to bomb Iran.
       I see no reason to troll-rate someone who points this out.

    "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power" -Benito Mussolini

    by happy camper on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 09:39:53 AM PDT

    •  agree on the timeline (0+ / 0-)

      I do think that the Iran crisis is a manufactured crisis to cause regime change.

      The Iranians will take full advantage of this. The Administration has said, and Scott McClellan is repeating it today at the Press Briefing, that this Admin will not allow Iran to develop nukes, or possess the knowledge to develop nukes. The "knowledge" part does not imply that you actually have to have production capacity to build nukes. Watch this "non-event" be used as a casus belli by the Administration for an ultimate attack on Iran.

      As for troll rating, I think name calling and basically spewing bile qualifies. It is much easier and more effective to make a point without resorting to 5th grade antics.

  •  I think Israel would act before the US (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave
    Simply in the interest of self-preservation, given the Iranian "President"'s rhetoric.

    Also the parallels to the Cuban missile crisis are extremely weak, almost to the point of nonexistence.  Geographic, demographic, geopolitical, method of attack, history...all are completely different, not to mention that Cuba was allied with the Russians at the time, and that the 2006 US/Israel airforce is easily superior to every other military's air capabilities.  Iran has no allliances with a major power, and no minor power would align themselves against Israel/the United States/Britain for fear of reprisal.

    As a previous poster said, a "war", if one is to commence, would be a prolonged bombing campaign and would more than likely not involve any ground troop movements other than perhaps an additional carrier battle group.

    As to Iran fighting back, I would be interested in determining how they would fight back against the IAF or USAF.

    But I think some of the points he brings up, although they have been broght up quite a bit, are valid.  Such as the "time on our side" point and that the Mullahs are the past.  An attack right now, or at least after the April 28th deadline of the United Nations, could increase the power of the Mullahs, which would be a long term problem independent of nuclear weapons.  Additionally, they are a ways away from fully developing the weapons.  But the time element assumes that political changes will come about in Iran, something that is not at all evident.

    •  The power of the Mullahs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave

         has been increased by the Iraq war as well as by the present sabre-rattling. An actual attack would eliminate the already weakened Iranian reform movement, and put the theocrats in even firmer control.

      "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power" -Benito Mussolini

      by happy camper on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 09:47:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We underestimate Iran at our own peril (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mash

      The war will be very asymmetrical.  

      We bomb the shit out of them.  They sink oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, promote an uprising of Shiites in Iraq, destroy oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

      And do not underestimate what China may do.  They have huge investments in oil infrastructure in Iran.

      Russia on the other hand will benefit tremendously as oil jumps to $200/barrel.

      World opinion will turn even more anti-American to the point where it may hurt US commercial interests.

      Watch Venezuela, which has started shipping oil to India, cut oil shipments to the US.  Chavez has a well thought out game plan which probably involves Cuba.

      Israel needs a US air refueling assist to do any serious damage to Iranian facilities without using nukes.  Iran is three countries away from Israel.  Osiriak was above ground and a single location.  The US assist will be obvious too.

      Israel will think very hard before they attack Iran.

      1st we should get Iran off of the Axis of Evil officialy.  Then we should negotiate in good faith.  We have not done that.  The only Americans doing anything honest in Iraq are the Special Forces which are probably operating there already.  The Iranians are well aware of the covert operations.

      Dailykos.com; an oasis of truth. -1.75 -7.23

      by Shockwave on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 06:07:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And who would PAY for such a war (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mash

      China?  They are paying for the Iraq war now.  And how would we wage a war in Iran?  We go there and we deploy and we attack? Like every Middle East country is as dumb as Saddam and let us get off the boats.  Why do you think the announcement of the torpedoes?

      Next, IAF and USAF depend on airborne radar ... ya think that they aren't easy to bring down?   You don't even need a smart radar seeking missile when everything up there radiating is enemy ... just pick one and blow it up. Hundreds of detached ground based CW radar transmitters designed to accomplish two goals 1) jam the airborne radar 2) return an echo.

      the $100 defense against the $100B offense exists,  and EVERYBODY that runs a military except Saddam knows it.  Iraq was as easy a target as any country we could have picked to invade, but don't mistake his incompetence for our competence.

      American Engineer :== loser!

      by jnmorgan on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 06:12:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  smart bombs (0+ / 0-)

        I think some people play too much nintendo. Our options are very limited in Iran. Both your comment and shockwave's comment points out the dangers of this misadventure.

        My guess though is that the Bush Administration doesnt appear to care about the long term (or short term) ramifications of their actions. They have a hitlist of Iraq, Iran and Syria and they are just going down the list.

        Someone pointed out on another post I read (and I cant recall where) that if the US uses first strike nukes, it will have suddenly lowered the threshold for engaging in nuclear war for all the world. What a different and more dangerous world that will be.

  •  Good points (0+ / 0-)

    I suspect there is no one in the top levels of this administration who is any good at poker.  

    "listen...do you smell something" -ghostbusters

    by David in Burbank on Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 12:34:54 AM PDT

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