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It's a familiar scene -- the carnage, today in Beirut, following a terrorist bombing attack on a target -- an embassy -- that should be off-limits to this kind of strike. Notwithstanding the likelihood that the embassy was being used to further Iranian military adventures and what would be considered espionage, it's a shock to the system to see this indiscriminate violence, that must have claimed the lives of numerous innocents.

It's a familiar scene especially to Americans. We have seen the images of a heavily damaged structure in Beirut, reduced mostly to rubble, and recoiled at the loss of American life...troops who were there to protect the locals, to bring an end to the shelling that Israel had been conducting from the waters off the coast of Lebanon's capital city. We all cannot help but remember the bombings of our own embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. We couldn't have known it then, but that was the day that marked the beginning of a decades-long fight waged against us by the al-Qaeda network and its affiliates.

On those days, we got a taste of the costs that come with the hubris of trying to project power into countries that do not even share a border with us -- as we discovered that we were making bloodthirsty enemies that were willing to die to strike a blow against us. Today, Iran got a taste of the costs of hubris.

The parallels between today's events and the Marine barracks bombing and the Nairobi (and Dar es Salaam) embassy bombings are stark and unavoidable. The location and the images make that connection for us. They give powerful testimony to the truth of the old adage that those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat that history.  

The US never really got over the hubris we have, trying to sort out the world as we think it should be. I'd say our motivations are more generous, than the Iranians' efforts, but we also picked sides. And, in the Middle East at least, this is what comes of picking sides.

Iran is getting a taste of that today. This is what comes of decades of meddling in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria -- abetting the perpetrators of terror and war throughout the region. It may be that Iran will also come to feel the pain of an attack that hits more directly at the homeland. The question is whether they will learn the lessons we have never learned. The arrogance of ambition and mission comes with a price beyond rubies.

I doubt Iranian leaders will take the lesson to heart. Even as I write this, I have to admit that with each new crisis, I wonder what we could do to solve it -- how we can advance the cause of (secular, Western) modernism. The Iranians may think differently in that they look at how they can advance the shiite cause, but they are afflicted with the same basic instinct to go beyond their borders and do something.

I know the world would be a better place if the Iranians would get past that. When they get past the notion that they need to project power and influence events beyond their own borders, they might even feel less motivation to pursue their nuclear weapons development. I just don't see that happening any time soon. They are as evangelical about heir own beliefs as are. Would that today's events might give Iran the pause to reflect that we are unable to take.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

    by FischFry on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:38:26 AM PST

  •  Is your point that terrorism should work? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, MDhome, Lujane

    Is the message to everyone out there that if you want to make a government change it's policies, kill innocent people and blow stuff up?  Because that seems to be the message.  I may not agree with how the U.S., Iran, or any other country tries to impose their will, but to think that this is a constructive way to get them to change, is very dangerous.  I can only hope that this message; that terrorism works; quickly ends.  If Iran uses this bombing as a reason to change course, just think of the next group that wants to change policy.  Wonder how they'll go about their mission.

    •  terrorism usually does work (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nowhere Man, happymisanthropy, Lujane

      Look at how we lost our minds after 9/11.

      Terrorism is passive-aggressive, psychology-heavy warfare waged by people without the means to fight a conventional war.  If you can't simply scare your enemy away, it works just as well if you can bait them into becoming complete monsters.  Terrorists are just as happy to to piss you off and make you charge in guns blazing, thereby driving fencesitters into their camp.  Counterinsurgency (really counterterror) is the same way: the real target is not the actual enemy, but the population that hides and supports him - make it too costly for them to support the insurgents/guerrillas.

      If Iran doesn't run, they'll only dig in deeper.  They'll order their proxies to assert more direct control over their territories and the people there, confident that the official authorities will respond with more aggressive measures themselves, alienating those countries' Shiite minorities further.  Hezbollah is deeply rooted already, with as much legitimacy for its social work - which is right out of Mao: the master of guerrilla warfare - as for its sectarian militia role.  The result is a vicious circle of strike and counterstrike, massacre and countermassacre, purge and counterpurge, with the goal on both sides of "neutralizing" the civilian population one way or another.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 09:47:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Quite the opposite (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      taffers, Lujane

      I'm discussing the adventurism that makes enemies and eventually makes a country a target for terrorists. In the end, I'm not even saying we shouldn't get involved. I suffer from hubris in believing we are probably the indispensable nation, and that we should get involved when bad guys are doing bad things to good people. However, it comes at a great price. I wonder if the Iranians really appreciated how high a price it might be.

      Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

      by FischFry on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:47:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fair enough. And I more often than not feel the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, FischFry

        same way about the U.S.  I don't see myself as a "hawk", but I do see the need to occasionally involve ourselves in other nations affairs.  Especially when innocent people are being abused and killed. However, it seems to be more and more difficult to determine who the "bad people" are.

  •  Saudi Backed Sunni group (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MDhome, wu ming, swarf, Lujane

    Claims responsibility.   Saudis do not want Iran nuclear negotiations to succeed.  

    •  the Saudis are bad people (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotlizard, Lujane

      We should be ashamed to be associated with them.  You cannot exaggerate how messed up their society is.  They're trying their damnedest to impose the culture of 8th Century desert tribesmen, even as their oil money makes them infamous in the Middle East for being cruel and trashy nouveau riches.

      We should totally make up with Iran and get our oil from them; for all their faults, they are progressive compared to Saudi Arabia, which would be a better fit for China.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 10:09:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Accurate description of the situation. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FischFry, Lujane

        Most people, even here, still aren't ready to hear it, though. When it comes to policy toward the Muslim world, Democratic leaders seem to have more or less taken over where the Project for the New American Century left off.

        The faintest whisper of a suggestion of regime change in Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf monarchies is absolutely off-limits. Republics, on the other hand, are fair game for the U.S. and NATO to attack and destroy. This is called "spreading democracy in the Middle East."

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

        by lotlizard on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:17:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's utterly unfair.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard, Lujane

          If, by republic, you mean Iraq, it would be a massive stretch to suggest that it was not really a monarchy in all but name. The Saudi parliament has more influence than the Iraqi parliament had. One could say the same about Libya.

          Whatever one thinks of the Saudis, they aren't really menacing anyone, other than supporting the odd resistance movement.

          Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

          by FischFry on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:52:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  if by "resistance movement" you mean global jihad (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lotlizard, Lujane, whizdom
            Whatever one thinks of the Saudis, they aren't really menacing anyone, other than supporting the odd resistance movement.
            The Saudis aren't "menacing" anyone only because they don't have a military worth a damn no matter how much oil money they spend on shiny toys bought from American "defense" contractors.

            Instead, they basically finance the entire jihad movement.

            Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

            by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 01:04:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Saudis finance global spread of Wahhabi ideology. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Visceral, Lujane

            They sponsor madrassas everywhere that teach Wahhabism, one of the more extreme interpretations of Islam.

            I thought that was pretty well-known and well documented. Or do you not see it this way?

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 01:16:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  it's gotten worse since we stopped being cynical (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard

          Iran's republican government was overthrown because oil (though the Shah wasn't anywhere near as bad as most people think), while Saudi Arabia's medieval absolute monarchy and theocracy is safe because oil.  Clean, limited Gulf War I was about oil but while Gulf War II was partially about oil, they really did believe in their master plan of turning Iraq into an Ohio Libertarian Party convention.  But that actually makes it worse.  When you stop waging war (or waging "peace" with gigantic piles of money with lots of strings attached) for simple, quantifiable realpolitick reasons and go down the moralistic rabbit hole hand-in-hand with the "big idea" crowd, you're far more likely to end up in a bad place.  That's the reason Afghanistan went comparatively well: we didn't want anything from them.

          Arming Syria's ululating head-chopping Islamist "rebels" is 100% dumbass do-gooderism.  If we wanted Syria non-threatening - stable, pro-Western, etc. - we'd be supporting Assad (his Alawites were France's old colonial proxies) along with Russia, who in a sane world would be our natural ally against militant Islamism.

          If we wanted to keep Turkey on ours (and Israel's) side, we wouldn't be destabilizing all their neighbors while gushing about the Kurds, who want the entire eastern third of Turkey ... and who are a mess of highland clansmen who've never had a country of their own and probably couldn't hold onto one if they did.

          Toppling Qaddafi also had a heavy dose of do-gooderism.  Qaddafi was a drama queen who was only ever welcomed into the latest Afro/Muslim fad because of his oil money.  With a little work, he'd have been happy to be a "respectable" dictator supplying oil to Europe and turning Libya's coast into a giant affordable resort.  The people who really wanted him gone were either ancient tribal enemies or kids whose idea of "freedom", like that of most kids in Muslim countries, has a lot more to do with clothes, music, and dating than it has to do with the Federalist Papers.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:58:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wasn't SAVAK as horrible a secret police as any? (0+ / 0-)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/...

            SAVAK has been described as Iran's "most hated and feared institution" prior to the revolution of 1979 because of its practice of torturing and executing opponents of the Pahlavi regime.
            So your choice of words here seems rather wrongheaded and "apologist" to me:
            though the Shah wasn't anywhere near as bad as most people think
            You could have said "wasn't quite as bad" and maybe not raised so many hackles. But "not anywhere near as bad"?

            Plus, how would any of us (short of the NSA with content scanning and analysis) know what "most" people think, anyway? Most Americans probably don't think about the Shah at all anymore. Even here in Germany, the memory of Benno Ohnesorg (a student shot and killed while demonstrating against the Shah), is fading.

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 01:28:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  there was more to the Shah's rule than SAVAK (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lotlizard

              SAVAK was terrible but VEVAK (the current regime's equivalent) is at least as bad.  But unlike the current regime, the Shah's regime was actually interested in modernizing and liberalizing Iran's economy and society.  The Shah saw himself as someone like Ataturk - who was not a nice guy either if you got in the way of Turkey's future - whose mission was to drag his country kicking and screaming into the 20th Century and align it with the West culturally, economically, and militarily ... but Ataturk did it two generations prior (i.e. before WWII) when the West was still cool and fewer people had qualms about cracking heads.

              The Shah managed to make himself unpopular with a broad majority of Iranians, but each for different reasons (including not delivering on his promises, the main reason the rural poor turned on him), and only one of those groups - the hardcore fundamentalists, as the only group with a comprehensive alternative (and real morale) - has had any say over how Iran has been run since then.  So Iran ended up with Arabizing theocracy, because weirdly enough, at the time everyone basically threw themselves behind Khomeini as the only individual with the charisma to unify the opposition.

              Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

              by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 02:19:12 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  As I recall, Khomeini was hardly on anyone's radar (0+ / 0-)

                In West Germany, the "mainstream" view played up the Cold War angle — the danger emanating from Tudeh [the Iranian communist party] who were supposedly on the verge of turning Iran into a Soviet satellite.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                Ironically, as part of Iran-Contra the CIA reportedly gave the ayatollahs a tip leading to the destruction of Tudeh and the loss of the last chance to prevent theocratic one-party rule.

                According to the Mitrokhin Archive, Vladimir Kuzichkin a KGB officer stationed in Tehran who had defected to the British in 1982 had exposed almost the entirety of the Tudeh leadership as Soviet agents. His information was shared with the Iranian government by the CIA, which was secretly courting Iran, as part of the Iran-Contra deal.

                Quite quickly the government arrested and imprisoned its leadership and later more than 5,000 members and supporters of the party. During February 1983, the leaders of the Tudeh Party were arrested and the Party disbanded, leaving Iran effectively a one-party state.[49]

                The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

                by lotlizard on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 03:02:12 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Khomeini was big on Iranians' radar at the end (0+ / 0-)

                  He was the first significant conservative figure to openly attack the regime - as opposed to communists and Westernized city slickin' liberals.  But at the same time he and the clerical establishment had a reputation for quietism: they were against the excesses of the monarchy, but were not widely known or even believed to have a comprehensive political philosophy of their own.  

                  Obviously Khomeini had the support of the clerical establishment who wanted their traditional role and powers back, as well as that of the rural populists - the same demographic that voted Islamists to power in Turkey - who resented the White Revolution's culture war attributes.

                  The moneyed classes ended up supporting him because ironically the Shah's regime was deep into land redistribution and state controlled enterprises (just as long as they left the oil alone I suppose).  The Muslim Brotherhood is also fairly laissez-faire in its economic platform, like a lot of Christians in the West.  For the rest, Khomeini just sort of became the central figure of the diverse opposition for lack of any other candidate of comparable stature and charisma.  

                  The Shah was a "Third Way" dictator: whose role was not simply to suppress as to pre-empt communism by addressing the economic grievances while building identification with the state and liquidating independent activism with Washington's knowledge.  I keep wanting to compare him to Peron and Otto von Bismarck.

                  Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

                  by Visceral on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 05:21:06 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  That said, thumbs up on the rest of your comment. (0+ / 0-)

            Having spotlighted the one sentence I didn't agree with, it's only fair to add that overall I thought your comment was quite a good one.

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 01:36:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Defeatism for secularists 101 (0+ / 0-)

    The claim that terrorists get you in one place if you intervene in anyplace is nonsense.

    Unlike the Colonial powers, our intervention since WWII was in protecting the world from Stalinism, until 1991. Since then  it was about not knowing if and how to retreat and run, due to the rise of theocracies, and the continued Stalinism in China.  

    Yes, we had cases that should have prosecuted - as in Nixon-Kissinger intervention in Cambodia, Egypt, Chile and El Salvador, where Kos is from, and the reason for this Blog - but Obama's policies have shown a brilliant balancing act. (His mom was a political science major after all...)

    Iran is not a free secular country. It's the wet-dream of religious leaders everywhere - a country run by 'a supreme leader' who is . The equivalent would be an America run by Jerry Falwell with no internet access, and hence the Bush regime was the second worse  - but even that creep didn't rule from the pulpit.

    Iran bombed the Marine barracks (Hizzbullah didn't even exist then) and Jewish cultural centers in Argentina.  

    ...And you are comparing us with them???

    Judging from the attacks we suffered lately, the interventions you are against, lately are what? Muslims attacked Denmark's embassies because of their interventionist cartoon. Should we stop watching South Park? Our ambassador in Libya because of a film by an Egyptian in LA is interventionist, so should we stop watching "Game of Thrones?". The embassies in Nairobi and Dar-A-Salaam because we helped Kuwait against Sadam, then still a Soviet crony. Should we have let him win and revive the crumbling Soviet empire? The attack on Spain and England because they did not agree to full Shariah law in their countries. Should we just allow religious zealots of all forms enforce their medieval laws on us?

    Intervention on the side of secularism and human rights is something we should always consider. Otherwise you get Nazi Germany.  Wet-dreams by crazy people like Khamenei, Bush and Kissinger are not the same.

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