Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thinking About War and Thinking About Iran

In today's edition ofThe [Lowell] Sun Mr Michael Goldman has an OpEd on possible war with Syria and with Iran.  Syria is a client state of Iran, but these are two different possible wars.  The title of Mr Goldman's piece is "War, what it is good for---read and weep".

Mr Goldman gives us a list of books to read to inform ourselves about war and its consequences.  It isn't a bad list, although I have questions about two of them, including Ms Babara Tuchman's Guns of August.  This History of WWI is dated and has some wrong ideas as to how the war started.  And with regard to Viet-nam, Mr Goldman says:
Finally, when it comes to Vietnam, my one-volume bias is for Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie:  John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam over The Best and the Brightest by journalist David Halberstam.  The first account is the "war" book, the second is a "how did we get into the war" book.
I think he should have mentioned Richard Betts The System Worked and some other recent historical research about how we got there and failed to get out.  Let's face it, few since FDR got Viet-nam right and he passed away on top.  When I say everyone, I include Ho Chi Minh, who expended a lot of treasure and people achieving an aim he could have achieved for less, with a little insight.  He lived here, it should have had a better idea about us.

But, the real problem with the OpEd is that it doesn't address the issues.

First, with regard to Syria, we have the issue of Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  Frankly, the problems associated with our intervention in Libya suggest there is no easy way to do these things.  I would suggest that in the case of Syria we (1) don't have international consensus and (2) it is not clear that there is a majority of Syrians who are ready to support the overthrow of the current government.  So, the case for intervention in Syria is no, based upon the facts and not just because we don't wish to see people killed and wounded.  The problem with using the carnage issue is the deaths of people without intervention and the lost of personal freedom.  In Syria some 8,000 people have been killed in the current revolt.  Does that justify an intervention?  When I am looking for information I trust Mr Nir Rosen.  Here is an example of his reporting in Al Jazeera.  What do you think?

The other issue is Iran and here the question is fundamental.  Are we willing to plunge the world into war to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.  We let North Korea work to get nuclear weapons and also Pakistan and India and Israel.  The former Soviet Union played with the idea of attacking China's nascent nuclear capability, and didn't.

The decision turns on the question of we think that with Iran the idea of deterrence by the threat of massive retaliation will break down.  This requires we think that the leaders of Iran are not rational in any way.  They are willing to pull the building down upon themselves, like the Judge, Samson.

Few who talk about Iran think that an attack would do more than delay the Iranian nuclear program.  The program could come back and be more hidden and hardened than ever.  On the other hand, the Iraqi and Syrian programs did not come back.  But Iran is a different quality government.

Yes, the threat to Israel is existential—their existence as a nation (but not as a People) would be in question once Iran had produced sufficient nuclear weapons.  It is my guess that Iran would need 38 to 40 weapons to have a real capability.  A dozen for counter-population efforts against Israel, a dozen for counter-force efforts against Israel's retaliation forces and a dozen to deal with local threats after Iran absorbs a nuclear pummeling by Israel and perhaps other nations.  And a couple to four for testing.

I see the arguments being against getting into a war with Iran by pulling an intervention against their nuclear capability.  It is still time to talk and while politicians may say it is unacceptable for Iran to get a nuclear capability, sometimes the unacceptable is.  But, it should be made clear to Iran that their use of nuclear weapons will result in turning their land to glass and a lot of nations should embrace that vision, not just Israel and the US.

By the way, there was another interesting OpEd in Sunday's edition—on Education Reform.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.

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