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The Case For a Hardline

Let it be said that I strenuously disagree with Dan Darling's take on Iran policy, but since he lays out his case with unusual clarity I thought I would recommend it to readers interested in breaking out of the liberal echo chamber.

December 2, 2004 | Permalink


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The entirety of US (as well as Iraqi) strategy with respect to Iran must be predicated around the notion that Iran is backing the insurgents, including Sunnis like Zarqawi. We need to also begin making contingency plans to deal with how to respond to an Iranian escalation of the Iraqi insurgency, including retaliatory strikes in Iranian Kordestan and other known insurgent hubs inside Iran if necessary.

A military invasion of Iran must remain a final option.


Posted by: scarshapedstar | Dec 2, 2004 4:12:57 PM

...Something about those two points doesn't quite mesh with me.

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Dec 2, 2004 4:13:39 PM

the two points mesh if you believe as hardliners do that you if you knock over the apple cart, the cart will right itself and the apples will subsequently jump back on and form a new more pleasing arrangment. Or, failing that, you can just stomp on all the apples.

Posted by: Atrios | Dec 2, 2004 4:17:03 PM

the cart will right itself and the apples will subsequently jump back on and form a new more pleasing arrangment. Or, failing that, you can just stomp on all the apples.

It worked perfectly in Iraq. No reason we shouldn't have similar success in Iran. And we have all those troops in Iraq that will have nothing to do after the elections at the end of January when the elections fix everything over night. They might as well take care of Iran.

Posted by: Freder Frederson | Dec 2, 2004 4:22:35 PM

It's not so much an echo chamber as it is a vacuum tube and you will never break out of it.

Posted by: Deuce | Dec 2, 2004 4:45:28 PM

Deuce is correct. But then Churchill said it first. "If you are 20 and not a liberal then you have no heart and if you are 40 and not a conservative then you have no brain." It is nice to be young and idealistic where humans around the world react exactly like you want them too in every instance and...they are just like your philosphy partners.

Posted by: Dan from Cos | Dec 2, 2004 4:59:01 PM

The only real case I have seen for a military hard line on Iran or Iraq, for that matter, is the statement that they have declared war on us. I don't believe that statement, but if it were true, then I would agree that attacking Iraq was the right decision, and an attack on Iran would be the right decision. All of the other arguments I have read, including this one, seem utterly ridiculous to me.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Dec 2, 2004 5:01:14 PM

Long-winded lunacy.

I don't see anything in there that would stop Iran's nuclear weapons program, by the way - wasn't that supposed to be the point? Instead, it reads like a program of measured retaliation for Iran's alleged role in the Iraqi insurgency. If Dan Darling thinks they're active now, just wait until after the first retaliatory strikes on Iranian "Kordestan".

But this is a useful reminder of the kind of thinking the Administration is undoubtedly bringing to bear on the matter. Dan is probably going to get a policy he likes.

My favorite part:

"The sponsorship of anti-Iranian regime (as opposed to anti-Shi'ite) as well as anti-Khomeinist and anti-Sadrist propaganda in southern Iraq and the strengthening of the An Najaf school of Shi'ism as a counter-balance to Qom as quickly as possible."

What is being "counter-balanced" here? Khomeinist influence in Iran? - But I thought the regime was widely reviled there already! And think of the puerile world-view that imagines an American government CAPABLE of "strengthening the An Najaf school of Shi'ism"! Pray that this helpful suggestion is never put into practice; the last thing - absolutely, positively the last thing - that "Najaf" and Sistani need is the perception of overt American backing.

Posted by: Dave L | Dec 2, 2004 5:13:16 PM

Atrios: That analogy was hilariously funny.

Posted by: Walt Pohl | Dec 2, 2004 5:16:58 PM

Granting that the people who matter in the Iranian hierarchy regard themselves as being at war with us, the question is not whether or not responding to their actions will further provoke them but rather whether we want to fight (in a cold or hot manner) on their terms and at a place and time of their choosing or on ours. I choose ours.

Seeing that we can't even keep the lid on Iraq, we would need a WWII size army to occupy Iran, too.

And if we're not talking about occupying Iran, then we have to be careful -- Iran has the means of really turning up the heat in Iraq, if they so choose.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Dec 2, 2004 5:25:11 PM

Egad, some folks are blase about nuclear terrorism.

People with nuclear weapons who want you dead is a bad scene. It should be prevented from materializing as a general rule.

Posted by: Jason Ligon | Dec 2, 2004 5:55:40 PM

Mr. Dave L,

My perception was that the Shiite Hawza would be delighted to receive overt American backing; their problems with the US are principally due to the fact that the US insists on being fair to the Shiite alternatives as well as minority rights.

Posted by: luisalegria | Dec 2, 2004 6:31:58 PM

Nobody is being blase about nuclear terrorism, other than, perhaps, Bush. We lived for 50 years with the USSR having those weapons and preferring that we were dead, so I think we can remember that time very well. But, we didn't attack the USSR, and no one used a nuclear weapon except us. Bush is being blase about nuclear terrorism by dropping out of the agreement to pay Russia the costs for deactivating their stockpile of nuclear weapons, for aiding Pakistan at the same time that Pakistan was helping other terrorist states develop their own nuclear weapons, for refusing to deal with N. Korea before they started building additional nuclear weapons, and for even considering developing still more variants on nuclear weapons for US use. Please, let's try to learn from history - starting a war is not the way to avoid a war.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Dec 2, 2004 7:08:54 PM

C'mon, Matt. Aren't you going to parse-- I mean "Fisk" Darling?

It's so much easier to "disprove" one's opponent once one dices up their arguement into discombobulated little bits.

Posted by: SAO | Dec 2, 2004 8:38:48 PM

So now the hawks are going to blame the Iranians for all of our problems in Iraq? Get a fking clue! Our problems in Iraq are not the Iranians. The Iranians don't support Zarqawi. The Iranians didn't even support the Taliban. The Iranians almost went to war with the Taliban over the murder of Iranian (Shiite) diplomats. The Iranians will back the Shia in Iraq (who will win anyway) and the Iranians certainly don't want a civil war or chaos spilling across their very long border with Iraq.

Assuming the Iraq will be majority rule, then the Shiites will rule and relations with Shiite Iran should improve. The Kurds are another story, because Kurdistan encompases parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria as well as Iraq. If Iran should get nukes, then so what? Their next door neighbor Pakistan already has nukes and that is a far greater problem. Iran is not likely to be handing out nukes to just anyone. The biggest threat is dirty bomb and Iran with nukes makes that neither more nor less likely. Nukes pose the biggest threat to the nations that build them because of the environmental contamination that results.

As for Iraq. Bush already lost Iraq. The US is left with 2 choices in Iraq.
We can leave now and the Iraqis will hate us and Iraq will be unsafe for Americans.


We can stay in Iraq, kill another 100,000 or more Iraqis and the Iraqis will hate us and Iraq will be unsafe for Americans.

Posted by: bakho | Dec 2, 2004 10:55:30 PM

From Darling's piece:

A lot of Pollack's assumptions seem to predicate on the assumption that Iran isn't trying to stir up trouble in Iraq or allied with al-Qaeda, which is why I say that there's an epistemological difference between him and I. If Iran isn't doing either (and here again I'll cite Hersh and Clarke to support these assertions, let alone what other people tell me)

That is not clarity; it is audacious conflation. I'm prepared to believe that Iran is behind plenty of trouble in Iraq. Maybe they are "allied with Al Qaeda" as well, but it's interesting that Darling doesn't link his cites, and he ties Clarke's and Hersh's "support" to the Iraq claim. And what kind, what depth of alliance is he saying exists between Iran and Al Qaeda? If the evidence is that strong, why not lay it out?

The "Hersh and Clarke and other people who talk to me and trouble in Iraq and "allied with Iran"" argument sure as hell doesn't justify this:

military invasion of Iran must remain a final option, but if the US is attacked by al-Qaeda in the next several years it will unfortunately be the only one we have left. I hope to God that it doesn't come to that, but if they hit us first then we won't have any other option save a military retaliation.

Jesus.Fucking.Christ. I am disarmed. At least I've learned that I can still be shocked by surrealpolitik. After what we have been through in Iraq, have we learned nothing? Guess not.

Posted by: Sean Flaherty | Dec 2, 2004 11:15:02 PM

I was particularly struck by two lines in Darling's piece.

1. If we cut off Saudi funding to radical madrasas, Pakistan won't be a problem in a generation or two.

That's just great... once we solve the Saudi problem -- and how long will that take? -- we only have to wait 20-40 more years for Pakistan to become unthreatening to us. I'm pleased on behalf of my grandchildren... but still a bit worried about my children.

2. The Iranian mullahs view themselves as being in a position of strength.

And how, pray tell, did they end up in that position?

It was apparent from the get-go that Iran was a greater threat to the US than Iraq could ever be. I suppose the admin's strategy -- if there was a strategy -- was, take out the easier one first, as a warm-up, or a warning, or something.

Well, it didn't work. So now, with zero credibility, with zero, as the man likes to say, "political capital" with our allies, with our military bogged down in Iraq, AS EASY TARGETS FOR RETALIATION -- now we've got a lousy hand against some very tough adversaries.

Returning to a pre-election theme, more than the intentions of this administration it is their sheer incompetence which frightens me.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Dec 2, 2004 11:41:48 PM

"The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea."
-- John Adams - Constitution of Massachusetts: Declaration of Rights (1780)

Nothing new under the sun. Most of you are still stuck in the Vietnam news cycle. That is a very short news cycle in the history of our Nation and even shorter in the perspective of the world.

Posted by: Dan from Cos | Dec 3, 2004 9:27:26 AM

"The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea."
-- John Adams - Constitution of Massachusetts: Declaration of Rights (1780)"

Say what? Dan from Cos channeling Baker? Cause Adams wasn't talking about killing other nation's tyrants.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 3, 2004 10:38:18 AM

Were you serious when you said he " lays out his case with unusual clarity"? The whole thing rested on bits of flimsy thread and it totally bummed my day!

Posted by: captainblak | Dec 3, 2004 10:48:35 AM

What in the world is this man talking about? Is he in fact a scholar with any expertise here - if not, why in the world is Matt or anyone else paying him any heed?

"Iran, by its own claims and those of European diplomats (since we all know how icky neocons are), has had bin Laden's family and most of the surviving leadership "in custody" for quite some time now...."

Does anyone know what "claims" he's referring to - as a former intelligence official, although admittedly long out of the official loop, I certainly don't. And I do pay attention. Last I heard, ISI thought Bin Laden and his crew were somewhere east of the Pak/Afghan border, perhaps in China, and the Bin Laden family living comfortably in and around Riyadh, as they always have. His immediate family is believed to be with him, where-ever he is (and no one really knows)

Talk about inventing your facts on the ground - this whole piece is classic disinformation disguised as an argument - as always from the neocon side written by someone with no apparent expertise in what they're talking about.

Again, why are we even discussing this????

Posted by: Mac | Dec 3, 2004 4:29:17 PM

Mac, I don't have a cite for you but I vaguely remember a claim that the iranians at one time had something like five senior al qaeda members in custody, and they offered to trade them to us in exchange for something-or-other they wanted. The Bush administration decided it was more important to avoid negotiation with iran than it was to get 5 senior al qaeda agents, so we turned them down flat. I'm not at all clear that the iranians did with them after that.

This is probably what he's talking about. After we refused to buy the guys, he figures that iran ought to be torturing them for information and passing the results along to us to stop terrorist attacks here, and it hasn't happened -- not a single terrorist attack has been foiled due to information iran gave us.

Of course, my understanding of it all is so vague I can't draw any real conclusions. Maybe we didn't want them because we knew they didn't have the kind of info we wanted, and then it's not surprising the iranians didn't get that from them either.

Posted by: J Thomas | Dec 3, 2004 10:00:05 PM

The term philosophy comes from the ancient Greek word (philo-sophia). It means the love of wisdom (philosophy, history, divisions, solutions, methods, currents, orientations, sciences, religion, teaching, aristotle, plato, socrates).

Posted by: kenriu | Apr 7, 2006 7:03:29 AM

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