“Spengler” is at it again.
Now, grant you, I like Spengler. Agree with him about almost nothing, but I like people who step right out and tell you what they think, and why, even when it’s ridiculous. And boy-howdy can he be risible, a moral scold who beats up silly straw men on social issues: like most social conservatives, he likes to advocate against the arguments that he wished his opponents made on subjects like marriage equality, etc.
Now, here at Chez Happycrow, we just used “marriage equality” rather than “gay marriage” for the first time on the blog, and that pretty much lets you know the POV here: there is a word for Christians who insist on having the State sanctify their Sacraments: that word is “heretic.” Matthew 22:21, for those whose blood-pressure just jumped forty points. As far as the government is concerned, marriage is a legal contract with extra family-court protections. That’s why government marriages recognize divorce. Spengler’s arguments may fire up the guys over at PJ Media who automatically equate “homosexual” with “pedophile,” but we don’t see why people we know should have to travel a thousand miles to put together a contract that says “it’s us against the world, baby.”
So, given all of that, why do we pay not just attention, but close attention, to Spengler over here? Because people are more than just the sum of their opinions (thank God, or somebody would have murdered yours truly Happycrow long ago), and when Spengler is right about something, he is dead-on “steel on target.” Such as pointing out that the shape of the future will be greatly determined by who has kids — and, surprisingly, showing us that some of the folks we expected to be winning the demography race are losing it, badly. Or cautioning the world, long before it was fashionable to do so, that Egypt is a basketcase that is going to implode pretty much no matter what the West does. That link goes to a more recent column, but he sounded that drum a long time ago.
So Happycrow disagrees with Spengler all day long — but likes and pays attention to him.
But Spengler has an “issue” with Iran. Even a short and basic appraisal of Spengler’s foreign-policy prescription makes it clear that he’s never played even a single game of Diplomacy — and if he did, he definitely never played as Italy. Let’s see what he has to say about Iran:
The Bush administration and the mainstream Republican leadership went all in on the gamble that moderate Islam would bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, and turned the devious, erratic Turkish leader into its poster boy, with disastrous consequences. But the Republicans’ ideological commitment is so rigid that they have difficulty freeing themselves from the grip of what Charles Krauthammer inappropriately dubbed “democratic realism.” (In opposition to this, I proposed an Augustinian realism as the basis for U.S. foreign policy).
We Republicans now find ourselves painted into a corner. The public doesn’t trust us with guns. That’s why Rand Paul has gotten his fifteen minutes of fame (and if it turns out to be more than fifteen minutes, we are in trouble). It’s satisfying at one level to watch Rand Paul beat up Obama’s nominee for CIA director, but he represents a nasty brand of isolationism.
We nonetheless have to state the obvious: The only way to prevent Syria’s living hell from spreading to Iraq and Lebanon is to neutralize the main source of instability: Iran. Republicans should rally behind Gen. James Mattis, whom Obama fired as head of Central Command. Gen. Mattis told a Senate committee March 6 that sanctions aren’t working, and that Tehran ”enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose.” The United States should not only remove Iran’s nuclear program, but also destroy Revolutionary Guards bases and other conventional capability that the Tehran regime employs to destabilize its neighbors. And the U.S. should throw its full weight behind regime change….
We Republicans have to cure ourselves of the illusion that we can engineer the happiness of other cultures with an inherent antipathy to Western-style democracy. Where the Muslim world is concerned, optimism is cowardice. And we have to persuade the American people that selective, limited military action against Iran will not draw the United States into a new land war.
If we fail, the world will change to our lasting disadvantage. For example: if Iran gets a deliverable nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia will ask Pakistan to deploy nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia as a deterrent. China has had a covert role in Pakistan’s nuclear program from the outset; if the United States fails to stop Iran’s nuclear program, China will have an urgent interest in a military presence in the Persian Gulf, and the means to accomplish it through nuclear proliferation. It is a nightmare scenario, but it is not improbable. We might as well tell the truth. To do that, we need to face up to it ourselves.
Now, you’re looking at a guy who obviously pays attention to foreign policy here. There are a few facts that Spengler might have taken notice of. Unfortunately, his monomaniacal “bomb-bomb Iran” approach has led him to take some shortcuts here, and it shows. He’s lapsed into his habitual straw men, this time where US foreign policy and the world of the Middle East is concerned. Let’s look at a half-dozen facts that everybody who’s paying attention to these things already knows:
- Iran’s government is composed of mass-murdering thugs, whereas its civilian population has pretty much zero interest in anything other than living a good life: nuclear power and nuclear weapons in the hands of your average Iranian is pretty much no threat to anybody. While they’re not huge fans of US foreign policy, they’re pretty pro-American, and totally pissed about how the regime constantly flushes their tax money down a rat-hole in Lebanon.
- Iran’s population is in free-fall and aging rapidly. [edit: this is a mis-statement. It is Iranian population growth that is in free-fall. Thanks to "Liz" in the comments for the catch.]
- The United States is not simply sitting back and “hoping for the best” where an Iranian bomb is concerned. There’s this little thing called “sanctions” and “Stuxnet” that Spengler’s conveniently overlooked. Word on the street is that Stuxnet is eerily effective at what it does, too.
- There are salafist bad guys all over the middle east, Saudi janissaries over whom the Saudis lost control and now are kinda-sorta helping to squish in some places while openly aiding and abetting them in others, ….because Saudis.
- There are mass-murdering thugs who form a functional arm of Iranian (and thus by proxy, Russian) foreign policy and an explicit extension of the Iranian regime’s murderous interests. Those are… the Syrian regime and Hezbollah (without which Lebanon and the entire eastern Med would be a significantly safer place).
- Friendly regional powers such as Israel and the Kurds have growing, peaceful, and prosperous populations which are set to functionally eclipse all the “basketcase powers” within a generation or two.
Now, as a human being, Spengler is right to decry violence and people shooting, killing, and cutting each other’s throats. But it’s an imperfect world, and some things are simply facts. Salafists, Hezbollah guys, Syrian regime dead-enders… these guys are going to kill people, no matter what we do. And we want them either dead, or neutralized, because the alternative is them throwing acid in little girls’ faces and blowing up buses full of schoolchildren, burning down churches (and “offensive” mosques), etc etc. When Red Team takes on Red Team, get the hell out of the way and let them do it. Hezbollah can’t survive without Iran running stuff to it via Syria. Iran suffers a tremendous geopolitical blow with the loss of Syria, and the people who might say “game on” in Lebanon have apparently already done so: they’re just doing it over the border. So that cat’s out of the bag anyway.
End result? Well, who knows. But Stuxnet and its successors have, by all accounts, been quite effective. Bad guys are fighting bad guys without us having to do a thing, and all regional geopolitical signs actually favor a US foreign policy that does nothing but kick the can down the road. You know what you call a foreign policy that gradually goes about doing what we want to do, achieving our goals, while the bad guys are busy cutting each other’s throats??
It’s a seven-letter word, starting with “winning.”
Bush Jr. went to war in Iraq, for a number of reasons. I think the proper reason to have gone to war in Iraq was the debt his father owed the Iraqi Shiites and Kurds for shamefully betraying them after Gulf War One. Bush Sr. said “rise up and we’ll support you,” and then stood by and did jack shit while Saddam cut the Shiites to ribbons with helicopter gunships. Bonus, Iraq hadn’t satisfied any of the actual ceasefire conditions and was actually shooting at our planes, so we were technically at war anyway. I’m glad we went in and finished that job, and satisfied the atrocious debt of honor that Bush Sr. incurred.
Now we’ve lanced that old cold-war boil, it’s over, and the healing can start. But first, a lot of salafist pus has got to ooze to the surface from the Al Qaeda infection the country got in order for the place to return to normal. Curing that infection and wiping away the pus isn’t our job — that infection comes from the local culture, just as our issues come from ours. So long as X% of Sunnis define “kill heretics and non-believers” as a religious mandate, that’s going to happen. Our job is to support the Kurds and do business with anybody who’s interested in peace. Oh, and to help the Iranians get rid of their nasty, murderous regime — if and only if they ask us for help. Otherwise, that’s their business, and intervening does more harm than good.
So if you’re prescribing foreign policy for the Stupid Party (Republicans), that’s really all you have to do. The Dems in charge already figured this one out — that’s why Obama’s foreign policy looks almost exactly like Bush’s did, and he stopped making noises to the contrary the moment he started getting those daily intel briefings.
The answer isn’t “bomb bomb Iran.” It’s “for once we’re actually winning; don’t screw it up.”