When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like Iran.

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.”

Leave a comment


  1. I don’t know where you got #2? Over half of Iran’s population is under 35. Iran has 75(ish) million people, Israel has around 7 million, a tenth that number. The Kurds are a minority in every country of which I’m aware.

    • Liz: replacement rate. Total fertility rate in Iran is bad. Now, granted, linear extrapolation is linear extrapolation, but I’ve not seen any news suggesting this is likely to change. See link below for multiple sources: ymmv.


      The Kurds themselves are a minority, but growing, and have economic vibrancy on their side that most of the rest of the region can’t match. Additionally, they have tacit Turkish support, b/c a stable and prosperous semi-autonomous Kurdistan reduces the pressure that Turkey faces from the PKK.

      • The population of Iran has literally quadrupled in the past fifty years. No country with a majority of people under 35 can be said to be in “population free fall” or “aging rapidly” due to a recent five year drop fertility rate. This is an extraordinary claim. Look at this chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iran_Population_(1880-2005).JPG
        Their population is YOUNG. One could make this claim about Italy (and most of Europe), but not Iran.

        The next claim is even more extraordinary. So extraordinary it’s like we’re posting from parallel universes. The kurds have tacit support from Turkey? Think of the reason the PKK exists in the first place. Turkey’s treatment of the kurds is one of the fundamental reasons the EU hasn’t accepted its entry into the union. It has slaughtered tens of thousands since the late 80s. Political pressure from US made an independent Kurdistan possible. It isn’t in Turkey’s interest, it’s a security risk. That’s why there have been constant military strikes and ambushes on the Turkish/northern Iraq border.

      • Liz,

        I need to restate the population figure, clearly. On the other hand, you’re conflating the PKK with the Kurdish regional authority, with whom the Turkish government has been steadily negotiating an oil pipeline deal. To say that the Turkish government is attacking the Kurdish regional authority in Northern Iraq is incorrect.

      • Your wikipedia entry is empty.
        The page I linked shows a population growth rate that goes as low at 1.67. That is far below replacement rate (the same measure shows Italy, a known demographic basket-case, at 1.4). Now, granted, it is the lowest of the three studies.

        Can’t work with an empty link – what I need to do is go back this afternoon and rephrase that para more carefully.

      • Here, this may be the link you were looking for.
        According to the 2011 population census the population of Iran was 75 million ,[1] a fourfold increase since 1956. Between 1976 and 1986 an average annual population growth of almost 4% was reached, but due to decreasing fertility levels the growth decreased to 1.3% between 2006 and 2011.


        Note that the graph to the right is ten years outdated. The majority of the population on the graph is exiting their reproductive years.

      • Liz

         /  March 13, 2013

        Happycrow, the median age for an Iranian is currently 28:

        The majority of the population is NOT “exiting their reproductive years”. It’s about the same as the median age for Mexico: http://www.indexmundi.com/mexico/median_age.html
        In fact, the median age for Mexican women is slightly higher. I trust we’re not going to debate that Mexicans are aging rapidly and in population free fall?

        Their baby boom came with the Revolution, there were around six kids per wife during that time…That was the the late 70s.

        Per the Kurds, there are around three times as many Kurds in Turkey as Iraqi Kurdanistan. The Kurdish area of Turkey borders the Kurdish area of Iraq. The Kurds in Turkey have wanted independence for a long while (the battle cry of the PKK).

        Citing a pipeline deal while simultaneously ignoring this history (and ongoing problem) reminds me very much of an engineering student I knew a while back who designed a really sweet plane (on paper) that could do a lot of interesting revolutionary things, because the propeller was 30 feet in diameter. Unfortunately, with this defect (I pointed out) the plane could never take off in the first place, or land. But it flew like a dream once it hypothetically could get into the air, I’m sure. Respectfully, in this case I believe that you’re ignoring the land.

      • That may entirely be the case.

        Happy to argue this one out (I’m not one of *those* bloggers — I do change my mind when presented with new facts if they won’t fit the hypothesis), but do you have a cite for the median age?

      • On the likelihood of said pipeline coming to fruition, the Iraqis/Kurds themselves are uncertain.



      • Liz

         /  March 13, 2013

        “do you have a cite for the median age?”
        I posted the link. Did it show up for you? I can click on it from my view here. Here is a link to the original source, the CIA factbook:

      • Previous link didn’t show for some reason while I was approving the reply. Thanks.

      • Liz

         /  March 13, 2013

        Just to add, per the pipeline deal, I think this would be a good thing for all involved (obviously). But keep in mind trade and economic benefit only goes so far. The Soviets were providing plenty to Nazi Germany before the invasion (Stalin had been supplying Hitler with oil for two steady years….1.5 million tons of it, as well as 1.5 million tons of grain, and many thousands of tons of rubber, timber, phosphates, iron and other valuable metal ores). Not asserting any moral equivalence, this is just the most direct example I have off the top of my head.

      • I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s a great parallel. A better one, imho, would be Philippine efforts to engage its southerners economically on one hand in order to isolate the MILF.

      • MILF. Hee hee hee. That acronym always gives me a chuckle. I once read a headline that said, “Airforce pounds MILF lairs with rockets. I sent an e mail asking if they used the deepest penetrator weapons. Also wanted to know if they were the ‘manned’ or ‘unmanned’ variety.
        Never heard back, strangely. (immature schoolgirl giggle….)

      • Strategy Page for years referred to them as “the hilariously-misnamed MILF”

  2. Bilgeman

     /  March 12, 2013

    Let me tell you where I’m coming from to equate homosexuality with pedophilia, since you saw fit to link to my comment.

    When I was a lad of 15 years, I had a summer job as a gas-jockey back in a time and place when service stations still had things called “Full-Service”. I was the flunkie who came out and gassed the car, checked the oil and cleaned the windshield.

    I began receiving calls from many adult men, never women, looking to bugger your uniformed correspondent, despite the fact that I was obviously undergage and the fact that such behavior was highly illegal in my state,(and carried fair draconian legal penalties for its commission).
    Today, i think such perverts as they would be termed “twinkhunters” or “short-eyes”, but such terms had not been coined or were not in general use in the pre-internet era.

    I have no reason to think that the intervening 30-some years has given that leopard any motive to change its spots, so lets not pretend that the Gay Agenda is something other than what it is. Some of us have very long memories.

    I would also observe that the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church has been almost exclusively a homosexual phenomenon…care to comment?

    Now sniff at the ignorant knuckle-dragiing Christofacsist wing-nut and go back to telling your readership Happy Stories, sport.

    • False equivalence is false equivalence, whatever story you put behind it. You got hit on by some gay guys as a teen. I did, too. Also got taken to town by a woman who was 38. That was technically illegal, too. And yes, the NAMBLA people are assholes.

      Do I then take your stance, and trash the reputation, ideals, and motives of every Christian, because a few of them were assholes who bombed abortion clinics or denied their kids medical care and watched them die because they wanted to prove that their faith would manage? How about all conservative white gun-owners are Nazis, because some of them belong to groups like Stormfront? Or that all southern Christian rednecks are bigots, because the KKK happens to be alive and well in pockets of East Texas and other rural spots down south?

      No. I don’t. Because that would be bloody well ridiculous, and you know it. Your position is equally ridiculous.

  3. Eric

     /  April 6, 2013

    “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.”

    This is why I can’t go all in on hating on Muqtada al Sadr. He’s a villain who’s caused a lot of damage no doubt, but he’s also a villain with a sympathetic origin story. Muqtada’s father and uncles were killed for trusting American and answering our call to action. I don’t blame al Sadr for distrusting Bush’s son (through no fault of Dubya) and being bitter against America. I wouldn’t forgive us either if I was in his place.

    I can only imagine the level of trust and faith that the Shia had for America in 1991 to risk their lives and rise up against Saddam on the mere encouragement of President Bush. I can only imagine their anger at our craven self-serving betrayal. If we had kept our word in 1991, I wouldn’t be surprised if Muqtada would have become a cheerleader of the US, instead of an obsessed hater of the US.

    It’s too bad because in 2003, entering Iraq, the major Iraqi Shia leaders were on board with the American plan for Iraq after Saddam. Muqtada was not accounted for as a minor figure.

    One wonders whether the post-war occupation would have unfolded differently if the Shia, like the Kurds, had stayed on board and we could have focused on working the Sunni problem. But as is, the Sadrists and JAM surprised us, mixed lethally with the Saddam loyalists and their AQI guests, and it got a lot worse before the COIN “Surge” and Awakening.

    Our Iraq intervention was justified for a number of reasons. Your reason is one that isn’t stated enough.

    • It’s true – it’s indeed complicated. And yes, Sadr is a bad guy who might might have been a good guy, had Bush Sr. been a good guy, as opposed to merely a President.

      • Eric

         /  April 7, 2013

        Bush’s call on the Counterinsurgency “Surge” in 2006 stands in sharp contrast to Bush’s call in 1991 that dishonored America in the precise moment that the world’s faith in America as a transformative “leader of the free world” was at its highest. It’s upsetting and disillusioning that Bush (the son) has been demonized for making the harder but right leadership call on Iraq.

        It’s not even a case of Truman making a call on Korea that seemed, at the time, out of left field. A lot of people who know better pretend Bush invented the Iraq problem after 9/11 when Bush actually inherited a long-standing festering Iraq problem. It’s like LBJ officials blaming Nixon for Vietnam. Bush’s course with Iraq, including the case and precedent that defined Operation Iraqi Freedom, was faithful to Clinton’s course on Iraq. Bush carried forward the end-state goals that Clinton set for resolving the Iraq problem: Iraq in compliance, Iraq internally reformed, and Iraq at peace with its neighbors, with or without Saddam. Moreover, Obama – who rode Bush-hate to the presidency – endorsed the justifications for the Iraq intervention, though without naming names, soon after Obama took office. As you point out, Obama’s foreign policy has been at least thematically congruent with Bush’s foreign policy.

        Backed by popular sentiment against OIF, a number of influential people now claim Bush (the father) was right to leave Saddam in power and not intervene on behalf of the Shia in 1991 (which also signaled to Saddam the limit of our will to enforce the ceasefire). They’ve revised Saddam in death into some kind of Iran-neutralizing, regional peacemaking lynchpin. They may as well claim Hitler should have been propped up to counter the USSR. They romanticize the indefinite toxic status quo “containment” in Iraq that was neither our policy nor an end state – the same toxic status quo, by the way, that al Qaeda used as its founding reason and chief rallying cry in the 1990s. That shit needs to be countered at the academic and popular levels before it damages real foreign policy.

        Bush didn’t kick the can on Iraq like the can was kicked to him. He moved to resolve an Iraq problem that needed to be solved. And he worked the problem when there was tremendous pressure to cut and run from Iraq. For doing what a leader is supposed to do, Bush is hated.

      • I agree. Iraq is about the only thing Bush ever did that I actually approved of, to be honest (besides a fundamental decency which he appears to have, and which his father clearly lacked). Bush Sr. was a foreign-policy coward: Iraq was only one example (remember the “Chicken Kiev” speech?).

        Saddam was certainly no good-guy, and much of the foreign-policy “establishment” and their talking head enablers remain fundamental to basic truths (such as the Basij and Iranian regime being fundamental enablers of AQ, which doesn’t fit the simplistic “narrative” in the west).

    • I respectfully disagree with both of you. We had an Arab coalition under Bush senior (the scope of which was unprecedented and has never been seen since). This entity funded virtually the entire war, we actually made money even without the benefit of cheap gas entering the equation.

      Whatever our leadership’s personal goals and objectives, we relied on the neighboring Arab countries for logistical support for the placement of our troops and equipment, only permitted at their behest. Without that support the endeavor would not have been possible, and the countries that owned those bases were against measures to invade and depose Saddam.

      It would have been a very bad move on our part to defy them and proceed anyway. We had the ceasefire terms, which Saddam agreed to, for which we expected him to comply. In response to the subsequent civilian atrocities the neighboring countries agreed to support a no-fly zone (in the North, the southern one was already in force) to protect the occupants, which we then commenced under their approval.

      • Just looked it up and I was wrong about the NFZ sequence above…the southern was established later, “Operation provide comfort” in the north, was first and commenced in April 1991.

      • Eric

         /  April 8, 2013

        If the President and Commander in Chief of the United States, victor of the Cold War, and leader of the free world and new world order, didn’t mean it, he shouldn’t have said it.

        People suffered and died because they trusted our honor.

        At *the* historical moment that the word and reputation of the United States, embodied by the American President, carried the most weight, President Bush trashed them. And for what?

      • And we suffer the ill effects of it to this day.

      • Liz

         /  April 8, 2013

        I am unaware of any public statements he made that promised support. If they exist, they should be a matter of public record. Bush senior did invite the population to rise against Saddam, but never promised military backing (to my knowledge).

        This in the context of the times, a cold war world (though the USSR was in the process of dissintegration) when military intervention by first world nations into the internal affairs of other nations was something anathema. Human rights violations were ubiquitous throughout Soviet satellite countries and no one interfered militarily (for good reason, the entire world would have gone up in smoke…Iraq a former Soviet satellite as well). Kosovo was the paradigm shift when all of that changed, Iraq was the first of the no fly zones. History is viewed backward but viewed forword and it’s inaccurate to assess without context from hindsight 20/20.

      • Liz

         /  April 8, 2013

        Last sentence I intended to say viewed backward but LIVED forward…

      • Bush not only encouraged them to revolt, he then denied them military aid and allowed the Republican Guards to cross US lines in order to secure weapons depots, etc, for the Iraqi regime. It was as cynical as it gets, and I remember the entire tawdry affair being profoundly discouraging.

        I don’t have references on-hand; this was something I watched at the time but would need to go out to a recent history bookshelf to research.

      • Liz

         /  April 8, 2013

        HC, if you remember it first hand I’ll take your word for it and will agree with you on this.

      • Well, don’t have to agree, obviously. But yes, it was one of the most disillusioning things I’d ever seen, and helped make me into the cynic I am today.

      • Not a huge fan of alternet, but yeah, a lot of it is out there.

  4. Eric

     /  April 8, 2013

    I didn’t know we had soldiers on the ground in the area who had to personally turn away Iraqis begging for their help. That must have been awful for our guys.

    I can only imagine the disgust of our soldiers at being charged to carry out the unethical fecklessness of their leaders in 1991 and then contrast it with the pride of our soldiers who carried out the Counterinsurgency “Surge” 15 years later.

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