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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Iran: The Left Doesn't Get It

Iran has been on our front burner for a few weeks now. We devoted a Sunday Open Topic session regarding Iran's possible blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. We've commented on Ahmadinejad's comments regarding the Holocaust, and his threat on Israel to "wipe them off the map." We covered the announcement this week that not only have they enriched uranium, but they intend on industrializing the efforts; they vowed to add 54,000 more centrifuges to their operations, though no solid time frame was given.

Enter Hugh Hewitt who informs us today that the Left has started to swing back against the argument made by conservatives that they can't be trusted to handle national security. The blogger making the first big swipe is is named Billmon, and he has decided to answer Hugh back on this post that Hugh did. For the record, WE touched on this post here, too. But, Billmon is obviously failing to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Munich – the name, not the movie – has long been one of the neoconservative movement's most cherished political symbols, a kind of short-hand description for everything the neocons despise about liberals and their approach to foreign policy.

STOP! We conservatives dislike the way the Left plays the foreign policy game because their inept at it. Anyone remember Madeline Albright admitting that the US was "duped" by North Korea? Let's take a look at Clinton's "stellar" record in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia. Not great. Not even close to good. We have to go back to Carter to show that the Left really hasn't changed it's stripes much in regard to Iran. They shrieked and hid under a desk during the Islamic revolution in 1979. So, no, right now I don't want them running foreign policy decisions so long as Iran's still rattling it's saber.

Munich equals appeasement – the worst sin in the neocon theology. It also stands for weakness, cowardness, naivety and an amoral willingness to bargain with the devil, as well as the failure to recognize that the devil never keeps his word.

Munich is a '30s newsreel of a feeble old man standing on an airport tarmac, holding an umbrella in one hand and waving a meaningless scrap of paper in the other. Munich is the betrayal of the Czechs and the perfidy of the French and the sound of jackboots marching down cobblestone European streets. Munich is Winston Churchill declaiming, with righteous thunder: "You have chosen dishonor over war. You shall have both." Munich is the city you never ever want to visit if you're the leader of the free world.

Now history, as opposed to the historical stereotype, is hardly so cut and dried. There is considerable evidence that the British and the French knew full well Hitler couldn't be trusted, and never expected him to keep the peace – for long. They were playing for time to complete their own rearmament programs, and worried (with good reason) about Germany's diplomatic feelers to Uncle Joe Stalin.

And there's a problem with France and Britain doing that? They bought time to be able to face Hitler when they saw his rise.Hitler was on the record with exactly what he wanted to do. It's in Mein Kampf. It's in his propoganda prior to his rise. Of course they realized what was happening. That's also the reason why Chamberlain was swept out of office in favor of Churchill, who had been warning Europe about Hitler, and who had a solid strategy for holding him back in Europe.

Was it a bad call? Almost certainly. But more a Machiavellian miscalculation than the wishful thinking of fools and cowards. However it later became politically expedient to foist responsibility for the entire fiasco of the West's response to Hitler's aggression on to the narrow shoulders of Neville Chamberlain. Ever thus to losers.

Chamberlain isn't disdained--at least not in my book--for making the deal. I disregard Chamberlain because of his naivete; the idea that he actually believed he had "purchased" peace. He ignored what others were saying about Hitler, and admitted that the negotiators were cordial. He enjoyed the fact that they were nice and polite, but he failed to see the forest through the trees by believing that a signature on a piece of paper ("Ink on a page," to quote one of my favorite sci-fi series) guaranteed that Europe would be safe from Hitler's incursions.

Party Like It's 1938
Naturally, these historical details haven't kept the neocons and their pet rocks in the conservative media from digging poor old Neville out of his grave – again – in order to illustrate their favorite analogy, this time with Iran as Germany, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Hitler, the Democrats as Chamberlain, the French as the French, and (of course) their own courageous selves as Winston Churchill. Just yesterday, for example, I found Hugh Hewitt
comparing Iran's enrichment of several teaspoons of uranium to Hitler's march into the Rhineland.

Several teaspoons? What's this guy smoking, and why isn't he sharing. The news report was "110 tons of uranium gas." That goes a bit beyond "several teaspoons." And no offense to Billmon, but Iran is right to occupy the seat prepared for it in the comparison. If he hasn't been paying attention to the Middle East in recent years (like since 1979), Iran wants to recreate the Persian Empire. If Billmon thinks that there is no "expansionist" agenda in Ahmadinejad's immediate future, think again, boy-o. Ahmadinejad wants what the mullahs want--a caliphate. This is what they're shooting for. And the recently released documents out of Iraq have been enlightening. Especially in regard to the inroads trying to be made by Iran at that time. Know why? Because the nations of the Persian Gulf no longer feared or respected Iran; they had an ally called the United States that they backed more than the nutty mullahs over there. And how would Iran gain it back? Look at the reactions from the Gulf nations that were very apprehensive the day after the announcement. A nuclear Iran equals nuclear blackmail. They're capable of it, and I'm positive they intend to use that intimidation to push around the other countries over there. Further, it's a helluva lot easier to get one's point across on the international front when you're enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Leaving aside the specific deficiencies in Hewitt's argument – Hitler's move was in direct violation of the Versailles Treaty, Iran's move flouts only a non-binding "request" from the U.N. Security Council – you can make the case that all this Munich-mongering actually turns the truth completely on its head:

It is the United States that may (again) be planning for aggressive war. (For what that might mean legally for the planners, Google: "Hossbach Conference" and "Nuremberg")

Nice try, Kos-kiddie, but that argument didn't fly over Iraq, and it's not going to over Iran, either. We did find WMDs in Iraq, just not the stockpiles that people imagined. And we won't take the military option unless all others have been exhausted, as it was when Iran flouted the last UN resolution.

It's the United States, not Iran, that appears willing to
violate the Nonproliferation Treaty to further its budding nuclear alliance with India.

This is an utterly retarded point to make as India is already a nuclear power, and was capable of enriching uranium prior to and after their '74 bomb test. The treaty prohibits any of the five main signatories (Russia, the UK, China, The US, and France) from distributing nuclear weapons, or nuclear explosive devices. We aren't doing that. He obviously skipped right over the first paragraph in his link above. It reads:

Sometime this year, Congress will be formally asked to allow the resumption of full civil nuclear cooperation with India, which was restricted following New Delhi’s 1974 nuclear bomb test.

Note the emphasis above? "Civil nuclear cooperation" doesn't includes weapons. And yes, that cooperation "was restricted." "Was" insinuates that something has changed. The announcement by Iran that they enriched uranium--up to that day, an impossibility as far as analysts were concerned--violates the non-proliferation treaty, but it doesn't matter because while Iran is a signatory, they're not allowed to build weapons. Based on the comments made by Ahmadinejad and the mullahs in Iran, it is likely that they are building a weapon. The question, at this stage of the game, is how long will it take them?

More to the point, it's the United States, not Iran, that currently has both the weapons and the doctrine in place to launch a nuclear first strike on a non-nuclear state.

Of which the United States is the only nation to have used a nuclear weapon on any country. That would be Japan, and it was to end World War II, which is what those bombs did. Had the United States invaded mainland Japan, estimates range from hundreds of thousands to millions in the deaths we would have endured. The bombs ended the war quickly and decisively. I'm not condoning the use of such a weapon, but I understand the mindset behind using them on Japan.

But that's not the argument I want to make here. Because while the by-now stock comparison between Ahmadinejad and Hitler is absurd militarily, politically it's not nearly as far fetched as the normal run of Orwellian newspeak.

True, Iran does not have a military that compares to the one that Hitler created--the Luftwaffe and Panzer divisions, SS stormtroopers, and the overall blitz, itself--but the comparison to Hitler is well-warranted. Ahmadinejad's dislike of Israel is perfectly clear. He is still promising to "wipe it" from the map. Iran has long desired to reestablish the Persian Empire, and not the mad mullahs of Tehran have decided that their empire should expand to a full, worldwide caliphate. The mad desires of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs can't be mistaken for anything other than what they have said. Again, the world knew full well what Hitler was intending. The same can be said of Ahmadinejad.

I don't say this because of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials or his public fantasies about Israel being wiped off the map. I certainly don't dismiss those remarks. I'm keenly aware that all too many "sensible" observers (most of them on the political right) dismissed Hitler's Mein Kampf ravings as merely a carny act to bring in the rubes. But I also know that firebreathing rhetoric about destroying the "Zionist entity" has been a staple of Middle Eastern political hate speech since Nasser's time if not before – just as talk about nuking Mecca has become an occasional feature of American political hate speech. I take such talk seriously, and I think everybody should, but I don't automatically assume that those who say such things are actually planning to commit genocide.No, Ahmadinejad's resemblance to Hitler – and the reason why I find him a legitimately scary guy – is more a function of his role in the decay of the Iranian revolution, which is starting to take on some definite Weimer overtones.

The "Zionist entity" spiel has made the rounds in the Middle East, and few have tried to take Israel down. But all of those nations did so through conventional means. Iran is the only nation counted amongst Israel's enemies that has progressed this far along the nuclear path. The hatred is pure and unadulterated, and a dismissal of this idea by Billmon perfectly illustrates the point made by Hugh and others. They don't take this stuff seriously, and because they don't--because they don't give this sort of posturing credance--they are ill-equipped to handle foreign policy. They made the same mistake with North Korea, in believing Kim Jong-Il at his word. And what happened? North Korea has made nuclear weapons; a nightmare scenario in Asia, to be sure. Can we afford to do the same with Iran?

Night and Fog
Ahmadinejad was essentially recruited by the ruling ayatollahs to counter the reformers and roll back their electoral gains. He gave the regime something it has generally lacked since Khomeini died – a popular mass political following. The ayatollahs thought they could control both him and his movement, thanks to their hold on the machinery of the state: the National Security Council, the Council of Guardians, the religious foundations, the army, etc.

Ahmadinejad, however, has been moving to consolidate power, using his fiery appeals to Shi'a fundamentalism and Iranian national pride to whip up mass support, and launching a series of purges designed first to turn the Revolutionary Guard into his own personal instrument, and then to use the RG to bring key state institutions under direct presidential control – in fact as well as in name.

Sounds like Adolf to me. How about you ladies and gents in the audience? The key problem that Ahmadinejad has is his power is still within the mullahs. But they have essentially given him a green light to move forward on Iran's nuclear ambitions. A fatwa issued by an Iranian claric stated that it was OK for them to have nuclear weapons. Ring any bells? Sounds like something similar to the changing of the Nuremberg laws. Shari'a law was believed, up until February of this year, to prohibit such weapons, or so we (non-Muslims) were led to believe. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 9 August 2005 issued a fatwa prohibiting the creation, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. And just seven months later, they're contradicting their original fatwa. And Billmon would have us trust Iran to develop "peaceful" programs? I think not.

In his recent New Yorker
article, Sy Hersh calls this Ahmadinejad's "white coup," and cites a recent wave of forced resignations in the Foreign Ministry. More importantly, key Revolutionary Guard commanders also have been turning up dead – like the dozen or so who died in a plane crash last December. Some are said to have been leading opponents of Ahmadinejad.

(Update 10:10 pm ET: I should have been more circumspect here. It isn't clear whether the RG officers who died where enemies or allies of Ahmadinejad. Nor is there hard evidence that the crash was due to an act of sabotage. It is reasonably clear, however, that a subterranean power struggle is under way inside Iran, and that Ahmadinejad's moves to consolidate power are at the center of it.)

As I stated above, Ahmadinejad's power is derived from the mullahs. If they want him out of the way, they would have already done it. So, as they aren't complaining about this, and this isn't "overt" on the party of either group, I disagree with his assessment of a consolidation of power. It sounds to me, in amateur retrospect, that he's removing enemies of the mullahs; quite likely those same reformers that the mullahs wanted out of the way to begin with, hence the use of Ahmadinejad by the mullahs to unseat Khatami.

It isn't hard to see some ominous parallels here. A Marxist would probably say Ahmadinejad is playing the classic Bonapartist role: taking advantage of a political stalemate between social classes to forge a personal dictatorship. Or maybe he's just the inevitable product of an authoritarian system in terminal decline, like Milosevic in Yugoslavia. Or maybe he's really only explicable in Iranian terms.

I don't know. But Ahmadinejad's combination of demogogic appeal, ideological zealotry and end-times eschatology does make him a much more plausible stand-in for Hitler than an apparachik like Milosevic or a thug like Saddam. Even Juan Cole – hardly a neocon sympathizer – has called Ahmadinejad
"essentially fascist."

Munich: The Untold Story
What Ahmadinejad is not, however, is the absolute dictator of an advanced industrial state with a first-rate military. To pretend that he currently poses the same kind of threat to the world (or even to the Jewish people) that Hitler did in 1938 – or that he will pose such a threat any time within the next decade – is ridiculous. It also discredits the very legitimate concerns that the world should have about Iran and the future of the Iranian revolution.

So, Billmon is disavowing the conservative estimates made by analysts that if they continue on their current path, Iran could have working nuclear weapon within ten years? That's bold, as many of the major analysts have stated exactly that--three-to-ten years. That's all it will take. And no, while he isn't the "dictator" of Iran, the mullahs control him, and they control the populace through fear. The heavy-handed tactics cracking down on dissidents is all one needs to see how the populace is treated. Granted, they aren't killed on a genocide-like scale as Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds, but there are still plenty of people who have been killed over there for things as simple as speaking out. No, the state isn't as industrialized as Germany was, however analysts have stated that Iran is near the industrial level of the United States during World War II. And is he currently a greater threat to Israel than Hitler was during his reign? Not yet. They don't possess the weapon yet, but the moment they do, that threat will be real.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, back to my point about Munich. In the neocon wisdom tale, Munich is always about Neville Chamberlain and that scrap of paper. But that's only half the story – or not even half. Hitler might never have risen to power in the first place if the allies had dealt justly with Germany and the other defeated powers at Versailles, or if the Western governments of the 1920s and early '30s had shown one tenth the willingness to compromise with the democratic governments of the Weimer Republic that they later did to appease the Nazi regime.
Whoa. We don't need to reargue whether or not the Treaty of Versailles was fair to Germany. After a thorough reading of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich it's more than apparent that the treaty was far too harsh on Germany after World War I; that helped lead Germany towards the rise of Hitler. And no power that was against Germany in World War I was going to ride to her rescue in the 20's and 30's. That would have been like the US running to Iran's aid during the Iran/Iraq War just months after the Iranians took 52 people hostage in our embassy; a blatant act of war by the revolutionaries.

The source of much of Hitler's political appeal – and the topic of most of his stump speeches before coming to power – was the spinelessness of the Weimer politicians in kowtowing to the Versailles Treaty, and the need for a strong leader who would stand up to the allies. The British and French only understand force, the would-be Furhrer shrieked. Germany must take what was rightfully hers, instead of going hat in hand to plead for concessions.

Yes, much of his stump speeches involved those topics. They dealt with criticism of the Weimer republic, and that Germany needed strong leadership to rebuild. But his way was not exactly the right way to do it. The world agrees with that. And the world played the stupid game in 1936 when Hitler ordered the reoccupation of the Rhineland. And they were just as naive as Chamberlain for believing he would abide by his signature on a piece of paper. Hitler, beyond the rhetoric, wanted to pay back Germany's enemies for the humiliation that Germany suffered after World War I.

And of course, the allies proved Hitler right. They insisted on enforcing every humiliating clause of the terms dictated at Versailles. They surrounded Germany with an encircling alliance of smaller states. They forced the German economy deeper and deeper into debt to finance the insane war reparations they demanded. Weimar – and democracy – were discredited and disgraced in the eyes of millions of ordinary Germans long before they started flocking to Hitler's rallies.

And after the Nazis took power, the allies proved Hitler right yet again: They willingly gave him what they had refused the democratic governments of Weimer. They cowered before his initial, hollow threats, letting him march into the Rhineland when they could have squashed the German army like a bug. Is it any wonder Hitler's popularity soared, allowing him to crush all domestic opposition and take the first steps towards the Final Solution?

While the allies did capitulate with Hitler, it's nowhere near what the Left has stated they would do. Anyone remember the first debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry? I do, and I remembered this keenly from that debate:

KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French, and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort without the United States, regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better. I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing.

That was John Kerry's response to how he would have handled nations like Iran and North Korea. Is that the sort of foreign policy we need in this new age? This is a post-11 September world. Not a 9/10 world. A "trust them" approach is the last sort of strategy you want in dealing with regimes that are dead set on acquiring the world's most destructive weapons, and neither leader is exaclty "stable" in terms of their mental helath. They're both nutters.

Letting Ahmadinejad be Ahmadinejad
That earlier half of the Munich story – the hidden half – seems particularly critical to remember now, considering what insiders are now telling us about Iran's pre-Ahmadinejad
efforts to seek a diplomatic accommodation with the U.S.:

In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei . . . Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.

Personally, Iran's problem is with the world, in general, and not just the United States. Any sort of diplomatic talks should be held between Iran and Great Britain, The United States, France, Germany, Russia, and China; the major world powers that possess nuclear weapons. If they truly are advancing only peaceful research and nuclear science, then they need to submit to inspections and surveillance. It's that simple. Yes, we don't trust them because they've been a thorn in the world's side since 1979. From their revolution and embrace of terrorism all the way up until now, with their nuclear enrichment. Thanks, no, but the world needs to be involved in this.

But this side of the story really goes back further, to the Clinton administration's dithering response to the blossoming of the Iranian democracy movement in the late '90s and the 2000 presidential victory of moderate reformer Mohammad Khatami.

The opportunity for detente was out there, but the Clintonites were utterly intimidated by our own hardliners – not least the ones in their own party – and never developed a coherent policy either to engage the reformers or challenge their opponents.

The arguments were pretty predictable: the reformers have no real power and Khatami won't able to deliver; containment is working well enough, so don't rock the boat, and (most critically) if we make even a tiny move the Republicans will crucify us. You probably would have heard roughly the same arguments about Weimar if you'd been hanging around in Whitehall or the Quay d'Orsay in the late '20s.

Of course, there was never any question of the Cheney administration picking up where the Clintonites left off – the only kind of Iranian reformers the neocons have ever been interested in are the kind who would be willing to ride into Tehran on the back of an Abrams tank.

Low-blow, and completely uncalled for. Our military option, to my knowledge, has not had ground troops mentioned. Our military response brings up more naval forces, and air groups, than anything else. There is an emphasis put on helping the dissidents topple the mullahs, but we've never said they have to join us. I doubt boots will ever be on the ground unless something goes terribly awry.

The irony is that the point when America was in the best possible position to dictate a deal (an ultimatum, really) to the Iranians – after the fall of Baghdad three years ago – was also the point when the Cheney administration was least willing to even think about negotiations. Such is the price of hubris. Given what's happened since then, is it any surprise that the uranium "crisis" – and Ahmadinejad's defiance – have only boosted his political popularity and clout?

What's with the "Cheney administration" garbage?? I mean, I know the guy's a Kos-kiddie, but please. That argument is old; like kindergarten old, and I expected the Left to have a few new swipes up their sleaves. And when were we really in a position to issue an ultimatum while spread across Iraq and Afghanistan? What would that ultimatum be like? Would it be UN-like? "If you don't stop enriching uranium, we'll issue a strongly worded letter." Please. If people like Billmon here get there way, it'll be more dithering for years while the UN issues useless resolution after useless resolution. No. We can't do that with Iran. They are far ahead of where Iraq was in their own nuclear program.

War in Our Time
And so the most promising opportunities for a rational settlement have all passed us by. Instead of a moderate reform president and a group of nervous ayatollahs anxious to cut a deal, America now has Ahmadinejad – and the dawn of what could conceivably become an explicitly fascist regime in Iran, or at least a very close substitute for one.

The good news, such as it is, is that Ahmadinejad's end-times ideology doesn't seem to include any grand territorial ambitions: no "Greater Iran" (Iran is already a greater Iran), no lebensraum in the east. We also have time – time to see how things shake out, to see if the ayatollahs can hamstring their troublesome protege, to see if the democracy movement can make a political comeback. Time for Ahmadinejad to lose some of his popular shine as Iran's internal problems worsen. Time for our own hardline warmongers to be booted out of power.

Ahmadinejad's end-times fixation does involve territorial ambitions. According to the prophecy he's following, hitting Israel is step one. Then, with the prophecied 12th Imam, or mahdi, leading the forces of Islam, they will transform the earth into a caliphate. Billmon has obviously not paid attention to what Ahmadinejad has said regarding this prophecy, nor has he researched it. Territorial ambitions are exposed in the Islamic march across the planet. And I love how he cites the president as a warmonger. Despite the fact that his 2000 run was punctuated by the point that he didn't want to get involved in foreign entanglements. He ran as a president of peace (Machiavelli would advise otherwise), not as one looking for a war. Or does Billmon by the Uncle Teddy tripe that the war was concocted before 11 September?

But unfortunately, our divinely ordained president may not be prepared to wait (and the last sentence of the preceding paragraph appears to be one of the reasons.) Which means at this point we probably should be worrying less about what happened in Munich in 1938, and more about what happened there in 1972, when the German police moved in and tried to disarm the terrorists.

Multiply that carnage by a thousand, or a million, and you've got more than a political slogan; you've got a war.

Let me just close this by stating that if this is the best the Left has to offer, they're in serious trouble when it comes to debating. The threat Iran poses in the world today is one that should be taken seriously. The best analysts in the intelligence business is stating that they'll have nukes within ten years. And they're also advising the Pentagon, DoD and the White House to take his threats against Israel seriously. Not because there's any specific plan that ahmadinejad is necessarily following, but because Ahmadinejad's a nut. And he's a nut that can't be trusted. His hardline speeches are enough to give the West a moment of pause.

The moment is now over, and it's time for the world to work on a solution to Iran. If diplomacy works, then great. I'm happy. But the military option will never come off the table. And if it falls to us to deal with Iran, we will. But this argument--this obfuscation and interpretation by Billmon of history--isn't enough to change the subject. While it isn't 1936 yet, it's getting closer. It'll be right up in our face the day that Iran announces they have a bomb. Then 1936 will have occurred, and the Rubicon crossed.

Publius II


Anonymous Anonymous said...

History is a window to the future. It seems we ignore the lessons of history. Hitler is an excellent example. We should have learned from Stalin and the communist leaders. We are not permitted to profile our enemies, it just isn't correct and proper. Correct and proper will get us killed. The president of Iran and their supreme religious leader, are the immediate enemy but there are other at home and abroad. Hugo Chavez is one that comes readily to mind. I still have a lot of faith in Israel. They've been under the gun before. They aren't afraid. I'm fearful we may be when I see six generals attack our Commander in Chief. Rawriter

2:17 AM  

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