Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, November 15, 2004


I don't think we can stop Iran from getting a nuke.

Henry Sokolski at The Weekly Standard has some helpful suggestions on how to "rethink nuclear proliferation, before it's too late." But honestly now, isn't it already too late?

Nuts and bolts:

1. Iran wants nukes. Surely their actions make that clear.

2. Europe likes to negotiate and provide incentives. But none of the carrots they can offer are worth more than nukes. (Even if we could bribe Iran not to go nuclear, it would set a very bad precedent.) As for sticks, we know Europe would never seriously consider a pre-emptive strike.

3. With Bush re-elected, America's tough image is intact. But the Bush administration doesn't have nearly enough political capital, at home or abroad, to go to war with Iran. Even though the Iranian people would probably like to be liberated by the US, Bush won't do it while we're still tied up in Iraq, and while our alliances are still under serious strain.

4. Iran is on track to get a nuke before we have time to repair our alliances and stabilize Iraq.

So that's it. Iran will get a nuke. What can you do? We'll just have to live with it.

Disclaimer: I have a soft spot for Iran. I'm fascinated by Persian culture. One reason for that is that I spent two of the most wonderful days of my life in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, a city where most of the population is Tajik, a people related to the Persians. The markets and the mosques, the Registan, the watermelons, the friendly people, a certain sensuous sculpture in those walls, haunt me to this day. Of course, it had something to do with the girl I was with, a Russian who had just run off with me to Uzbekistan for a week. It had something to do with a fairy tale I told her in the night, in a $20-a-night guesthouse with a courtyard and fountain in it... paradise... For me, Iran has a halo of romance.

Hmm... All the more reason to liberate it, you say?


  • Iran is a funny case. It, unlike Saddam-era Iraq, has part of a functioning democratic system which, at least sometimes, really represents the will of the people. That wing is in many ways superior to anything one will find in Arab countries and has most of the components one needs in an administration meant to provide civil government. Instead of flattening the entire administrative heirarchy of Iran, we'd need only break the grip of the unelected clerical councils. In that respect, Iran offers perhaps the most inviting target in the world for externally-aided regime change on a cost-benefit basis.

    The problem is that as soon as the US is seen as intervening on the side of reformists, their power base is likely to evaporate. No one can survive in a place like Iran if they look like pawns of the Americans. Massed brute force isn't at all the advisable course of action. Something more subtle, however, might well fit the bill.

    One of the best ways I can think of is to take actions that further reduce the popularity of the Islamic councils while simultaneously (and very carefully) aiding well-chosen reformists. Revolution from within in such an instance is, I think, likely to be quick and painless, relatively speaking.

    Will Iran get the bomb before that? Not necessarily. Stalling them might be all we need to do.

    One worry is who we back. We backed Arab volunteers in Afghanistan instead of indigenous Mujahadeen because they were more convenient to us, and everyone paid a heavy price. Trusting Chalabi was always a mind-bogglingly poor decision, considering his financial infamy - he sullied our reputation badly by association. In Serbia we supported a cast of well-chosen characters that were acceptable to both Serbs and the wider world, and we were treated to a highly positive and peaceful revolution. If we learn from our mistakes and victories, we might really achieve something in Iran even given our attenuated capital.

    By Blogger Nato, at 4:55 PM  

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