Friday, October 24, 2008

Iranian Foreign Minister Threatens Attacks on London... With Non-Existent Nuclear Arsenal?

In browsing Brit Hume's Political Grapevine column this morning on, I found this not-so-surprising morsel:

London Calling

An Iranian Foreign Ministry official says his government should target one of the United States' closest allies to ensure that President Bush does not attack Iran during his final weeks in office.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports Wahid Karimi was quoted as saying, "The last two months of Bush's presidency... will be the worst days of his presidency for Iran and during them he can exploit his power to carry out political adventurism and an ill-conceived operation. If so, how can we restrain him?"

He adds, "The most appropriate means of deterrence that Iran has, in addition to a retaliatory operation in the [Gulf] region, is to take action against London."

What was shocking was the insinuation of transcontinental strikes against the British capital when Iran has never publicly admitted its use of terrorism to advance it's national foreign policy goals, nor has it even made veiled threats to use extra-national groups to do its bidding.  Either this represents a stark change in Iran's policy - embracing the open use of terror as a 'legitimate' form of warfare - or they are signaling some other kind of attacks.

Is there an attack that could be launched on one continent and cause widespread damage in another?  Well, sure, the advanced nations of the world could launch a nuclear strike from a continent away, but Iran isn't in that league.  Right? 

Iran would have to have long-range missile technology as one would expect from a country operating its own space program.  They would need to be within months of developing a nuclear payload.  They would also have to have a military treaty with a powerful - and heavily armed - ally to discourage immediate retaliation. 

If we can't find any evidence of those factors, we can disregard their threats as the rantings of a pariah state.

This looming threat presents a dilemma for Senator Obama, a man who has advocated unilateral disarmament, reductions in defense spending and dismantling our nuclear arsenal?  There is every reason to believe that the next decade or two will present America with her greatest challenges since the Civil War.  The next president will set the tone for how we address those challenges in national security and the economy, and the first leg of any journey establishes its course.  If the first leg of our march through the approaching storm takes us into dangerous territory, such a miscalculation may prove disastrous.

In times of peril, whether they are centered around our corporeal or financial survival, Obama's idealism will only invite conflict.  A case in point is Jimmy Carter, a man who met challenges by using his own worldview as his diplomatic playbook.  During Carter's time in office, Soviet-styled communism gained a foothold or expanded its grip on every continent.  Americans sat helpless and frustrated as our citizens were held hostage for 444 days in Tehran, and the world took note.  As Carter conducted experiments on his own theories on international relations, the real world continued on its course. 

Obama shows striking similarities to Carter in his willingness to make events a testing ground for his idealistic principles.  His attitude toward negotiation - even if he has truly moderated his position from "no preconditions" to something more diplomatically sound - only works if the opposing parties end-game is to achieve diplomatic objectives.

(It sure would have been nice to see his senior thesis on nuclear disarmament negotiations so that we could at least have a basis to begin understanding his philosophy on high-level negotiations.  Alas, he is the only person I know who didn't, out of some vanity, keep a copy laying around.  Come to mention it, even his wife had a copy of hers on the Princeton library shelves, although it was pulled until after the election.)

Just as Chamberlain believed that Hitler's aggression was a tool used to obtain other concessions, it is never safe to assume that war and conquest are not the goal of your enemy.  That is not to say that war is the only end to the troubles with Iran (and please pay attention to Russia skulking along the baseboards) but it does mean that has to be a possibility considered in the calculus of our decision-making process.  It is unclear whether Obama truly understands how to work the formula to arrive at a solution that will protect America.  He shows more interest in proving an academic point.

The first responsibility of our leaders is to define where our national interests lie and act to protect the lives of Americans.  Idealist foreign policies and the leaders who cling to them don't generally cover that territory very well.  We can see that in all occasions when Obama has been asked to provide details for how he would handle foreign affairs.  He points to the past - the Bush years - as the reason America is on unstable ground, but he offers no definition of what our interests are and how he will protect them.

(It can't go without saying that for someone who has railed against the Bush White House and the war in Iraq, he has gratefully accepted the endorsements of an entire cadre of Bush neo-conservatives and General Powell.  If we flip back a few years in our history textbooks you will remember that Powell is the man who "fabricated evidence" according to Jonathan Schwartz writing for Huffington Post on February 5, 2008:

Powell's loyalty to George Bush appears to have extended to a willingness to deceive the United Nations, Americans, and the coalition troops about to be sent to kill and die in Iraq.

Doesn't this completely invalidate Obama's claim that he will be taking the country in a new direction?

Back your regularly-scheduled commentary.)

Without a doubt, there are other issues facing the country, most of them carrying crushing penalties awaiting us if we fail to effectively grapple with them.  The potential of violent conflict supercedes all such issues.  Jefferson wrote "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" as the rights of Man in that necessary order or priority

When we hope for better hearts in our enemies, we give them safe passage to strike at our own.  Without life there is no liberty, no happiness.

Remember the pigeon

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