Politicians play general, generals play politics (part 5)

In the conclusion of our series on Jeff Huber, columnist at Militar.com and author of a new novel, Bathtub Admirals, we asked him more questions on foreign policy.

In a New York Times article, “Look Who’s Tough on Iran Now,” on June 1, William Broad explains that the International Atomic Agency, which had heretofore viewed Iran’s credibility on its nuclear program as a glass half full, now sees it as not just a glass half-empty, but one rapidly draining.

“In the annals of role reversal, the switch by the United Nations’ atomic sleuths in Vienna and the American intelligence community has been striking. Having long taken a back seat to the Bush administration in publicly challenging Iran’s nuclear program, the global inspectors last week moved into the driver’s seat, demanding that Tehran come clean.

“Just how far did Tehran get toward designing a bomb before the program was halted? That question could transform the debate over what to do about Iran, particularly because it is being posed now by an international agency that retains high credibility overseas, something the Bush administration lost long ago.”

There seem to be two camps: One, Iran is developing nuclear weapons and they must be stopped, period. Two, Iran ceased to develop nuclear weapons before it had a viable design. Is there a middle way between denying Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons and insisting, as the administration does, that Iran cease and desist even though we’re not reciprocating with substantive disarmament on our part? (In the process, dishonoring the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.)

Yes, we’ve been leaning on the UN and the IAEA for a long time to conform to our narrative on Iran. I’ve always thought that was job one for John Bolton and I think it’s the same deal with his successor Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad has better manners than Bolton, but never forget that he’s a neocon thug too. Think of him as Bolton with a clean shave and fresh underwear and maybe not so much of a penchant for upscale gentlemen’s clubs.

The Bush Iran policy is, I’m convinced, specifically designed to make sure diplomacy doesn’t work. The UN non-proliferation treaty grants Iran an “inalienable right” to pursue nuclear technologies for peaceful energy purposes. We’re telling them we won’t even talk to them unless they give up that right. We’ve made them an offer they can’t accept. [Editor’s emphasis]

I can’t tell you for sure that the Iranians don’t have nuclear weapons ambitions, but they don’t if they’re as smart as I think they are. A fistful of nukes, if they had them, would be little more than a self-targeting doomsday machine. Most of their people live in about eight cities.

If they ever use a nuke on anyone else, the retaliation, either by us or by the Israelis, would be the virtual end of the Persian race. The American Christian right may be crazy enough to drive off a cliff like that, but I doubt the Iranians are. Persian civilization dates back to around 4000 BC, so those folks aren’t prone to self-destruction.

The Soviets started building Iran’s first nuclear reactor in September 2002 and the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranians says they suspended their nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. Whatever kind of nuclear weapons program they had, if they had one at all, had to be the kind a couple of Revolutionary Guard colonels drew on a bar napkin at the Fort Farsi Officer’s Club.

The real jackpot of their nuclear program would be a viable nuclear energy industry. That would (will) give them the kind of international political leverage that a couple of bombs in their wallet never could. That would give Iran and its senior partners Russia and China a significant share of the control of the future of the global energy market, and Dick and Dubya’s pals at Mobil/Exxon and in the Arab oil producing countries could go fish.

Finally, left to their own devices, progressives tend to be more energized by domestic than foreign policy. Is it true — to indulge in a shameless generalization — that progressives are weak on national security?

I don’t buy the line about liberals or progressives or whatever we call Democrats these days being weak on security or defense or whatever we call war these days. The twentieth century was the era of Democrat wars, and the wartime commanders in chief were Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK and LBJ.

Of the GOPers, Ike gave us the military industrial complex before he condemned it on his way out the door and Nixon got in the White House by promising to end Vietnam but never quite did. Reagan’s role in the Cold War is way, way overrated. I refer to that obliquely in Admirals. We’d really already beaten the Soviets, maybe as far back as the Cuban missile crisis. When Reagan came along, they were like the boiling frog that’s still conscious but already three quarters cooked.

Reagan’s high point as commander in chief was that circle entertainment [Thanks for the euphemism, Jeff. — Ed.] in Beirut where he got a bunch of Marines whacked for no good reason. And young Mr. Bush kicked off the New American Century by becoming the first U.S. president to lose two wars, so please don’t tell me the GOP is the “strong on defense” party. The warmonger party, yes. The military industrial complex party, yes. The keeping America safe party, no. The “support the troops” party, no.

The GOP does, however, have the neocon think tank network behind it, and those people, of course, want war at all costs. In fact, the more their wars cost, the better they like it: the better to bust up the New Deal with. And the think tank network is plugged into the Big Brother Broadcast: talk radio, FOX News, National Review, The Weekly Standard, etc.

The left has nothing like that at all, and as I said earlier, there is no center any more. You’re with the crazies in the basement or you’re against them. Unless you go along with buying two billion dollar stealth bombers to fight adolescent suicide bombers, you’re weak on security.

Thanks, Jeff! We’ll see you on the Passdown at Military.com or at Pen and Sword.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

2 replies »

  1. About as neat and coherent a summary of the GOP and war as I think I’ve seen. A great series from top to bottom, but it really ends with a bang. Let’s hope this guy can find a few more microphones before the election….