Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bush's Idea Of An Iranian Offensive

I suppose that if the Bush Administration is ever going to begin the daunting effort of making a convincing public case for the liberation of Iran more than four years late, this is as good a place as any to start:

The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.

The Bush Administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said. The decision follows congressional pressure on the Administration to toughen its stance against Tehran, as well as U.S. frustration with the ineffectiveness of U.N. resolutions against Iran's nuclear program, officials said.

The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guard would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said - a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.

The order allows the United States to block the assets of terrorists and to disrupt operations by foreign businesses that "provide support, services or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists."

This is, in essence, an escalation of the economic sanctions strategy that, it is hoped, will give them actual teeth with which to inflict genuine pain on Iran's governing elite, many of whom came up through the IRG and retain political and business ties to it, including our old friend Adolph Ahmadinejad. Indeed, it is remarkable that the Bushies even went this far, rather than just settling for designating the IRG's "Qud Force" irregulars, which are liasoning with "insurgent" forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even this modest move came only after weeks of internal White House debate.

Naturally, it's giving many the proverbial vapors on both the left and the right. Speaking for the former was Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Center for American Progress (aka Hillary's think tank):

The Administration's move could hurt diplomatic efforts, some analysts said. "It would greatly complicate our efforts to solve the nuclear issue," said Joseph Cirincione...."It would tie an end to Iran's nuclear program to an end to its support of allies in Hezbollah and Hamas. The only way you could get a nuclear deal is as part of a grand bargain, which at this point is completely out of reach."

Such sanctions can work only alongside diplomatic efforts, Cirincione added.

"Sanctions can serve as a prod, but they have very rarely forced a country to capitulate or collapse," he said. "All of us want to back Iran into a corner, but we want to give them a way out, too. [The designation] will convince many in Iran's elite that there's no point in talking with us and that the only thing that will satisfy us is regime change."
Iran could incinerate every American city over a population level of 100,000 and pinkos like Cirincione would still argue against retaliation on the grounds that it would "hurt diplomatic efforts". When does "diplomacy" cease being strategy and lapse into parody? And then from parody to fetish, and fetish to neurosis? Don't ask Joe; he's too busy jerking it to his Jimmy Carter centerfolds to have ever learned that diplomacy, at one time, was one tool of statecraft amongst many for the purpose of advancing national interests rather than wallowing in suicidal pacifism.

What else can you call such babe-in-the-woods-ism that sees two lynchpins of Iranian imperialism - its role as the hub of global Islamist terrorism and its drive for nuclear weapons - as bargaining chips the mullahs are willing to part with akin to our willingness to abandon Iraq? Where is the evidence that Tehran is eager to accept a unilateral ceasefire in their thirty-year war against the West? How long have we been doing the diplomatic happy-dance with them? Where are the concrete results? Oh, don't worry, they're coming, as long as we remain willing to negotiate, and do nothing that may "hurt diplomatic efforts."

Cirincione encapsulates this mental illness in that final graf. What's the point of backing the mullahs into a corner if you're deliberately leaving them not one, but numerous ways out? Why should they take us seriously across the negotiating table if they know in advance that we will take no actions against them that would be truly adverse or threatening? Oh, that gives them all the incentive in the world to "talk with us," but only to see how many concessions they can dupe us into making in order to reduce the list of objectives that they will have to take from us by force or nuclear blackmail.

On the other side, Admiral Ed frets that designating the uniformed military of an enemy nation-state as terrorists will blur the distinction between legal and illegal combatants from the opposite direction and provide justification to the "international community" to apply the same designation to our own troops fighting the War Against Islamic Fundamentalism. I don't find the idea persuasive; it's not as though that inclination isn't already out there, both abroad and within the crazed chancellories of the domestic Left. And if (when) Mrs. Clinton (re)captures the presidency next November, she won't need George Bush's unwitting imprimatur to sign on to anti-American schemes like the International Criminal Court that will apply such designations for her, as well as a lot higher than rank & file ground-pounders.

Ironically, it is Joe Cirincione who inadvertently swerved into a valid point: economic sanctions have indeed rarely forced a country to capitulate or collapse. Twelve years of them didn't even slow down Saddam Hussein's WMD efforts, due in large part to the degree to which they were compromised by UN corruption (the infamous Oily Food program). They are only a tool, and cannot be the entire drawer.

They are also exactly the prod Cirincione describes, when they have bite. But the prodding is "rarely" toward "capitulation or collapse," but toward....near-term military action while the besieged regime in question still has the time and resources to conceivably pull it off. This is precisely the strategy, witting or unwitting, that President Franklin Roosevelt used against Imperial Japan over its invasion of China that provoked the regime of Hideki Tojo to gamble on a Pacific offensive against the United States to buy time to seize the areas with the natural resources it sought before we could recover. They thought that we wouldn't be willing to accept the level of casualties necessary to roll back the Japanese conquests and terminate the Tojo regime itself.

To borrow a Zell Miller catch-phrase, "They were wrong." Now, nearly seventy years later, history stands on the brink of repeating itself. The questions are, what form will the Iranian "Pearl Harbor" take, and will the mullahs' similar perception of us as weak and cowardly prove to be just as inaccurate - or spot-on target?