September 07, 2006

Idly, Cynical, Thoughts.

I very rarely post anything here that touches on politcs, but today I thought, what the hell. I was reading a post of Andrew Sullivan's today on Iran and it made me think a bit. His position is essentially that the Iranian government is a bunch of crazy bastards who mean every word they say about destroying Israel and therefore shouldn't be negotiated with. A reader wrote him and said, in a nutshell, "well, what do you want us to do about them, then? Because bombing them's crazy, too." And Andrew listed some of the things he would do.

To which I dashed off the note below.

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

Your post on Iran provoked a few thought for me. Kind of despairing, devil's advocate-y type thoughts.

They are these:

"Practically speaking, I'd pour many more troops into Iraq, especially Baghdad"

Which ones? I hope this doesn't seem flip, because I mean it. With our current commitment levels elsewhere, how many troops do you think are available to commit to this? I am not sure, myself. I think if I had to guess, I'd say maximum you could squeeze in 60,000 more into the country on a long-term basis. That may be wildly off the mark, and if I am perhaps you could explain why in your blog?

Because I sincerely doubt that, in the current situation, 60,000 would be enough to tip Iraq into our favor to the degree that we could focus any of our troops on containing Iran. Same with Afghanistan on the other side. Both countries are undergoing civil wars which are keeping all the forces in them very busy indeed. You would have to turn the tide of the insurgency before you then use our position in Iraq to contain Iran. As I understand it, the rule of thumb that applies here is that you need 10:1 ratio of conventional forces to guerrillas to wage a successful counterinsurgency. Only vastly superior numbers and firepower can make up for the insurgent's advantages of stealth, propaganda and freedom of action.

So it all comes down to one word: Draft. To me it seemed two and a half years ago that it was either a draft or losing, slowly. We are choosing to lose. Neither this administration, nor any other I can conceive, would enact a draft in the current public climate.

Even a draft might not work, of course. I think that it's entirely possible that that's the case, at this juncture. It might just be throwing more good lives after bad. But it seems clear to me that without a gargantuan increase in the number of troops on the ground, we cannot hope to significantly alter the dynamics of the situation. (For the better. We can still bomb the shit out of the country, which is a comfort.)

"[R]atchet up the diplomatic isolation of Iran"

Can we? We could perhaps increase the pressure on Europe to snub them. What kind of pressure can we really exert on Russia? On China? That last especially --- their policy of late has been deliberately to court countries whom the West despises in order to carve out their own sphere of influence. What could we possibly say to persuade China to cave on Iran? What do we have to offer that overrides their interest in having that kind of global power? Nothing, I think. The economic entanglements between our two countries are such that, if you'll pardon the vulgarity, each of us has the other's cojones in a vise. So what's big enough to do it? Do you want to give them Taiwan?

"encourage the domestic unrest in that country"

I guess we could do that. Although in Iran especially I think that having the Great Seal of the United States and the word "Approved!" stamped on your backside is going to be of little benefit to any opposition group. We could probably do more for an opposition figure by singling them out for criticism and implying they're the real threat, not Ahmadinejad.

"...and wait till we have a functioning executive branch in Washington"

You and me both, brother.

Posted by Diablevert at September 7, 2006 09:32 PM

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