Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More on Appeasement

Israel and Syria say they are searching for a comprehensive peace. Will Bush and McCain denounce this as appeasement? It seems very doubtful... appeasement is only a club to use on domestic opposition.
On the other hand, I am fairly sure that Bush and McCain oppose this policy. In fact, recent (questionable) US intelligence claims about an site bombed by Israel may have been an attempt to derail these negotiations (as well as US negotiations with North Korea, who they allege was aiding with the reactor).
This should remind us that the position of US hawks isn't synonymous with the position of Israel... rather, the position of US hawks is synonymous with the position of the Likud Party.

From the Corner:
Good for Sen. McCain, going after Sen. Obama like that on Iran. The Soviet Union was a superpower unlikely to attack us because retaliation would have been certain and massive. Iran may be comparatively puny, but the chance that the mullahs will actually use the weapons once they have them is geometrically greater. They may not be able to destroy the United States, but they could dwarf 9/11.

And what would we do if they did? We've spent years blathering about how our quarrel isn't with the Iranian people (a mythical 80 percent of whom, we're periodically assured, really despise their regime and may revolt any day now). So far as our rhetoric goes, Iranians are innocent victims. If Iran launched a nuclear attack against us or our allies, would we really turn the place into a parking lot — which would have devastating consequences for neighboring states? I'm not convinced we would — and I'm betting I'm a lot more rational than Ahmadinejad in that my calculations are not affected by the likelihood of the Mahdi's long-awaited arrival.

Which again raises the issue of motivation. Ahmadinejad and his cohort are apocalyptic jihadi revolutionaries. Shouldn't what they believe be analyzed and factored in as we try to assess the threat that they pose? Or would that offend moderates too much? It seems awfully silly to compare them to the Soviet Union when, with the latter, we had a deterrence policy — Mutually Assured Destruction — that was explicitly based not only on the size of the enemy arsenal but on whether, given his motivations, he was likely to act. Obama appears content to calculate based on the size of the arsenal, period. That's not MAD, but it's madness.

I like this quote because it nicely encapsulates conservative arguments about Iran. Iran is seen as revolutionary power, which cannot be allowed to possess nuclear arms because it is run by a Shi'ite madman awaiting for Armageddon. The Soviet Union was different, it was a status quo power which we could deal with.
This argument is specious. To begin with, the Soviet Union was seen by hawks as a deeply revolutionary and irrational power and revolutionary power. It was explicitly compare to the Nazis, and considered deeply irrational. As Kevin Drum points out MAD was invented by conservatives as a term of ridicule. "Red China" was also seen as a deeply irrational power who could not be allowed to ever have the bomb. Does anyone want to argue that Nixon's negotiations with the Chinese were futile?
I agree, on the other hand, that Ahmadinejad may not be a rational leader. His beliefs are very, VERY similar to those of Christian fundamentalist. He believes that the Mahdi will return any day now and by the way, will bring Jesus with him. Seriously.
It's worth reminding ourselves, first, that Ahmadinejad isn't the most powerful man in the government, probably not even the second most powerful. Second, there is little chance he will be president by the time Iran develops the bomb (assuming Iran is developing a nuclear device, which I doubt).
Iran has been a revolutionary power in the past (though that didn't stop the Reaganites from selling them weapons), but Iran's behavior now seems very similar to an old fashioned great power.
For people like Bush, we're always in Europe just before World War II. Appeasement has become a prevailing myth of the right, synonymous with pacifism and weakness, never mind that the treaty was as much realpolitik as anything else. The Western powers failed recognize Hitler as a revolutionary power. The countries of the west were weak in their response. Now we're afraid of our own shadow, seeing Hilters wherever we look.
We learn the lesson of World War II while ignore the lesson of World War I. It was a war that should never have been waged. In that war, it was the hawks, those considering themselves hard-headed realists, who were deluded. The result was a cataclysmic conflict, and in many ways World War II was merely a continuation of this conflict.
World War I is the rule, World War II the exception.
(Posted by Ewan)

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