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The Case Against Attacking Iran

February 26, 2012

Read this on his CNN site and strongly recommend you consider it: it is by Fareed Zakaria:

We are hearing a new concept these days in discussions about Iran — the zone of immunity. The idea, often explained by Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, is that soon Iran will have enough nuclear capability that Israel would not be able to inflict a crippling blow to its program.

Israeli officials explain that we Americans cannot understand their fears, that Iran is an existential threat to them. But in fact we can understand because we have gone through a very similar experience ourselves. After World War II, as the Soviet Union approached a nuclear capability, the United States was seized by a panic that lasted for years.Everything that Israel says about Iran now, we said about the Soviet Union.

We saw it as a radical, revolutionary regime, opposed to every value we held dear, determined to overthrow the governments of the Western world in order to establish global communism. We saw Moscow as irrational, aggressive and utterly unconcerned with human life. After all, Joseph Stalin had just sacrificed a mind-boggling 26 million Soviet lives in his country’s struggle against Nazi Germany.

Just as Israel is openly considering preemptive strikes against Iran, many in the West urged such strikes against Moscow in the late 1940s. The calls came not just from hawks but even from lifelong pacifists such as the public intellectual Bertrand Russell.

To get a sense of the mood of the times, consider this entry from the Nov. 29, 1948, diary of Harold Nicolson, one of the coolest and most sober British diplomats of his generation: “[I]t is probably true that Russia is preparing for the final battle for world mastery and that once she has enough bombs she will destroy Western Europe, occupy Asia, and have a final death struggle with America. If that happens and we are wiped out over here, the survivors in New Zealand may say that we were mad not to have prevented this. . . . There is a chance that the danger may pass and peace can be secured with peace. I admit it is a frail chance, not one in ninety.”

In a speech at the Boston Navy Yard in August 1950, Navy Secretary Francis Matthews argued that, in being “an initiator of a war of aggression,” the United States “would become the first aggressors for peace.”

In the end, however, the global revolutionaries in Moscow, the mad autocrats in Pyongyang and the terrorist-supporting military in Pakistan have all been deterred by mutual fears of destruction. While the Iranian regime is often called crazy, it has done much less to merit the term than did a regime such as Mao’s China. Over the past decade, there have been thousands of suicide bombings by Saudis, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Pakistanis, but not been a single suicide attack by an Iranian. Is the Iranian regime — even if it got one crude device in a few years — likely to launch the first?

The efforts to delay and disrupt Iran’s nuclear program are working. But even if one day Tehran manages to build a few crude bombs, a policy of robust containment and deterrence is better to contemplate than a preemptive war.

  1. February 26, 2012 12:28 pm

    May be true. But only in a sense that one must be mad to only attack and injure a snake and leave it to live!

    Now, Mr Zakaria’s mistake is to compare the nature of differences, economic ideology, between the affiliates of old Soviet Union and the West with the Israel-others’, religious ideology, ones! There is a fundamental difference between the two. The former have not believed in god and a heaven to go into; the latter however are ready to die and kill indiscriminately to go to heaven!

    Nevertheless, I have it on record that the biggest mistake–but the question of mistake remains to be clarified because it may have also been intentional at the time–has come from Dick Cheney to throw Mr. Khatami’s, former Iranian President, olive branch into rubbish bin!

    • Damo permalink
      March 2, 2012 12:09 pm

      It’s interesting you should take that line. Capitalism and communism alike are materialistic ideologies, thus making mutually assured destruction (of much hard, physical capital) an unacceptable scenario. And whilst at face value the assertion that religious/spiritual dogmas cloud the reason and judgement of those with their fingers on the triggers, time and time again history has proven that ideology gives sway to ruthless pragmatism (see: entire history of the Catholic Church, every Marxist regime ever, every Labor cabinet for the past decade). I highly doubt that Iran, with a strong (albeit suppressed) population of educated and secular-sympathetic youths, will be itching for aggression in the years to come, only reluctantly reciprocating. Israel’s growing disparity between the secular Jews and the Ultra-Orthodox communities, the latter which is growing exponentially in number and whose members often have ironically nationalist-socialist world-views, is a cause for concern nonetheless.

  2. February 28, 2012 11:36 am

    Some considered thoughts in contrast to fashionable sabre-rattling. Bob Carr for Foreign Minister!

  3. February 28, 2012 11:40 am

    Iran hasn’t attacked any other nation for hundreds of years. If that’s crazy, it’s my kind of crazy. If only those countries that DO have nuclear weapons had the same proud record.

  4. andrew permalink
    February 29, 2012 4:08 pm

    I suspect that the real issue is not the threat of Iran actually using a nuclear weapon against Israel (or anybody else), but that Iran woud possibly become “untouchable” if they got one. As Dick Cheyney pointed out in his biography, they would not have been able to drive Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991 if Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon. So, I suspect the real concern is that once Iran got a weapon no action could be taken against it if it decided, for example, to block oil supplies through the Straits of Hurmaz (assuming it was capable of doing so). However, the prospect of any pre-emptive strike is horrifying.

  5. James Donovan permalink
    March 2, 2012 12:44 pm

    Debt based monetary systems require the “Ongoing Zeitgeist” With any system that is controlled by fiat expansion and extraction through one global currency, the wild card always needs to be available. For example: dollars are all created through debt. Fractional Reserve Lending requires; someone or something to sign on the dotted line to create the currency on the balance sheet (derivatives included).

    When private capital will no longer expand the money supply (consumers) than governements must recapitalize the balance sheets of global lenders to retain tier one residuals. In this example, since the sterling was removed as a spoil of world war II, the FRC has gone through many periods of expansion and shedding. It is expected that govenrments can take on the debt forcing the new interest onto the balance sheets of banks to offset the deflationary periods that will always follow rapid expansion.

    The US Government relies heavily on conflict and the proverbial “what if”, to support lender balance sheets to ward off deflation, and allow them to appear solvent through stealth monetary policy. Many in this Country were expecting Dick Cheney to be indicted for alleged fraud at Haliburton. Than the Afghan conflict / war came along, Haliburton received a no-bid contract to ship the war machine to Afghanistan and we proceeded to unleash ancient weaponry into the sides of mountains in our quest to get the boogey-man. When this proved inconsequential, and Iraq still refused to peg to the dollar, and continued demanding Dinar in exchange for oil, well er… weapons of mass destruction. Does that sound familair to the current rants, Iran has nuclear capacity soon. They can’t have an atomic energy program, it must be to bomb Israel.

    I have always noticed in history that America has a war or major disease just as the currency pinnacles. In the last 10 years, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Iran, next North Korea, Venezuela, and anyone else that allows their currency to float. The IMF and the world bank replaced the entire government of Greece, Italy and parts of Ireland. They intentionally destroyed and humiliated a former IMF chief because he questioned US reserve capacity. The US knew in 2007 that we would have to expand our balance sheet to 24 trillion to unwind from banking losses, that exceed 40 trillion on swaps with a nominal value in excess of 450 trillion. That’s 10 % of total value and 20% currency expansion to support he leverage.

    There is a much simpler solution. Israel, Palestine and Iran should all take the US approach to solving religous, political and sovereign disputes. Just like America stole the land from the American Indian and Mexico, Israel should just take over Palestine, and in return give them whiskey and tax free casinos. See… problem solved without sinsgle shot fired and trillions in debt created to support the military and banking lobby!

    Just my 2 pence…

    -Somewhere on the economic line of balance between corproate needs and consumer needs lies capitalism, if either side becomes to big too fail, capitalism fails-.

  6. March 2, 2012 12:54 pm

    Well, first (about an hour ago) I heard that Bob was now to be FM – and then I read the piece he appears to favor by Zakaria. Israel will not be pleased!

    Very glad you’re FM, Bob.

  7. Ralf Kluin permalink
    March 3, 2012 7:28 am

    I was born in Hannover shortly after WW2, my Father was British and my Mother was German. I’ve also read Mr Fareed Zakaria over the years and have found him to be a good broadcaster/journalist/writer. However, describing events during Roosevelt’s and Truman’s USA with Stalin’s USSR and today’s regime in Iran with the regime in Israel, seems to me to take my understanding of history out of context. Iran is on the public record wishing to extinguish Israel. The 1939 invasion by the dictatorial Governments of Germany and USSR extinguishing Poland, is historical fact. Dictators Hitler and Stalin made a secret deal to extinguish the Polish nation. Hitler and Stalin did not support the Australian, USA, UK, France and other nations policy to maintain the existence of Poland. The rest is history claiming approximately 50 million lives lost. Today we experience the ongoing difficulties all nations have in achieving freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom of worship and freedom from want. Australian foreign policy recognises the nations of Iran and Israel. Australian policy is to prevent the extinguishment of either nation. The real issue is, the non recognition of the nation of Israel by the nation of Iran?

  8. March 3, 2012 5:13 pm

    Hi Bob, I recently wrote an article about this issue. Thought you might find it of interest?

    Kind regards John

    PS – Congratulations on your appointment!

  9. Greg permalink
    March 5, 2012 9:25 am

    Is not Israel’s problem that it would no longer be the only nuclear armed state in the ME?

    • Damo permalink
      March 5, 2012 8:09 pm


  10. James Donovan permalink
    March 5, 2012 9:30 pm

    “The illusion of choice” Even the United States takes to the web to determine public perception. Most here in America will not stomach another ground war anywhere on the planet. We have our own protests and discontents. If you would like the Iranians to accept the dollar peg, you need to move in a diplomatic manner.

    Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya allowed a free floating currency and paid the price. if it was merely about civil rights and evil dicatators,we would ahve attacked Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, China, Bharain (Saudi Playland) China, etc…

    Notice the folks that have been killing their citizens, but have a central bank tied to the dollar peg have not been singled out to be erased. Our monetary system requires the boogey-man to always be present. Whether it be the dreaded disease, terrorists, evil dictator,cold war, communism.. the list goes on.

    The media crafts the poll and builds the surface information and slowly this information bleeds through into our daily life, in cases consuming our very being. If after floating the idea of attacking a sovereign nation becomes acceptable, or less-disputed in the public view, wemake the move.

    America provides billions of dollars each year (taxpayer funded) to states like Israel to finance US military establishment ,and keep dollar policy in the region. If Iran would accept the dollar-peg this would all go away. I am an American and fully understand that the Iranian government is not fond of the American government, and vice verse, but what about the people. The American people do not want to fight with the Iranian people, just as i am, sure a limited number of folks in Iran want to destroy the American people.

    If the IMF had the capacity to remove and replace the elected officials in Greece, Italy, Ireland under the guise of European sovereignty, and warding off another global liquidity crisis without firing a single shot, please explain why this group cannot broker a safe energy dirven program in Iran, or simply remove the sitting government. They have already frozen their reserves at the BOS, push their own leaders to make the changes.

    American’s need to start asking ourselves what the true problem is? It appears that every nation that hates us was established through our intervention. Iraq and iran are perfect examples of the love-hate relationships. It appears for Iran things may be getting passed the no-return zone. The illusion of choice has been filtering and nobody in the American media has once suggested other alternatives. The choices have been laid-out for the American people and the illusion suggests only two options being available. Choose Box A. – to bomb Iran – or Choose Box B. – to not bomb Iran until we have more people on the A. column.

  11. James Donovan permalink
    March 5, 2012 9:34 pm

    and i mean passed…

  12. Rob Alan permalink
    March 9, 2012 7:17 am

    “Iran hasn’t got an active nuclear weapons program,” says US intelligence

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