“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

VDH at Hillsdale College

Victor Davis Hansen at Hillsdale College shared his thoughts on a:

Nuclear Iran

"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land. As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.” So rants Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is understandable why Ahmadinejad might want an arsenal of nuclear missiles. It would allow him to shake down a constant stream of rich European emissaries, pressure the Arab Gulf states to lower oil production, pose as the Persian and Shiite messianic leader of Islamic terrorists, neutralize the influence of the United States in the region—and, of course, destroy Israel. Let no one doubt that a nuclear Iran would end the entire notion of peaceful global adjudication of nuclear proliferation and pose an unending threat to civilization itself.

In all his crazed pronouncements, Ahmadinejad reflects an end-of-days view: History is coming to its grand finale under his aegis. In his mind, he entrances even foreign audiences into stupor with his rhetoric.

Of his recent United Nations speech he boasted, “I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there. And for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink.” The name of Ahmadinejad, he supposes,will live for the ages if he takes out the “crusader” interloper in Jerusalem. As the Great Mahdicome back to life, he can do something for the devout not seen since the days of Saladin.

For now, however, Ahmadinejad faces two hurdles: He must get the bomb, and he must create the psychological landscape whereby the world will shrug at Israel’s demise. Oddly, the first obstacle may not be the hardest. An impoverished Pakistan and North Korea pulled it off. China and Russia will likely sell Tehran anything it cannot get from rogue regimes. The European Union is Iran’s largest trading partner and ships it everything from sophisticated machine tools to sniper rifles, while impotent European diplomats continue “ruling out force” to stop the Iranian nuclear industry.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing, for all their expressed concern, will probably veto any serious punitive action by the United Nations.

As for the United States, it has 180,000 troops attempting to establish some sort of democratic stability in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention a growing anti-war movement at home. An unpredictable President Bush has less than two years left in the White House, with a majority opposition in Congress that is calling for direct talks with Ahmadinejad and urging congressional restraints on the possible use of force against Iran.

It is no surprise that so many in Iran see no barrier to obtaining the bomb. But the second obstacle preparing the world for the end of the Jewish state—is trickier.

Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust

True, the Middle East’s secular gospel is anti-Semitism. State-run media in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan broadcast endless ugly sermons about Jews as “pigs and apes.” Nor do Russia and China much care what happens to Israel, as long as its demise does not affect business. But the West is a different matter. There the history of anti-Semitism looms large, framed by the Holocaust that nearly destroyed European Jewry. Thus the Holocaust is now Ahmadinejad’s target just as much as downtown Tel Aviv.

Holocaust denial is a tired game, but Ahmadinejad’s approach is slightly new and different. He has studied the Western postmodern mind and has devised a strategy based on its unholy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and cultural relativism. As a third world populist, he expects that his own fascism will escape proper scrutiny if he can recite often enough the past sins of the West. He also understands the appeal of victimology in the West these days. So he knows that to destroy the Israelis, he, not they, must become the victim, and Westerners the aggressors who forced his hand. “So we ask you,” he said recently, “if you indeed committed this great crime, why should the oppressed people of Palestine be punished for it? If you committed a crime, you yourselves should pay for it.”

Ahmadinejad also grasps that there are millions of highly educated but cynical Westerners who see nothing exceptional about their own culture. So if democratic America has nuclear weapons, he asks, why not theocratic Iran? “Your arsenals are full to the brim, yet when it’s the turn of a nation such as mine to develop peaceful nuclear technology, you object and resort to threats.”

Moreover, he knows how Western relativism works. Who is to say what are facts or what is true, given the tendency of the powerful to “construct” their own narratives and call the result “history”? So he says that the Holocaust was exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated, as mere jails became “death camps” through a trick of language in order to persecute the poor Palestinians. We laugh at all this as absurd. We should not.

Money, oil and threats have gotten the Iranian theocrats to the very threshold of a nuclear arsenal. Their uncanny diagnosis of Western malaise has now convinced them that they can carefully fabricate a Holocaust-free reality in which Muslims are the victims and Jews the aggressors, setting the stage for Ahmadinejad’s “righteously” aggrieved Iran, after “hundreds of years of war,” to set things right.

In the midst of all this passive-aggressive noisemaking, the Iranian government pushes insidiously forward with nuclear development—perhaps pausing when it has gone too far in order to allow some negotiations, but then getting right back at it. Nuclear acquisition for Ahmadinejad is a win/win proposition. If he obtains nuclear weapons and restores lost Persian grandeur, it will remind a restless Iranian populace how the theocrats are nationalists after all, not just pan-Islamic provocateurs. And a nuclear Iran could create all sorts of mini-crises in the region in order to spike oil prices, given world demand for oil.

The Islamic world and the front line enemies of Israel lost their Middle Eastern nuclear deterrent with the collapse of the Soviet Union; no surprise, then, that we have not seen a multilateral conventional attack on Israel ever since. But with a nuclear Iran, the mullahs can puff themselves up with a guarantee that a new coalition against Israel would not be humiliated or annihilated when it lost—since the Iranians could always, Soviet-like, threaten to go nuclear. And there are always enough crazies in Arab capitals to imagine that at last the combined armies of the Middle East could defeat Israel, with the knowledge that in case of failure, they could recede safely back under an Islamic nuclear umbrella.
Reasons for Action

How many times have we heard the following arguments?
• “Israel has nuclear weapons, so why single out Iran?”
• “Pakistan got nukes and we lived with it.”
• “Who is to say the United States or Russia should have the bomb and not other countries?”
• “Iran has promised to use its reactors for peaceful purposes, so why demonize the regime?”

In fact, the United States has at least six reasons for singling out Iran to halt its nuclear development program—and it is past time that we spell them out to the world at large.

First, any country that seeks “peaceful” nuclear power at the same time it is completely self-sufficient in energy production is de facto suspect.

Iran has enough natural gas to meet its clean electrical generation needs for two centuries. The only rationale for its multi-billion-dollar program of building nuclear reactors—and for its spending billions more to hide and decentralize them—is to obtain weapons.

Second, we cannot excuse Iran by acknowledging that the Soviet Union, communist China, North Korea and Pakistan obtained nuclear weapons. In each of these cases, anti-liberal regimes gained stature and advantage by the ability to destroy Western cities. But past moral failures are not corrected by allowing history to repeat itself.

The logic of this excuse would lead to a nuclearized globe in which wars from Darfur to the Middle East would all assume the potential to go nuclear. In contrast, the fewer the nuclear players, the more likely deterrence can play some role. And if Iran were to go nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and other Arab autocracies would follow suit in order to preserve the prestige and security of largely Arab Sunni nations. That would ensure, again, that almost any Middle East dispute involving Shiite-Sunni tension, from Lebanon to Iraq, might escalate to a nuclear confrontation.

Third, it is simply a fact that full-fledged democracies are less likely to attack one another. Although they are prone to frequent fighting—imperial Athens and republican Venice, for instance, were in some sort of war about three out of every four years during the 5th century B.C.and the 16th century, respectively—consensual governments are not so ready to fight each other. Thus today there is no chance whatsoever that an anti-American France and an increasingly anti-French America would, as nuclear democracies,go to war. Likewise Russia, following the fall of communism and its partial evolution to an elected government, poses less of a threat to the United States than before.

It would be regrettable should Taiwan, Japan, South Korea or Germany go nuclear—but not nearly as catastrophic as when Pakistan did so, which is what allows it today to give sanctuary to bin Laden and the planners of 9/11 with impunity.
The former governments operate with a free press, open elections and free speech, and thus their warmaking is subject to a series of checks and balances. Pakistan is a strongman’s heartbeat away from becoming an Islamic theocracy. And while democratic India is often volatile in relations with its Islamic neighbor, the world is not nearly as worried about its nuclear arsenal as it is about autocratic Pakistan’s.

Fourth, there are a number of rogue regimes that belong in a special category: North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba. These are tyrannies whose leaders have sought global attention and stature through sponsoring insurrection and terrorism beyond their borders. If it is frightening that Russia, China and Pakistan are now nuclear, it is terrifying that Kim Jong Il has the bomb, and that Ahmadinejad might soon. Islamic fundamentalism and North Korean Stalinism might be antithetical to scientific advancement, but they are actually conducive to nuclear politics. When such renegade regimes go nuclear, they have an added edge. In nuclear poker, the appearance of derangement is an advantage.

Fifth, Iran presents a uniquely fourfold danger: It has enough cash to buy influence and exemption from sanctions; it possesses oil reserves to blackmail a petroleum-hungry world; it sponsors terrorists who might soon be enabled to find sanctuary under a nuclear umbrella and to be armed with dirty bombs; and it has a leader who talks as if he were willing to take his entire country into paradise—or at least back to the 7th century amid the ashes of the Middle East. Just imagine the recent controversy over Danish cartoons in the context of Ahmadinejad with his finger on a half-dozen nuclear missiles pointed at Copenhagen.

Sixth, the West is right to take on a certain responsibility to discourage nuclear proliferation. The existence of such weapons grew entirely out of Western science and technology. In fact, the story of global nuclear proliferation is exclusively one of espionage, stealthy commerce, or American-and European-trained native engineers using their foreign-acquired expertise. Pakistan, North Korea or Iran have no ability themselves to create such weapons, any more than Russia, China or India did. And any country that cannot itself create such weapons is probably less likely to ensure the necessary protocols to guard against their misuse or theft.
What Is To Be Done?

We can argue all we want over the solution. Would it be wrong to use military force? Are air strikes feasible? Will Iranian dissidents rise up, or have most of them already been killed or exiled? Will Russia and China help us or sit back and enjoy our dilemma? Is Europe our ally in this matter, or is it simply triangulating? Will the UN ever step in, or is it more likely to condemn the United States than Tehran?

Clearly a poker-faced United States seems hesitant to act until moments before the missiles are armed. It is certainly not behaving like the hegemon or imperialist power so caricatured by Michael Moore and his ilk. Until there is firm evidence that Iran has the warheads ready, no administration will wish to relive the nightmare of the past three years, with its endless hysterical accusations of arrogant unilateralism, preemption, inaccurate or falsified intelligence, imperialism, and purported hostility towards Islam.

What, then, should the United States do, other than keep offering meaningless platitudes about “dialogue”? There are actually several measures that, taken together, might work to exploit Iran’s weaknesses and maintain a nuclear-free Gulf.

First, keep pushing international accords and doggedly work to ratchet up the watered-down United Nations sanctions. Even if they don’t do much to Iran in any significant way, the resolutions seem to enrage Ahmadinejad. And when he rages at the politically correct United Nations, he only loses further support.

Second, keep prodding the European Union, presently Iran’s chief trading partner, to apply pressure. The so-called EU3—Britain, France and Germany—failed completely in its recent attempt to stop Ahmadinejad’s nuclear plans. But out of that setback came a growing realization in Europe that a nuclear-tipped missile from theocratic Iran could hit Europe just as easily as Israel.

Next, Europeans should adopt a complete trade embargo to prevent all Iranian access to precision machinery and high technology.

Third, keep encouraging Iranian dissidents. We need not ask them to go into the streets where they would be shot. Instead we should offer them media help and access to the West. Also highlight the plight of women, minorities and liberals in Iran—the groups that traditionally appeal to the Western left.

Fourth, we should announce in advance that we don’t want any bases in Iran; don’t want its oil; and won’t send American infantry there. That would preempt the tired charges of imperialism and colonialism.

Fifth, and crucially, we must complete the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing Iran wants is a democratic and prosperous Middle East surrounding its borders. The sight of Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds, Lebanese and Turks voting and speaking freely could form a critical mass of democratic reform to overwhelm the Khomeinists.

Sixth, keep reminding the Gulf monarchies that a nuclear Shiite theocracy is far more dangerous to them than to the United States or Israel—and that America’s efforts to contain Iran depend on their own to rein in Wahhabis in Iraq.

Seventh, say nothing much about the presence of two or three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. Iran will soon grasp on its own that the build-up of such forces might presage air strikes, at which the United States excels.

Eighth, make it clear that Israel, as a sovereign nation, has a perfect right to protect itself. The United States should keep reminding Iran that 60 years after the real Holocaust, no Israeli Prime Minister will sit by idly while 7th century theocrats grandstand about wiping out the state of Israel and obtain the nuclear means to do it.

Ninth, keep the rhetoric down. Avoid threats to bomb many who could be our friends—while at the same time ignoring therapeutic pleas to talk with those who we know are our enemies.

Finally, Americans must gasify coal, diversify fuels, drill for more petroleum and invent new energy sources. Only that can collapse the world price of petroleum. At $60 a barrel for oil, Ahmadinejad is a charismatic third world benefactor who throws cash at every thug who wants a roadside bomb or shoulder-fired missile—and has plenty of money to buy Pakistani, North Korean or Russian nuclear components. But at $30 a barrel, he will be despised by his own people, who will become enraged as state-subsidized food and gas prices skyrocket, and as scarce Iranian petrodollars are wasted on Hezbollah and Hamas.

In conclusion, let me offer a more ominous note of warning. Israel is not free from its own passions, and there will be no second Holocaust. It is past time for Iranian leaders to snap out of their pseudo-trances and recognize that some Western countries are not only far more powerful than Iran, but in certain situations and under particular circumstances can be just as driven by memory, history—and, yes, a certain craziness as well. The same goes for the United States. The Iranians, like bin Laden, imagine an antithetical caricature which, like all caricatures, has some truth in it—whereby we materialistic Westerners love life too much to die, while the pious Islamic youths they send to kill us with suicide bombs love death too much to live. But what the Iranian theocrats, like the al-Qaedists, never fully fathom is that if the American people conclude that their freedom and existence are at stake, they are capable of conjuring up things far more frightening than anything in the 7th-century brain of Mr.Ahmadinejad. The barbarity of the nightmares at Antietam, Verdun, Dresden and Hiroshima prove that well enough. In short, there are consequences to the rhetoric of Armageddon.

So far the Iranian leader has posed as someone 90 percent crazy and ten percent sane, hoping that in response we would fear his overt madness,grant concessions, and delicately appeal to his small reservoir of reason. But he should understand that if his Western enemies appear 90 percent of the time as children of the Enlightenment, they are still suffused with vestigial traces of the emotional and unpredictable. And military history shows that the irrational ten percent of the Western mind is a lot scarier in the end than anything Islamic fanaticism has to offer.

“Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College,”


  1. "Rat, Chalabi and the INC had no cred with the very Iraqi establishment they would have needed to do it."
    See 'Rat, it could not possibly have worked as splendidly as it is now working if we had tried something/someone different.
    Viva, Sucess!
    Viva Sharia!
    Viva el Presidente!

  2. Chalabi on the occupation:
    ""the CIA's dream team and a disaster for Iraq."
    Finally, we learn the source of Trish's prejudice!

  3. "But we ended up as the chief endorsers and solid backers of the INC. How did that happen?"
    Once more, you are over my head, there, Trish, could you explain that further?

  4. Hope my Partner in Pyonyang shows up:
    I gotta go for a while.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. "This is a very positive gesture on the part of the North Korean (DPRK) government," Richardson said in a statement.

    During the visit, Richardson and the delegation visited historic sites, and met with Kim Yong Dae, vice-president of the Presidium of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s Supreme People's Assembly, and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan. The two sides discussed the nuclear issue and the return of remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

    The U.S. government said more than 33,000 U.S. soldiers were killed during the Korean War and about 8,100 are still listed as missing in action.

    Remains of US Soldiers

  7. Love that kimchee

    MSNBC has dumped the Imus simulcast

    VDH presents many interesting points, some accurate, some not.
    First inaccuracy is his first point, that Iran does not need nuclear energy.
    This does not square with US and Iranian history, nor even the positions of some in the current Administration held, in the 1976.

    Ford's team endorsed Iranian plans to build a massive nuclear energy industry, but also worked hard to complete a multibillion-dollar deal that would have given Tehran control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium -- the two pathways to a nuclear bomb. Either can be shaped into the core of a nuclear warhead, and obtaining one or the other is generally considered the most significant obstacle to would-be weapons builders.

    Iran, a U.S. ally then, had deep pockets and close ties to Washington. U.S. companies, including Westinghouse and General Electric, scrambled to do business there.

    "I don't think the issue of proliferation came up," Henry A. Kissinger, who was Ford's secretary of state, said in an interview for this article.

    The U.S. offer, details of which appear in declassified documents reviewed by The Washington Post, did not include the uranium enrichment capabilities Iran is seeking today. But the United States tried to accommodate Iranian demands for plutonium reprocessing, which produces the key ingredient of a bomb.

    After balking initially, President Gerald R. Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete "nuclear fuel cycle" -- reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis.

    That is precisely the ability the current administration is trying to prevent Iran from acquiring today.

    This US & Iranian nuclear deal was penciled:

    Sydney Sober, a State Department official who in October 1977, "declared that the Shah's government was going to purchase eight nuclear reactors from the US for generating electricity. On July 10, 1978, only seven months before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the final draft of the US-Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement was signed. The agreement was supposed to facilitate cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and to govern the export and transfer of equipment and material to Iran's nuclear energy program. Iran was also to receive American technology and help in searching for uranium deposits."

    Why, asked critics, should a nation with huge oil and gas reserves invest in nuclear technology? Why not? Both General Electric and Westinghouse sold Iran reactors. These manufacturers of nuclear energy plants for the third world and their media acolytes regaled The Shah for his "westernizing policies," his far-sightedness in seeing beyond the age of oil.

    So, the argument that Iran is unneeding of nuclear energy is not historicly an accurate one, judged by past US policies on the subject.

    It was a lucky break for the US and Israel that Mr Carter got elected, in '76, or Iran would have nuclear capability, today.

    The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. If the proliferation line had been drawn in the past, and the World had held that line, ... well there you are, it did not.

    Hope is not a policy.
    The current Iranian Government is the problem, not reactors in Iran, per Mr Ford, Mr Kissinger & Mr Ford's Chief of Staff at the time, Dick Cheney.
    All were on board with Iran having a complete "nuclear fuel cycle".

    To stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East will require the Mullahs to be removed from power.

    But again the current Administration does not make that case.
    It ignores the historical context, instead it plays into Abracadbra's "strategy based on its unholy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and cultural relativism", that Iran is being persecuted for their Mohammedan believes, just as VDH says.

    The Europeans will not stop Irans march to nuclear capability, nor will the Russians or Chinese. The EU partners dumped on Mr Blair and economic sanctions on Iran over his 15 hostages. One of those Iranians named in the UN travel ban, has already traveled to Russia.

    It is, as always, a choice of War or Retreat.

    Still doubt that Mr Bush chooses war.

  8. Americans, meanwhile, will simply want to get out. After 9/11, George W. Bush called on the United States to get deeply involved in the Middle East.

    But now, most Americans have given up on their ability to transform the Middle East and on Arab willingness to change. Faced with an arc of conspiracy-mongering, most Americans will get sick of the whole cesspool, and will support any energy policy or anything else that will enable them to cut ties with the region.

    What we have is not a clash of civilizations, but a gap between civilizations, increasingly without common narratives, common goals or means of communication.

    War of Narratives

  9. Anyone know why the US didn't nuke Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks?

  10. INC was set up following the Persian Gulf War to coordinate the activities of various anti-Saddam groups. Then President George Bush signed a presidential finding directing the Central Intelligence Agency to create conditions for Hussein's removal in May 1991. Coordinating anti-Saddam groups was an important element of this strategy. The name INC was reportedly coined by public relations expert John Rendon (of the Rendon Group agency) and the group was funded by the United States. The group received millions in covert funding in the 1990s, and then about $8 million a year in overt funding after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. The deep involvement of the American CIA in the creation and early funding of the INC in its early years led many to consider the group a "creation of the CIA" rather than an organ of genuine Iraqi opposition.
    Differences within INC eventually led to its virtual collapse. In May 1994, the two main Kurdish parties began fighting with each other over territory and other issues. As a result of the growing difficulties within INC, the United States began seeking out other opponents who could threaten the Iraqi regime, such as the Iraqi National Accord (INA), headed by Iyad Allawi.
    In May 2004, the United States military raided the residences of Iraqi National Congress members now living in Iraq. It had been announced on May 18 that the Pentagon had stopped sending funding to INC, which had averaged about $340,000 per month for intelligence gathered by the organization. It is unclear what the military forces were seeking, although a spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi said Chalabi had been held at gunpoint and told to accept concessions then being put in place by the United States in preparation for a transfer of sovereignty on June 30, 2004. Chalabi had been a critic of the transfer, saying that the U.S. retained too much power.

    In the lead up to the January 2005 Iraqi election INC joined the United Iraqi Alliance coalition of mainly Shi'ite groups as Chalabi reinvented himself as a sharp critic of the occupation, aligning himself with Muqtada al-Sadr. Chalabi was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in the transitional government, and INC member Ali Allawi (the cousin of Iyad Allawi) became Minister of Finance

  11. The days of peeling pesky stickers off apples and tomatoes may soon be over. A Georgia company is seeking federal approval for a laser that etches indelible but edible labels onto the skins of fruits and vegetables.

    The laser device could tag all manner of produce, according to Durand-Wayland Inc., which wants federal regulations amended to allow it, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday.

    The etched logos would be an alternative to the stickers that now mark most fruits and vegetables sold in the United States, though it's not clear they'd be to consumers' liking. The stickers usually bear a produce look-up code, which is used at the cash register.

    Stickers Obsolete

  12. Same as the UIA, same as Mr Maliki and Iraqi Government, today.

    We end up giving them the country, regardless, after pissin' them off, early.

  13. If they were, then they still are now, an Iranian vehicle.

    There has been no change, except for US blood and treasure spent.

    The "people" spoke, they chose sectarian division and devisivness. Just as Mr Bremmer told Mr Bush they would.
    Just as Mr Chalabi said they would, when we became "occupiers", to use his word.

  14. Among Hong Kong movers, shares of mobile handset maker Foxconn International Holdings (HK:2038: news, chart, profile) , a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, was up 0.6% after reporting its 2006 net profit soared 86% on strong handset orders.

    In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU12,484.62, -89.23, -0.7%) snapped an eight-session winning streak after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting on interest rates confirmed the central bank's focus on inflation and dashed hopes it would soon reduce interest rates to boost a slowing economy. The Dow closed down 89.23 points at 12,484.62, as 25 of its 30 components dipped into negative territory.

    The blue-chip average had risen without interruption over the past eight sessions, a winning streak not seen in more than four years, which also gave investors a reason to consolidate recent gains. The S&P 500 ($SPX1,438.87, -9.52, -0.7%) fell 9.52 points to 1,438.87, while the Nasdaq Composite ($COMPQ,459.31, -18.30, -0.7%) dropped 18.30 points to 2,459.31.

    Nikkei Down 200

  15. Bob,

    High-tech vegies. Who would've thunk it? Wonder what flavor the indelible but edible labels will be?

  16. I know. Pork. Pork flavor. We can deploy soldiers with pork flavor lasers into the farms of the middle east to laser-up all those fruit and vegetables. We'll starve those mother fuckers to death. Yeah, that's it.

  17. "You need more engagement. We've missed a whole generation of engagement with Iran," said Scott Lasensky, who runs the "Iraq and its Neighbors" initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a key organizer of the Iraq Study Group.

    Mr. Lasensky advised any U.S. lawmakers who visit Iran to be on guard for manipulation by the nation's leaders.

    Republicans were quick to denounce Mrs. Pelosi for her trip to Syria last week. Vice President Dick Cheney said she was rewarding "bad behavior" of the regime.

    Engagement with Iran

  18. Reaction from congressional Democrats has been harsh. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says extending the tours is an unacceptable price for troops and their families to pay.

    Congressman Ike Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, says the longer tours will have a "chilling effect" on recruiting and the Army's ability to keep soldiers from leaving the service.

    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who supports the current troop buildup, says the affected soldiers will be disappointed, but he says, "They'll do it."

    Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan

  19. The explosion partially destroyed the bridge, killing 10 people. Another 26 people were injured and four cars fell into the river below.

    The morning rush hour attack came a day after US military for the first time charged that Iran was supporting Sunni extremist groups who are known to trigger such high-profile vehicle bombs against civilians and security forces.

    The bombing ripped through the metal Al-Sarafiyah Bridge which connects the Shiite Al-Atafiyah neighbourhood on the western bank of the Tigris to the Sunni area of Waziriyah on the east.

    Baghdad Bombing

  20. First Iran is supporting Shiite militias and now they're supporting Sunni extremists? I don't get it.

  21. "And here we are, forevermore, defenders of radical Shiites and radical Sunnis.

    Us. The United States of America.

    Who would have thunk it?
    Mission Creep, Trish.

    And we got to witness 3 years of the Erudite Rationalizers at BC.
    Shoulda figured out how to make it into a real-time serial novel.

  22. Some of the most involved schemes were when Wretch and the Band would explain the intricate detail and workings of the process of the formation of the government.

    How despite all appearances, due to clever wording here, and hidden meanings there, the rules decided upon would not end up taking us right where we are now.

    The BC Choir would take the Pretzel explanations from State, or the Admin, and embellish and add elegant detail and subtlety to the architecture and workings of the masterpiece.

    Still resulted in a stinking pile of Shiite, tho.

    Just as anyone with any common sense could have predicted.

  23. ...and I still don't see why it wouldn't have been better to hand it over to them 2 years ago and save a lot of blood and treasure.
    Maybe I'm just hard-headed, or too dumb to understand.

  24. doug wrote:

    "Still resulted in a stinking pile of Shiite, tho.

    Just as anyone with any common sense could have predicted."

    ahhh, gee doug, thanks for the compliment.


    for a loooong time I've offered up the analogy of a Chinese finger trap and it is still applicable today. The trap continues to tighten as evvidenced by watching the hand wringing over the consequences of our leaving.

    Whatever will we do with that behemoth of an Embassy we are constructing? Naw, the current crop of decision makers never planned on leaving. Now, if we only had Saudi bases....

  25. "Where, ever, was the intention to wrap things up and call it a day?

    It's never existed.
    If we had turned it over to your despised Chalabi, early on, before the insurgency grew, it would not have been cut and run.

    You insist such a plan never existed.
    I have read others that insist it did.

    I think there was more than one plan, and that plan lost in the war inside the administration.

  26. 2 years later Scumbag double dealers are in power, all the same.

    Obviously would have been less wasted effort, whether or not you are right or wrong about the "other plan."

    Is there something more righteous about fighting to hand it to THESE double dealing scumbags than those?

  27. At least he would have been "our" double dealing scumbag, more than those in power now are.
    ...and if he had not been able to maintain power, would Iraq be any worse off now than it is?

    We certainly would be better off.

  28. The Short Fantasy:

    The Decider

    Mr. Rumsfeld and his bosses forbade the generals from planning for a long occupation or nation building. Why plan for those things when we’d be leaving Iraq within six months, by the summer of 2003? Nation building and the creation of a new government were not our job they said. Instead, we’d just turn Iraq over to the Pentagon’s good friend Ahmad Chalabi and his fellow Iraqi exiles.

  29. (beats the long fantasy/nightmare)