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Tuesday, March 13. 2012
Hundreds of articles analyze whether the US should or not take a stronger stand vis a vis Syria or Iran. The articles usually increase uncertainty among readers. In the absence of complete information as to all the players’ goals and means or perfect knowledge beforehand about the outcomes, the reader is understandably confused or paralyzed by doubts. Indeed, that seems the purpose of many analyses and comments by officials.
It is impossible to know with certainty in advance the effect and outcomes of the many variables and responses possible. So, uncertainty is natural. But, uncertainty does not require indecisiveness nor excuse inaction.
Despite being told for decades that the Israel-Palestinian issues are central to peace or progress in the Middle East, the past year has demonstrated conclusively that is not so. Internal and external ethnic and religious divisions among the Moslem states, and the rise of Iran in its efforts to predominate among all, were distracted from, often purposely, by attacking Israel. That veil has been ripped off in the past year.
A pox on all their houses would be a proper response, if the outcomes among them didn’t have a significant effect on the West.
About all the Moslem states have to offer, and hold over the heads of the rest of the world, is their oil. Discoveries and conservation elsewhere has reduced their oil’s potency, and the Middle East oil producers must sell their oil anyway or collapse entirely. Disruptions in oil supply are worrisome to others’ economies, although less so than previously, and previously were weathered.
More important than oil disruptions per se is the wealth that comes from oil being dominated by a power hostile to the West, used to badger the West’s policies and to increase the concentration and advancements of armed might for uses dangerous to the West. Elsewhere, countries and movements hostile to the West would be encouraged and supplied by such a Middle East country. It is clear that country is Iran.
Although there are hopes the Iran rulers may eventually fall from their own internal stresses, that is a thin hope unlikely in the near term. Instead, as proven even by hesitant international bodies, Iran is within a year of being able within weeks of producing nuclear warheads that fit on its missiles that can now reach as far as Europe, not to mention Israel. Even President Obama has said that containment cannot be our policy. Unlike the Cold War, mutual assured destruction is madness when Iran’s rulers are so fiercely fanatic, tiny Israel may really be destroyed, and Europe would be directly threatened with devastation or kowtowing.
Israel, acting alone, can retard for several years the development of Iran’s nuclear abilities. Supplying some needed US arms will make that more sure and effective. Iran cannot close the Strait of Hormuz, except briefly. Its present missiles can harm Israel but not seriously. As well, Israel can withstand Hezbollah’s missiles, and levy a cost on Hezbollah it well may be unwilling to bear, as it admitted after Israel’s invasion in 2006. On the other hand, if Israel chose to strike the export outlets, even the oil fields, in Iran, the additional crippling of its economy and consequent domestic reactions against Iran’s rulers could topple them. If US forces were to be attacked by Iran, the kickback against Iran would be serious enough to prevent that. One can be sure that the usual outcries would come from the usual places, but they would be largely irrelevant to the fait accompli.
Toppling Assad in Syria actually may raise more doubts about outcomes. It would be a mighty blow to Iran’s power and the credence of its ambitions to lose its major cats paw, as well as weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon. On the other hand, the following regime may be more actively dangerous to Israel. But, more importantly, right now, taking out Assad may be a distraction from the top priority of Iran. Reduction of Iran’s influence, however, would follow from taking out its nuclear capacities, and its oil revenues used to support Syria and Hezbollah with arms.
It is a humanitarian disaster being wrought upon the Syrian rebels, but pales compared to the disaster for the West that would follow from Iran achieving usable nuclear weapons. Further, it is Turkey, closest and able, that should bear the weight for now if there is to be armed intervention. Meanwhile, and otherwise, the US and other Western countries, if they really care about the deaths from Assad’s forces, can supply some arms to the rebels, to be more effective, to defend against Assad’s onslaughts, and to keep Assad preoccupied while Iran is dealt with.
We can be fairly certain that the Obama administration is indecisive, at best, and largely inactive and inept. Unless Israel now takes the lead, and the risks, we can be fairly certain that the risks and costs to the West will be worse.
Turkey Expert Says No Turkey For Syria
My friend Gerald Robbins is an expert on Turkey, and Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. After reading my post yesterday, Uncertainty Is An Excuse For Obama Inaction In The Middle East, Robbins wrote to me about my comment that “it i
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What's your plan, Bruce?
I am fresh out of plans for the crazy Middle East.
Yes I did.
Arm the Syrian rebels? They are lunatics too. Then what?
Again, read more closely.
I said "supply some arms..."
I didn't say, indeed counseled against, overthrowing Assad right now, just tie his forces up and defend innocents from him.
Besides, even if Assad were overthrown right now, and the successive regime is made up of extremists, it would take them some time to get their act together enough to be a serious threat to israel. Israel's immediate priority is and must be Iran.
Actually the nuclear issue is an isolated case where intervention is necessary.
To all those saying "Do something about the Middle East!!" I point out that:
1)America has shown it hasn't the attention span or commitment to rebuild the middle east in its image, like it rebuilt Germany and Japan. That's the unfortunate lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan.
2) Many of the left-leaning people shouting "Do something!" are the same folks whose PC multi-culti tut-tutting have limited our ability to talk openly about Islam's problems and nation-building in Iraq, and hamstrung our efforts. They're just shouting to shout, because of images splashed on their TV screens.
3) Simply by dithering, Obama has so far responded correctly to the Arab Spring and subsequent chaos.
The correct response is containment: let them hack each other to pieces. There is no point sacrificing men, materiel, or money in pointless "peacemaking" between militant Muslim tribes.
Repeat: NOTHING CAN BE DONE for the people of Syria, Egypt, or other Middle East basket cases - not unless you're willing to commit time and $$$$ to a 40-year presence and total cultural cleansing, as was done in Germany and Japan.
The current cultural, political, and financial climate does not support that commitment. So have pity on US soldiers and don't put them in harm's way for nothing.
Kessler, are you an Israel-firster neo-con who wants America to keep contributing our money and resources to the apartheid state that touts itself as a democracy, but denies basic human rights to helpless Palestinians? If Israel wants shalom, then there must also be salaam! Peace to all people!
Ed: You may be aware that the term "Israel-firster" is considered anti-Semitic, and even MJ Rosenberg of the leftist Media Matters has apologized for using it.
Further, if you re-read my post it is primarily about US and Western (including Europe) national interests, and I demur from calling for armed interventions by the US in Syria or Iran, aside from "some" defensive arms for the Syrian rebels and reaction, if necessary, to any Iranian attack on US forces.
Re: "Israel-firster is anti-semitic". When AIPAC sponsors Congressional members (bribes) free trips to Israel; when some wave the Star of David instead of the Stars and Stripes; when American Jewish young men and women enlist in the IDF rather than the American miliitary, yes, they are indeed Israel-firsters! And, enough already with the anti-semitic accusations; it's grossly over used! How about Israel's anti-semitism of occupation, ethnic cleansing, destruction of Palestinians who are semites? Double standard, right?
"apartheid state that touts itself as a democracy, but denies basic human rights to helpless Palestinians"
Helpless Palestinians? Now that's chutzpah for you. These are the folks who preach martyrdom to their children and teach hatred of the Jews in their schools. Who constantly fire rockets from Gaza into towns within Israel in order to terrorize and kill civilians. Who have said in speech and by deed that their goal is the extermination of every Jew in the Middle East and the annihilation of the state of Israel. Who refuse to share the Holy Land with Christians. Israel an apartheid state? You throw that term around so glibly. What about Jordan and Syria and all those Muslim Arab countries that for decades have tried to block the door to the ever troublesome Palestinians? Why no love for their Muslim brethren? And don't get me started on Saudi Arabia when it comes to apartheid. At least in Israel, its Arab and Christian CITIZENS can vote in elections, hold office, and practice their own religions. Israel may not be perfect and can always do better, but holding Israel to an impossibly high standard while excusing its Muslim neighbors for much worse is the height of Liberal hypocrisy.
Yeah, you guys always blame the Palestinians. But, in the final analysis their land was stolen from them; yes, their land not ashkenazi Europeans. By the way, God never promised that land to anybody; total Bible fiction.
And, maybe they send rockets into Israel, but it does'nt hold a candle to phosphorous bombs on civilians. I guess you're O.K. with that. By the way, Kesler is not a semitic name, it's German.
Ed: It's not worth bothering again with your biased falsehoods, except to point out with respect to one re: your comment "Kesler is not a semitic name, it's German" that Jews in Germany were forced to drop their Hebrew names and take Germanic ones in the late 18th Century. This illustrates your baseless tack.
In the end if there is to be peace, salaam, shalom there must be "peace talks". No peace talks while Israel continues building illeagal settlements. Final analysis: Israel does'nt want "peace", just more "pieces" of PALESTINE!
Ed: Everyone wants "peace talks", except the Palestinian rulers in Ramalah and Gaza City, who have repeatedly either refused to hold them or have demanded surrenders in advance or rejected terms that would have turned over 99% of the West Bank. As for that, recall what has happened since Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza.
Ed, nice catch-phrases from them or you fail to hide true intentions.
Bruce ... As always, I agree with your analysis in re Israel Is there anything you can tell us about Israel's new weapon/protective device, the "Iron Dome?" It would relieve my mind considerably if you could confirm its effectiveness, and reassure me about Israel's continued survival in spite of the worst the Jihadist states can do.
Iron Dome was 75% effective in the last barrage of missiles from Gaza. It is deployed around population centers. Many more must be built and installed, but won't be in time for this year. -- Gas masks are distributed, and all have shelters and experience, besides resolve.
Of course, Israel will suffer, but not be annihilated, and it will survive better with Iran weakened and its nuclear arms delayed for several years....until a repeat or something else is needed. We always survive day by day, which beats destruction today.
Turkey and Arab, Sunni Muslim countries are already supplying the Syrian rebels. It isn't costing me a penny or any lost sleep over dead U.S.soldiers. The answer is simple. Leave it the heck alone. The rebels will win, people will die and the result will be whatever it is. But at least the new regime won't have any good reasons to hate America, Iran will lose a proxy, Hezbollah will be weakened and Russia will lose their only Mediterranean port. I like that. Fighting among themselves is what Muslims live to do. For this reason, we should at most, quietly encourage the Sunny Muslims to kill the Shitty Muslims and vice versa. That way, we always win. You are welcome.
Here's my armchair speculation: In addition to presenting the findings of Israeli intelligence to Obama, Netanyahu probably offered to wait until the end of the summer to see whether sanctions against Iran can work (they won't), thus giving Obama time to decide whether the US will provide Israel with certain advanced weaponry. What is critical here is the timing. Obama obviously would not want to give Israel any weaponry she could turn around and use right away in an immediate attack on Iran. Netanyahu also probably asked for other strategic concessions as well, e.g., that the US would not block our GPS if Israel did decide to attack Iran.
The press has reported that Obama urged Netanyahu to postpone any attack against Iran until after the US election in November. The political implications are obvious. Obama's re-election could hang in the balance if war broke out in the Middle East just before the election, especially if the fighting started to go badly against Israel, since that would inevitably lead to calls for the US to come to Israel's defense. That would put Obama on the spot, requiring him to decide whether to intervene or let Israel go down to defeat.
To win re-election, Obama wants the financial and political support of America's Jewish voters, who expect the US to keep its commitment to protect Israel. Whether Israel would deserve our protection if it starts a war against Iran is a good question. Nonetheless, that important issue aside, if Obama were to win re-election, would there be any political imperative for him to support Israel against Iranian ambitions once the election is over? I don't think so. I'll bet Netanyahu thinks precisely the same, that his greatest leverage in forcing a favorable decision from Obama comes BEFORE the election, not after it.
Assuming, then, that the thinking of Israeli intelligence is that Iran will reach its nuclear goal sooner rather than later, I am expecting Israel to launch a "pre-emptive" strike against Iran in late September or possibly early October, late enough to see whether Obama comes through with an offer of sophisticated armaments that Israel wants from the US, but early enough to have a major impact on the US presidential election. By that time, as well, Israel may have built 7 of the 9 Iron Dome sites it has been planning to install in order to protect its main cities against missile attacks. Given the apparent improvements in the accuracy of this anti-missile system, that might be sufficient protection against an Iranian counter-attack and yield acceptable civilian casualties. The tip-off might be an early mobilization of Israel's army reserves, which will be needed to fend off a barrage of rockets and an attack from both Lebanon and Gaza. For strategic reasons, Israel might even carry out pre-emptive invasions of both regions before it strikes Iran. Time will tell.