[OPE] Punchy article by Brzezinski on the US-Iran standoff in foreign policy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Wed May 28 2008 - 18:09:36 EDT

Brzezinski/Odom write:

"Current U.S. policy toward the regime in Tehran will almost certainly result in an Iran with nuclear weapons. The seemingly clever combination of the use of "sticks" and "carrots," including the frequent official hints of an American military option "remaining on the table," simply intensifies Iran's desire to have its own nuclear arsenal. Alas, such a heavy-handed "sticks" and "carrots" policy may work with donkeys but not with serious countries. The United States would have a better chance of success if the White House abandoned its threats of military action and its calls for regime change. (...) The widely propagated notion of a suicidal Iran detonating its very first nuclear weapon against Israel is more the product of paranoia or demagogy than of serious strategic calculus. It cannot be the basis for U.S. policy, and it should not be for Israel's, either." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/26/AR2008052601740.html

That's exactly what I argued about five years ago too. 

You might argue, how could a socialist possibly agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski about anything at all? 

It is true, at the deeper levels of the arguments, differences necessarily begin to emerge since socialists think generally imperialist interventions do more harm than good, and are rarely what they pretend to be - there is usually a discrepancy between surface rationales and deeper motives. 

But much of what he says in the current situation in fact makes perfect sense - because there are enough problems in the world without us making those problems even worse and more complicated, by inventing threats and raking up animosities, fear and distrust WHICH DID NOT EVEN EXIST BEFORE, at least not to anywhere near that extent.

American intelligence knew already at the beginning of the 1990s that the possibility realistically existed that Iran might develop nuclear weapons. In December 1993, for example, Defense News reported that the CIA believed "that Iran could have nuclear weapons within eight to 10 years, even without critical assistance from abroad." (Theresa Hitchens and Brendan McNally, Defense News, 13-19 December 1993, p. 3). http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iran/1825_1870.html

The hysteria and panic about Iran's potential nuclear capability, aimed at putting strong political pressure on Iran, was deliberately whipped up by the elites specifically ten years later (at which point Iran still did not have nuclear weapons), from 2003 onwards, by Israeli political leaders and by American neoconservatives. The actual difficulty was that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein strengthened Iran's position while the US, having abandoned official relations, had no political leverage on Iran, and that is an important reason why the nuclear scare was raised, with the spin-off of boosting a rationale for regime change in Iran. But as Brzezinski points out, all the sabre-rattling and hoo-hah has achieved exactly nothing, other than a stauncher resolve in the region to arm itself against foreign attack. It is relatively easy to bomb Iran, but extraordinarily difficult to conquer it. If they cannot even win in Afghanistan, they can forget about Iran. We are talking about a youthful, highly educated population of about 71 million people. Even if you exterminated the entire polity and invaded with a force of 300,000 men, you wouldn't win that war.

The problem with a lot of discussion about geopolitics I think is often that it is "flavour of the month" stuff which abstracts from the historical background (what came before) and the evolution of the political problems. In that case, it often becomes a mystery to understand what really motivates the policies because you cannot see the background behind them. However, once we fill in the historical context, it becomes much clearer what the driving forces of foreign policy really are, and what particular biases influence them. There are simply longstanding issues and plans, which sit in the policy cupboard and which are dragged out when a suitable moment arises to advance a particular agenda here or there.


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