The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Iran is not the boogeyman

Posted by Bill Nance on December 12, 2008

Lissa, author of my favorite line: “Every time Sarah Brady Cries and angel Gets it’s Wings”  has a blog entry dated 10 Dec that asks a few questions. The post goes to some fairly diverse areas, but since I think it represents a lot of people’s point of view I thought I’d try to answer some of them.

I’m always glad when writers and folks in general support Israel’s right to self-defense.  There are countries in the world that are much younger than Israel — both in the date of the actual State of Israel, and the history of the peoples living there — and yet the right-to-exist of Estonia, or Latvia, or Lithuania, or Armenia, or the Bahamas, or Bahrain is pretty well set.  Hell, if the issue is taking land owned by one set of people and “giving” it to another set of people, why not blame Pakistan and Bangladesh for all the world’s problems?  It would make a lot more sense, to be sure.

Israel, as a nation state or as a continually occupied region settled by a distinct “Israeli” people, did not exist prior to 1948. If you’d like to take that back a couple of decades when Zionism became significant, that’s fine, but it’s a few decades and all those people came from somewhere else. The land had been settled and occupied by the Arabs from at least the 8th century and the Turks finally ejected the last Christian crusaders in 1303. Palestine continued to be peopled almost exclusively of Arabs, administered by the Ottoman Empire until 1918 when the Turkish province of Palestine (a name copied from the Romans) became a British Mandate uner the League of Nations.

The Jewish population, some of which which had returned in the 15th century from Europe due to the Christian persecutions of Jews there, was extremely small prior to 1918, and still comprised a very small minority of the population of Palestine as late as 1922. (In 1922 the population of Palestine consisted of approximately 589,200 Muslims, 83,800 Jews, 71,500 Christians and 7,600 others  according to the 1922 Census8]).

After WWII, for obvious reasons, emigration to Palestine from Europe sky-rocketed, due to the holocaust and the existence of the Balfour Declaration, and the earlier Sykes-Picot agreement, which called, in principle,  for a Jewish State and an Arab state to be established in Palestine, though the borders of these proposed states were not set formally at the time.

So as far as the history of Israel, it’s a modern creation based primarily on emigration of Jews  from other places. It’s right to exist is as solid as any country could wish for according to International law, and no one except the most recalcitrant of the Arab nations and Iran continue to claim it doesn’t have that right. (Plus plenty of the real fringe of the looney left and plenty of jihadists). But trying to reach back 2,000 years as some basis for the existence of a modern Israel is patently untrue and deceptive. The Romans kicked every Jew out of Palestine in 70 AD. If you want to be pissed at the Roman Empire, knock yourself out, but Israel populated by Jews was wiped out completely at that time.

On the other hand, Estonia and Latvia, have had their peoples, with their own distinct language and culture continuously in place for several hundred years at the very least least. While not politically independent states until 1918, these two nations were in fact nations dejfacto, if not dejure, for centuries prior to 1991. Only conquest from foreign powers, including Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Russia prevented their independence before 1918, when they declared independence from Russia the first time, before their reconquest by the Russians in 1945. Lithuania however, was a nation state and a significant Eastern European power at times, since at the very least the 11th century. Again, it was subject to conquest, but there isn’t the slightest legitimate argument to be made that Lithuania has not been a nation for well over 1,000 years prior to 1991.

As far as the right of self-defense, I’m not hearing anyone of any military or political significance saying Israel doesn’t have that right, except for Iran’s Ahmedinejad, who has little actual power. He’s a figurehead.

More from Lissa:

…What confuses me here is the assumption that the security of Israel is threatened by a nuclear Iran and the security of the United States is not.

How does that make sense?  Does a threat only count as a threat if it can destroy your entire country, instead of just one part?  Does anyone doubt that the mullahs in Iran hate America almost as much as they hate Israel and the Jews? If a nuclear-powered Iran decided to smuggle a bomb past American borders, rather than launching it through space (and while that might be difficult, don’t even pretend it’s impossible) in the aims of blowing up NYC — does that not count as a threat?

I would strongly recommend anyone interested in Iran or Iranian politics read The Devil We Know by, David Baer, a former CIA operative and expert on the region. It’s a clear and concise view into the real world of Iranian policy, uncolored by wish-thinking or fear-mongering.

Iran couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Israel. Israel is a very useful tool for them to drum up support in the Arab world and solidify their political/religious base in Lebanon. As soon as Israel is willing to get serious about ceding back the occupied west bank territories (and this really IS illegal under any possible reading of international law) with any agreement the majority of Palestinians can live with, Iran will stop being nearly as bellicose about Israel. But remember, being anti-Israel in the Muslim world is like being anti-communist was in American politics. It’s their “third rail,” touch it and you die. If you listen to political rhetoric of Arab/Muslim States, you’ll never grasp the political realities. Arabs know this, most Americans seem to be unable to grasp that talk is cheap.

Iran has consistently acted rationally in accordance with it’s own national interests. Contrary to what you hear, the people in Iran with real power, as opposed to the useful and mostly powerless figurehead of Ahmedinejad, aren’t eager for Armageddon. They aren’t going to nuke Israel because their would be absolutely nothing to be gained from doing so except their own certain destruction. Israel’s possession of multiple nuclear warheads and the capacity to deliver them (including submarine-based missiles) will keep it forever free from conventional attacks from another nation state. Their main problem is with terrorism, most of which would be solved if they stopped trying to expand their settlements in the west bank and withdrew to the 1967 borders.

As for Iran getting a nuclear bomb ANYWHERE under the radar so they could deny responsibility, this is an utter crock of shit. Iran doesn’t long for national suicide. We would certainly find out where the bomb came from, and Iran would become a parking lot about 1/2 hour later. The same is true for Israel, though I doubt Israel would wait at all before launching an all-out retaliatory strike on Iran, seeing as it’s the most likely culprit.

Terrorists armed by Iran? Puleease.

Nuclear terrorism, sponsored by a nation state, is a threat so remote as to be almost not worth talking about. As long as a nuclear deterrent exists, it’s unlikely to the point of impossibility. Nuclear action by totally non-state actors is somewhat more likely.

There is no nation on earth (with the sole possible exception of North Korea, but that’s another post) that’s going to willingly give up the crown jewels of it’s arsenal to a terrorist organization. Pretending that this is a real threat is simple fear-mongering and paranoia. The weapons cost to much, are too hard to obtain and are too important to the strategic defense interests of a country to hand over to a terrorist organization.

Israel and the U.S. have far more to fear from a bomb coming from Pakistan than anywhere else, simply because the storage of those weapons and the custody of them is uncertain. It’s 1,000 time more likely that Al Quaeda or it’s ilk would get a bomb from there than from Iran.

The lie that Iran seeks America’s destruction (or Israel’s) is exactly that. A lie. Iran doesn’t care a fig about the U.S. or Israel except as their actions directly affect them. They are useful rhetorical targets for domestic political support and wider support in the region. But Iran has it’s own fish to fry, namely establishing Shi’a Islam as the dominant Muslim sect, and expanding it’s influence and dominance to cover the Arabian peninsula and Iraq.

Who’s he actual enemy of Iran? The House of Saud. Control over Mecca and Medina is vastly more important to Iran than the U.S.

So, to sum up:

  1. Of course Israel has a right to existence and self-defense and no one serious really thinks otherwise, regardless of political rhetoric.
  2. Iran as a nation, is not interested in national suicide or Jihad. It’s interested in it’s own power base and growing it. -And they play the game a lot smarter than we do most of the time.
  3. Iran is not interested in engaging in a nuclear conflict with anyone, directly or “sneaking in a bomb.” It’s interested in getting the bomb for the same reason all countries are: Permanent guarantees of territorial sovereignty, deterrence to other nuclear armed states and international prestige. The thing about nuclear warheads is they aren’t much good except as a deterrent. If you use one against a nuclear armed opponent or an ally of one, you’ll get clobbered.
  4. 99% of all the U.S. domestic political rhetoric about Iran is utter and completely ignorant horseshit, stirred up by the Likudists in Israel and the U.S., along with fear-mongering by the GOP in order to secure votes.  We should have been engaging the Iranians in direct talks 15 years ago. We share a great many common national interests.

Stop being afraid of ghosts and start grasping the real, main threat, which is SUNNI Muslim Jihadism. This poses a vastly more serious, credible and widespread threat to every civilized country on earth than Iran does. It must be opposed, it must be utterly crushed. But as we waste time and energy in diplomatic pissing contests we aren’t going to win, or get distracted from the main fight, our enemies grow stronger and bolder.

We are engaged in a global struggle against a dangerous and determined foe. But that foe isn’t based in Tehran.

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3 Responses to “Iran is not the boogeyman”

  1. maantas said

    u are saying Lithuania is a young country?
    strange… our first king was around 1251.
    wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindaugas
    Lithuania for the first time in writing sources was mentioned in 1009
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Lithuania
    best,
    m.

  2. Bill Nance said

    Did you read the post? I clearly stated that Lithuania had a history well established since at least the 11th Century.

    FYI, the stuff in boxes is a blockquote.

  3. maantas said

    hei sorry. shame on me, u can erase these comments.
    m.

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