John Bolton was a lot easier to like when he kept his mouth shut. Since his terrible performance on The Daily Show, he’s now calling on us to invade Iran.
Look, I don’t like the idea of a nuclear Iran any more than he does. But we’re going to have to accept it. We don’t have the ability to invade. We’ve got our hands full with Iraq, a much smaller nation with no allies and no money and three different ethnic groups. Can you imagine invading a country several times its size with money, weapons, motivation and a single proud culture? Remember that invasion of Japan we managed to avoid in 1945? Iran would make it look like a picnic.
No, what we do with Iran what we did with the Soviet Union: we create a balance of terror. We give Patriot missiles to Israel, park nuclear missile subs in the Indian Ocean and make it very clear to the Iranians that if they ever launch a weapon, Tehran will cease to exist. We explain that with mass spectroscopy, we can trace a terrorist weapon to its source. And if we find they’ve given one to a terrorist, Tehran will cease to exist. This is what we did with the Soviet Union. This is what we do now. And it will work because even if John Bolton has sufficiently terrified himself, we will still have a thousand times as many nuclear weapons as Iran.
“But Mike”, you say, “they’re crazy! They think Allah will protect them!”. Really? Are they crazier than Joe Stalin or Nikita Kruschev, both of whom murdered millions? Is this insight into their nature based on anything real or just the hysterical supposition of the Right? Is it the same insight that told us the Iraqis would great us with flowers in Nasiriyah?
I actually don’t think Ahmajinedab is a religious fanatic. I think he, like most of the Islamists, is using religious rhetoric to advance a quite earthly political agenda.
There’s something else: the biggest gaffes in foreign policy come about from misreading the enemy, from seeing them the way we want to see them rather than the way they are. It’s 1861, when the South thinks they will whip the North in months. It’s 1939, when Chamberlain thought Hitler just wanted to reunite the German people. It’s 1968, when we thought that Vietnam wanted to become a puppet state of their thousand-year old enemy (watch Fog of War sometime).
It’s 2003, when we think Saddam is refusing to accomodate weapons inspectors because he has WMDs. We miss that he just doesn’t want the Iranians and the Shiites and the Kurds to know he’s powerless.
We’re in danger of doing that now with Iran. We see Iran’s nuclear program the way we want to see it: as a way to nuke Israel and the US. We fail to see the proud Persian people, looking at their conquered neighbor, surrounded by a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear India, a nuclear Israel, a nuclear Russia, a nuclear US. They are afraid. And they feel that acquiring a nuke is the only way they will prevent their country from being next on Bush’s conquered list.
Bolton is a fool. He sees Iran the way he wants to see them. So does the rest of the Right. I don’t think we can afford another one of their blunders.