February 05, 2006

A 20 Year War, At Least

If you were concerned about the War on Terra continuing indefinitely, thereby giving the US government an ongoing excuse to pretend that the republic is in more danger than it was in before 1776, well, the probability is rapidly approaching 1.

Rumsfeld has proudly announced the plans for a 20 year war on terror. The US government's calls to pull Europe into the mindset of permanent militarization have fallen on deaf ears in the past, but recent events may finally get them what they want. Or at least, it will get them the noises they want. Germany's new chancellor, Andrea Merkel, has gotten things off by comparing Iran's President Ahmedinejad to Hitler based on the latter's remarks saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map". Which just goes to show that all the goodwill accumulated by any country, anywhere, can be wiped off the map in a matter of months should they succumb to the impulse to put belligerent authoritarians in office. It has even given cover to Rumsfeld's assertion that Iran is the worst state sponsor of terrorism in the world, conveniently ignoring the activities of US allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, whose leaders have the good sense not to talk their walk.

Though as the article linked in the previous paragraph notes, a provision long fought by Israel has made it into the referral document, calling for a nuclear free Middle East. This implies, without directly stating, the inclusion of Israel's never publicly recognized (but well known) nuclear cache. The concession would have been made with difficulty and should be regarded as a signal that a lot of arm twisting had to be done to get the referral vote in the first place.

India's vote against Iran must certainly have been among the tough sells, with the country giving a qualified yes to the decision to refer the situation to the Security Council, in spite of a history of close cooperation and an ongoing plan for natural gas trading. Though that vote may have been pushed significantly by a threat to a civilian nuclear project with the US and they have stated a total opposition to the use of any force to resolve the standoff with Tehran. However, a vote to have the situation referred to the Council, regardless of intent, might end up being comparable to voting for cloture on the Alito nomination: an effective yes vote for whatever comes next. Though China would likely veto any UN resolution that involved force, it's well known that the US and UK had already planned to use force in Iraq regardless of what the UN said. It's hard to imagine that their resolve is less in this case, though the werewithal to use force effectively may be considerably weakened.

Though Iran is Shi'a, demographically and geographically a minority in Islam, they are also a powerful and respected symbol of an independent Islamic state. A muslim world inflamed by the long toothache of Palestine, the Iraq war and now the recent clamor over the Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed is not likely to look kindly on attacks on Iran's independence. They have been, as it should be noted in any fair analysis, in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) along with numerous additional protocols until their decision to end cooperation with the IAEA this week after their referral to the UNSC. The West at large may choose to gloss over this point, but it seems unlikely to escape the notice of Muslims currently infuriated by a growing cultural and diplomatic rift with the so-called first world.

Juan Cole cogently explains not only why Muslims are angry over depictions of their Prophet with a bomb in his turban, pointing out that not only are certain things definitely considered beyond the pale to say in our own societies, but that many of those angered by the cartoon are used to newspapers having government sanction and therefore representing in some fashion the official voice of the country of publication. For example, there was a great deal of outcry when a UK paper published a cartoon showing Ariel Sharon eating a baby, a definitely offensive drawing that raised the specter of the historic blood libel against Jews. To say that such things are ill considered would be putting it mildly, as to me it seems more like the classic example of irresponsibility exemplified by yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater.

And fire there has been, with the mob torching of a Danish embassy in Beirut, accompanied by widespread protests and attacks on Christian churches and communities in muslim countries. As the previous link points out, some muslim clerics tried to stop the violence in Lebanon, but were unable to turn back the angry crowd. It feels perilously as though a dam is breaking somewhere, or many somewheres.

Getting back to the original point, with all of this going on and western officials having cases of chronic belligerence and advanced foot-in-mouth disease that rival Ahmedinejad's, there should be plenty of rhetorical fuel for Rumsfeld's 20 year plan to wage war just about everywhere. Along with the potential violent and economic consequences of expanding the current state of war in Asia, Rumsfeld continues to pick fights with major oil supplier Venezuela, now comparing Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to Hitler. A fuel crisis that would make the 70's look like a picnic seems a likely outcome of these escalations of tension, making an easier path for public willingness to resolve situations with violence.

I was once in a car that slammed head on into a concrete freeway barrier at 60 mph. I closed my eyes before the impact. (Thanks be to Toyota for making the restraints and frame of my shoebox of a '95 Tercel capable of protecting me through a rollover that damaged every single side of the vehicle.) For some reason, the feeling I had at that moment is coming to mind more often lately. Seatbelts, anyone?

Posted by natasha at February 5, 2006 03:39 PM | International | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Certainly the current administration has provided a generous supply of examples of mind-boggling stupidity and incompetence. However, going out of their way to pick a fight with Venezuella at the same time that they are moving towards a showdown over Iran's nuclear program has to take the cake.

The effects of a military strike against Iran, which the administration appears to be building towards now, could include the complete shutdown of shipping through the Straits of Hormuz. Pissing off Chavez enough to trigger an embargo of Venezuellan oil at the same time would rank right near the top of the stupidest foreign relations moves in the history of the United States.

Posted by: tanj at February 6, 2006 02:28 AM

Based on the fact that many members of the Bush administration are way smarter than their boss, one can only conclude that this is just the way they want it to go down. They seem to have got the most irritating and destructive part of the revolutionary mindset: let it get so bad that the bastards have no choice but to agree with us.

That's my guess, anyway. Saying that they're just dumb as toast and don't understand the basic idea of cause and effect seems too convenient at this point.

Posted by: natasha at February 6, 2006 01:09 PM