Thursday, September 4, 2008

If this be saber ratling, then make the most of it


As to saber rattling, Ahmadinejad threatened to bomb Israel and, when he was head of the Pasdaran, both Israel and Britain. I don’t know what saber rattling the present administration has engaged in. We’ve engaged in a lot of not very fruitful diplomacy following the EU lead. We do still say the military option is not off the table, but will probably have to wait until the next president takes office to have this play out further.

Moving ahead, you mentioned Hitler. Chamberlain went over there with the military option off the table. It’s never a good idea to take that off the table when dealing with a Hitler-type.

As to “war of aggression,” that is what Saddam engaged in. That is what Hitler engaged in. That is not what the Normandy invasion was about and if we determine that Iran has nukes, it won’t be what we engage in if we stop Iran militarily.

I discussed the fact that we should have stopped Hitler before he got up a head of steam. Niall Ferguson thinks Hitler could have been stopped had Britain and France preempted him at some point prior to 1937. Bevin Alexander blames the U.S. for Hitler’s rise. He doesn’t excuse us for our isolationism. He writes that after WWI we were the most powerful nation in the world and we had the responsibility for stopping Hitler. I’ve never heard anyone argue against that idea. No one thought that the stopping of Hitler would have been a “war of aggression.” Most of us know whether a nation is being aggressive, invading Poland, Belgium, France, for example. and can distinguish that from a nation attempting to stop an aggressor.

Of course those who hate us can accuse us of aggression. Why wouldn’t they? And if we stopped Iran before they got their bombs, where is the evidence that they would have used those bombs to hurt anyone? How could we prove we weren’t being just like Hitler? So what do we do, do we give in to the America-haters, the Islamists who hate us, and those who are our enemies? Do we grind to a halt knowing that if we do something prudent like stop Iran from getting the bomb they will say bad things about us?

I think we need to go ahead and do what’s right. Those who hate us don’t want us to do that. Many don’t trust us to do that, but should we return to our isolationism because of that? We who have studied our history have learned that if we don’t do what we need to at the proper time, things only get worse. We could have stopped Japan if we had acquired some sabers and rattled them, but we were in no position to stop them. We weren’t geared for war and as a consequence they decided to hit the only thing that was remotely ready, our Navy, and hope we couldn’t gear back up in time to prevent them from conquering the areas they wished to dominate. We think we have learned that lesson, but we are still inclined to withdraw and pull the covers over our heads. That is, there is a strong segment of society in America that wishes to withdraw and leave them (those who get themselves into trouble) to their own devices.

If we were to withdraw from all military action and tell everyone they are on their own, the world would be very different from the one we know now. Japan and the nations of Europe would scramble to obtain militaries capable of defending themselves. Japan would want the bomb for sure because if they can’t depend on the U.S. they are going to need to depend on themselves. They will worry about China in a way that they don’t now. And if we back away from Japan, the fear level of China and Korea, both of them, will go way, way up.

So who do we depend on for advice? We are in the position, as a result of two European Wars which we reluctantly joined, to not have any one we can rely upon as a comrade in arms, so to speak. Yes, some nations will be willing to help, but they aren’t in a position to do very much. Our greatest ally in the Iraq war has said we are on our own if Iran needs its nuclear program stopped militarily. Of course we aren’t going to trust the anti-Americans. We aren’t going to trust those who threaten us. The U.N. has proved to be ineffective due to the Security Council veto. We have to decide back here in the U.S. through discussion, through debate in Congress, in our State Department, and in journals, books and discussion groups what is best to do.

If few give credence to what I say, why should they bother reading me? Shall I worry about that? Shall I let the fact that they believe this shut me up and turn me into an intellectual isolationist? I decided I can’t be responsible for what anyone else thinks beyond a certain point. If they say something about me that is false, and your statement about my picking conclusions, then authorities is false, I feel I have an obligation to state what is true. Some have accused me of this in the past, of picking authors who agree with my “right-wing” position, but they are at a disadvantage as I suspect you are in not having read these authors and not really knowing what their positions are. A while back I listed the authors of books I had read recently and discussed what their positions might be. I think one or perhaps two of 15 or 20 could be considered Right Wing.

Consider my recommendations recently. Robin Wright for example is definitely not a right-winger. She is considered in Edward Said’s camp in regard to Middle-Eastern studies, but I can read and enjoy her books because she has integrity and doesn’t let any prejudices get in the way of honesty – at least not in the books I’ve read. Mohammad Mohaddessin is an Iranian and clearly doesn’t fit the left-right mode. He isn’t an author I knew anything about before I read him. I read him because he had lived through the first few years of the Khomeini revolution.

Ilan Berman is more difficult to classify. He is one of the many analysts I’ve read but I’m not sure what his political position is. He enumerates the terrorist-type activities Iran has engaged in. He describes the Hezbollah (developed by Iran), the weapons it has and the activities it has engaged in. He doesn’t propose military action, but he says Iran’s getting nukes is unthinkable. He proposes diplomatic and economic actions but says we need to hurry because they may be only a couple of years away by one estimate. His book was published in 2003.

Bevin Alexander is also difficult to classify. He is a military historian and in his book How American Got it Right, the U.S. March to Military and Political Supremacy he does a quick run through American history discussing the things we did right and did wrong from a military standpoint. He chose his title because he thinks we did more things right than wrong throughout our history. I mentioned his arguing that we got Hitler wrong. He doesn’t excuse us for being isolationist at the time. We were wrong for not stopping Hitler when we were the only ones in a position to do so. When he gets to modern times he doesn’t discuss whether we should invade Iran. He writes “In all likelihood we will have to enter renegade states that don’t want us there or failed states, like Somalia, that cannot prevent terrorist cells from locating there. This may inspire qualms and misgivings among some of our Western European allies. But the emphasis in the future will probably be on rooting out terrorists rather than on overthrowing tyrants like Saddam Hussein. Consequently, the grounds for dispute between America and Europe should lessen dramatically in the years ahead.” Perhaps someone might think that anyone who considers military options as Alexander does must be on the Right, but Zinni could have written that.

So I have resolved to spend as little time as possible defending myself from inaccurate or misleading attacks. I’ll correct inaccurate and misleading statements but if someone is bent upon Lawrence-bashing then I’ll leave them to it and return to my library. I think our administration has responsibility for doing what is right in regard to national security and in regard to meeting our obligations for security world-wide. I’m sure I can communicate much better than Bush but I haven’t deterred you, Lefty, Ahmed, and Polly from Lawrence-bashing. It’s going to happen. We can’t be government by it.

Lawrence Helm

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