Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here's a thought

Let’s look at the world before September 11, 2001 through the lens of that day.

 

India and Pakistan were locked in mortal combat over the disputed territory of Kashmir.  The Americans had a set of pet rebels in Afghanistan who had been armed and politically abandoned after the USSR withdrew from occupation there.  The Pakistanis decided to influence and use that pet against India in its struggle over Kashmir.  They had been executing small attacks against the United States, but it was nothing significant and even somewhat significant attacks (USS Cole) were brushed under the rug in the name of stability.
India already had nuclear capability.  To counter India, Pakistan decides to start a nuclear program of its own.  They set up a rather decentralized program between Lybia, North Korea, and themselves to begin researching weapons programs from chemical to nuclear options, pooling information and building on each others’ research.  Pakistan eventually tests the bomb.  India follows suit.

The United States, meanwhile, was content with the status quo of a mortal death grip between the two nations.  Stability at all costs is the mantra.  Saddam Hussein was boxed in, but safe.  He acted as a buffer against Iran who wasn’t demonstrating any long range plans for the region.  Syria was safely in control of Lebanon.  The Palestinians were safely isolated in their intifata against Israel and that problem could be, presumably, worked on in a vacuum as Arafat demonstrated himself to be an unhelpful partner in negotiations.

Everything was cranking along just as it should.  Signs, however, were pointing to increasing destabilization in Afghanistan as the Taliban increasingly tightened their grip on power.

Then everything went suddenly and brilliantly wrong.

Pakistan’s pet terrorists (formerly America’s pet terrorists) decided to escalate their attacks against the US with the spectacular and astonishing attacks on September 11, 2001.

The status quo was no longer acceptable to the US.

The conflict over Kashmir was no longer an acceptable situation.  Pakistan and India were ordered to make nice.  Pakistan keeping pet terrorists was no longer acceptable.  They were ordered to cut support.  There was probably a threat of making rubble bounce and a promise to see Kashmir in India’s hands among other things.  That conflict was put on ice quickly.

The terrorists in Afghanistan were routed out of their positions of power and you know the rest.

Attention then turned towards Iraq.  Saddam was boxed in, but that status quo was no longer acceptable.  For no good, concrete reason, but several geopolitical “new world order” types of reasons, the job in Iraq had to be finished.  Saddam had to be removed and the task was done and justified in any way the administration could manage to make it appear proper and just.  The real reason, as it becomes clear later, is that it is simply something the administration felt had to be done, they could, so they did.  Be mad all you want and stop us if you can.  This reasoning is going to become very, very useful later.

On the same theme of “freeing the oppressed”, national democratic movements are supported in several non-strategic places.  Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Belarus… but not Pakistan, or Egypt, or Saudi Arabia where extreme governments might make matters worse.

The unintended consequence of the unrest throughout the Mideast was that oil prices spiked, making Iran a very rich nation for a very short while.  While there was a bit of an influence vacuum in the region, Iran was able to spread around funds and fill that vacuum.  The US suddenly had a problem of a regional power being able to counter the US influence in the region and counteract some of the “progress” being made in setting the shape of the new order of things.

Now we can fast forward to today.

The US has begun establishing the basis for justification of military action against Iran in the name of self defense.  The US has moved a second aircraft carrier group into the Arabian Sea and a third is going to be coming to back up the other two.  Nobody in their right mind thinks that attacking Iran is a good idea.  Nobody in their right mind believes that an all out invasion of Iran is probable to happen or likely to succeed.  Nobody in their right mind thinks that an invasion of Iran will end will.

Read the above sentence and replace “Iran” with “Iraq”.  Then add “The administration sees it as something that has to be done, that they can do, so they will”.

With the Iraqi gambit of a seemingly irrational run up to war when other options were still available, this administration set the precedent of going to war not as a last resort, but as one of many options.  Add to that precedent the 150,000 troops ALREADY on the ground in Iraq, the impressive firepower the US Army possesses, the impending handover to Iraqi forces (job finished or not), and the 3 aircraft carrier groups in the region (more firepower than most nations’ ENTIRE airforces), and you have what is considered a “credible threat” of military action.

It’s not the least bit surprising that yesterday the Iranians voiced a willingness to discuss the nuclear issue again.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Iranian nuclear issue is resolved before March of 2008 with an agreement not unlike the N. Korean agreement where full diplomatic relations are being negotiated at the end of it all.

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