Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A quick thought

Iran's actions don't strike me as those of a nation avoiding war. I wonder if their leaders are actually trying to provoke American airstrikes? Unless the US Air Force launched an all-out campaign, airstrikes wouldn't do much damage to the Iranian nuclear program. It would also strengthen the Iranian government, rallying the support of the people behind it in a nationalistic fervor. It also would galvanize world opinion in support of Iran. Therefore, the US should under almost no circumstances strike first blow in this potential conflict. We lose the moral high ground if we do.

There might be an interesting dynamic to consider if Britain decided to strike Iran alone pending a failure to return (or worse) the British prisoners. Iran would be in a pickle at that point, because it lacks serious capability to further retaliate against Britain. That is, British troops aren't in vulnerable spots like American troops, and London is out of range of Iranian missiles. Iran would not want to escalate a conflict with a secondary opponent, exposing itself and playing its few good cards, when its primary opponent (USA) is right around the corner waiting for it to slip up. Not saying I advocate Britain starting a war, but if it came down to it, I'd rather the British launch the strike unilaterally without the US getting directly involved. It would give the West the strategic initiative.

It will most likely be a non-issue, though. Iran abducted British sailors once a few years ago and returned them after some grandstanding. I'm sure it will do the same this time around.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"We don't need resistance if there is no occupation."

This quote from an official of the new Palestinian unity government. Arab states have all promised peace and normalised relations with Israel, if it only would withdraw to 1967 borders. The occupation would end, Palestinians would have a state, everyone is happy, problem solved. Unfortunately, reality isn't so simple. The problem is not that Israel refuses to withdraw to 1967 borders. That is a distraction. The problem is that Hamas, which leads the current government, would still not agree to a peace (by its own assertion) even if Israel withdrew to 1967 borders. Nor would Iran.

One needs to only look no farther than the Gaza Strip to realize that withdrawing to 1967 borders would not bring peace. Some time ago Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Since then, there has been a constant barrage of rocket fire from there into Israel. Even now, Hamas is fortifying the Gaza Strip with bunkers, rockets, and other equipment in the very same way that Hezbollah set up shop in southern Lebanon. The world is standing idly by while fanatics and terrorists in Gaza build a fortress right next to Israel.

There will be another war, and probably soon. Militants from Gaza will finally provoke Israel, which will invade and possibly reoccupy Gaza, just like what happened in southern Lebanon last summer. This will happen because Hamas (recently recognized by Norway, soon to be recognized by Russia and France) remains committed to the destruction of Israel through violent means. The difference is that this time, there will be many more casualties than there were in last summer's contest, because Gaza is far more densely populated than southern Lebanon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Second post of the night!?

The Iraqis are expressing support of the "surge" plan to restore security to Iraq. The surge, thus far, has succeeded beyond what I expected. And we've only got 2 of 5 planned divisions deployed at this time. General Petraeus has claimed that he will need until the summer to be able to determine whether the plan will work or ultimately fail. Stop the political pandering in Washington and let this guy do his job! As many have pointed out, why did Congress unanimously confirm him as the new commander in Iraq if they weren't going to give him a chance to make progress?

As always, the key for success is political. There have already been some important steps in that direction (by Iraqi politicians). Heres hoping it continues.

A game that can be played by two

The Palestinian political groups, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed on a power-sharing government, having barely avoided civil war in the process. The international community (specifically, a "Quartet" of UN, US, EU, and Russia) had placed three demands on any such government for the resumption of aid. Renounce violence, recognize Israel, and honor past peace agreements. The new unity government, dominated by Hamas still (as it won the election), has failed on all three counts.

This really shouldn't have come as a shock. Aren't terrorists like Hamas by definition uncompromising, fanatical people? Even so, there has been some positive change. Fatah has some ministers in the government, and Hamas said it would "respect" past agreements (whatever that means). This unity government is at least a small step in the direction that we desire. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate for the United States and the Quartet in kind to also take a small step, towards the Palestinian government.

Right now, the United States has declared it will work with ministers in the government that are of Fatah. This is a good place to start. We should also not shy away from humanitarian and economic opportunities. Still, we need to continue to make it difficult for Hamas to accomplish anything on its agenda. Hamas should know that if it wants support from the USA, they need to be willing to meet us in the middle.

I especially oppose outright recognition of the government until they have made more serious concessions to the international community. Norway, France, and Russia are all moving to give Hamas everything it wants for nothing in return. Thats probably the worst way to get Hamas to compromise.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


My enthusiasm for Barack Obama has grown, and fortunately so has his poll data. He looks to be catching Hillary in most categories. I really don't have any particularly strong negative feelings towards Hillary. She is a politician, and like most politicians she doesn't really have firm convictions or principles. She does not impress me as a leader, however. At any rate, she is deeply dividing; personally I don't think she has a remote chance of winning a national election. Dems should root for her only if they want a Republican president in 08.

One reason in particular that I am more excited about Obama is from this interview of Obama in 2002, before the Iraq war. He asks a lot of rhetorical questions in this interview, which are eerily predictive about the situation on the ground in Iraq today. For example, he specifically asks what our long term committment in Iraq will be, and how will we prevent sectarian differences from tearing the country apart.

Towards the end Barack is asked whether he would have voted Yay or Nay to invade Iraq, if he could have done so. He responds that he would have went nay. As a friend pointed out, voting nay on the Iraq war resolution was an extremely dangerous position for a nationally aspiring politician to take. Hillary, of course, voted yay. As did many others, who did not take the time to understand what we were getting ourselves into. And that is how we ended up in the situation we are in today.

On a related note, from what I've been reading, the 'surge' policy for a security crackdown in Baghdad is actually working to some extent. I am less optimistic than I was, however. I'm reading a book called "The Shia Revival" by Vali Nasr, and what has become clear to me is that this Sunni-Shia sectarian rivalry is hundreds of years old. I'm not sure that any amount of US military power could fix this problem. It is likely that the armed groups are just taking a breather from the civil war and will resume as soon as we leave. Any success will depend first and foremost on political solutions. An important first step was the recent revision of Iraq's oil laws that will redistribute revenue more evenly.

Finally, I noticed the world stockmarkets taking a dive for the last few days. I read an interesting article that suggested that China could not survive an economic collapse, politically. The country would erupt in protests and civil disorder, and the non-Han areas would likely secede (Tibet, inner Mongolia, et cetera). There are always positive side effects of bad situations. A world economic collapse killing off communism once and for all doesn't sound like a bad thing. Additionally, the price of oil would plummet following a Chinese collapse. That would shut the mouths of petro-powered international assholes like Hugo Chavez and Iran's Ahmedinejad. Course, not needing their oil would have the same effect...