Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Refusing to be boxed

There is, I think, no disputing the fact that many in the US would like to take miltary action against Iran. They've been reasonably up front about it, in fact.
States that renounce terror and abandon WMD can become part of our effort, but those that do not can expect to become our targets.
- John Bolton, May 2002
There's no doubting which states Bolton means.

As usual, it's necessary to point out the hypocrisy in statements like these. The United States government shows no signs of abandoning WMD and neither does the UK government. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the US and UK governments never pressure them to do so. Don't tell me there are no religious extremists in Israel because the idea is plainly absurd. These extremists don't dominate the government of Israel at the moment but the fear that they may one day control Israel's nuclear arsenal is a very real one.

This is one of those "untouchables" for many people, the ultimate one for many actually, and you won't hear it mentioned in the liberal media very often. The mere fact that I've raised it is likely to antagonise some people and yet no-one is likely to offer a rational explanation as to why this should be. Israel is a democracy? Well, yes, but I think you'll find that the only country ever to use an atomic bomb was also a democracy. Germany was a democracy when Hitler came to power. Just being a democracy is an irrelevance.

Anyway, it appears that Iran may well be pursuing nuclear weapons. There's no evidence to prove this and those that claim to be absolutely sure are deluding themselves (Saddam, WMD, you'd think people would learn from their mistakes, etc, etc...). Nevertheless, it is possible, likely even, that an ambition to build nuclear weapons is the motivation behind the recent activities in Iran.

Some people (not the same one's who'd object to my comments on Israel) may take issue with the fact that I raise this, or rather, they might question the wisdom of raising it. Isn't this sort of thing just giving ammunition to the neo-conservative project to impose an American dominated world order, by force where necessary? If everyone started agreeing with them about Iran's intentions, won't that make it easier for them to justify military action? Do I, in fact, implicitly support such a move?

No, no, and no. The neo-conservatives have, in my view, done a splendid job of boxing in their critics on this issue. We know that they want to attack Iran and we know that it would be an unmitigated disaster for the stability of the region. It would be a major step towards the "clash of civilisations" which so many in the Christian Right seem to be longing for and the world would never be the same again. The fear of this has, I think, made some people reluctant to speak out about the activities of the Iranian government. For the neo-conservatives and their flag wavers, this is politically and strategically ideal because it means they can portray these others as "soft" on the Iranian regime or even sympathetic towards it.

Sod that. I believe that the Iranian government is not one any right thinking person could defend and the fact that I wouldn't support military action doesn't negate that fact in any way. It troubles me that yet another country may aquire nuclear weapon. This would make it even less likely that the NPT commitment to global nuclear disarmament is ever going to be achieved. Nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous in anyone's hands.

Don't let the neo-cons bully you into passivity if you feel the same way, is my advice. The fact that Iran has broken the international seal on its nuclear facilities is very worrying. Sensible types, instead of keeping quiet for fear of appearing to support the neo-con agenda, should be making this clear and working towards offering realistic policies in response. That is step one in dealing with this in a sensible, rather than an ideologically flawed and violent manner.*

On a related point, it seems that there is an urgent need to acknowledge the part the invasion of Iraq made in all this. Critics suggested that the invasion would make the region more unstable. Has it? Too flumping right , it has. Iranian extremists have been empowered and emboldened by what has happened in Iraq. As I've said before, the invasion opened a window of opportunity and demonstrated why (from the Iranian point of view) it would make sense for them to aquire nuclear weapons. Every government wants to stay in power after all (and please don't forget that this means that they are actually unlikely to use such weapons pre-emptively since they know that their own country, and power, would be destroyed in response). Forget the moral agency defence, the Iranians are obviously responsible for their own activities. The fact remains that the invasion was a huge strategic blunder. An Iranian extremist government armed with nuclear weapons is quite possibly going to be the price the people of the world have to pay for that blunder.

Making the world a safer place? Yeah, right, like whatever...

* Step 2, suggesting such policies, is for another post.

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