April 11, 2006

SURPRISE? (via Tom Morin):

Bush's October surprise - it's coming (Spengler, 4/11/06, Asia Times)

[B]ush's Republicans will triumph in next November's congressional elections for the same reason that Bush beat Democratic challenger John Kerry in 2004. Americans rally around a wartime commander-in-chief, and Bush will have bombed Iranian nuclear installations by October.

One factoid encapsulates Bush's opportunity: in a February 14 CNN/Gallup poll, 80% of respondents said they believed that Iran, if it had nuclear weapons, would hand them over to terrorists; 59% said Iran might use nuclear weapons against the United States. A slight majority of those polled, to be sure, did not wish to use military action against Iran, but that should be interpreted as "not yet", for two-thirds said they worried that the US would not do enough to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Americans are a misunderstood people. Only one in five owns a passport, and a tiny fraction of non-immigrant Americans learns a foreign language. US apathy regarding what might plague the rest of the world is matched only by US bloodlust when attacked. President Bush earned overwhelming support by toppling Saddam Hussein, a caricature villain who appeared to threaten Americans, but earned opprobrium by committing American lives to the political rehabilitation of Iraq, about which Americans care little.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is the sort of villain that Central Casting once sourced for studio film productions in Hollywood. [...]

To be very precise, I am not accusing the White House of manipulating the Iranian issue for political purposes. On the contrary, if the US president thought only in terms of political consequences he never would have risked so much on the Quixotic quest for Iraqi democracy. Still, Bush has the opportunity to shift the subject away from the unpopular campaign to improve the politics of the Middle East, and back to the extremely popular subject of killing terrorists. He believes (and I am long since on record agreeing) that Washington will have to put paid to Ahmadinejad before very long, and there is no reason not to look for a political benefit as well.

When doing what is morally right conveys political benefit it's almost certain to happen.

Facing Down Iran: Our lives depend on it. (Mark Steyn, Spring 2006, City Journal)

Most Westerners read the map of the world like a Broadway marquee: north is top of the bill—America, Britain, Europe, Russia—and the rest dribbles away into a mass of supporting players punctuated by occasional Star Guests: India, China, Australia. Everyone else gets rounded up into groups: “Africa,” “Asia,” “Latin America.”

But if you’re one of the down-page crowd, the center of the world is wherever you happen to be. Take Iran: it doesn’t fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it’s a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation’s turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans—the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.

If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran’s neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam—the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there’s going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.

Hard to think of a pundit I have more regard for than Mr. Steyn, but the notion of the Sunni, the Arabs, and the Turks allowing themselves to be led by the Persian Shi'ites isn't actually worthy of consideration. There's ample reason to deny states that aren't our allies nuclear weapons, and just cause to change their regimes, without pretending they represent an existential threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2006 1:17 PM

How can a murderous regime with a thousand nuclear weapons -- and in twenty years, that's what they'll have -- not pose an existential threat? In US government wargame studies, it only takes 150 well-located nukes to destroy 25% of our population and 90% of our GNP.

As Steyn notes, they've done a fair job of taking over Syria and Lebanon with no nukes. If we left Iraq, they would quickly take it over using their militias (Sadr's Mahdi Army, elements of the Badr Brigades, and infiltrating Revolutionary Guards) along with intimidation and murder.

With nukes and a willingness to use them, they can carry that strategy out in many more countries.

Who will stand in their way? If not us, no one. And if we wait to resist until they have the power to obliterate us, even if we obliterated them in return, no one would be around to defend freedom from the next totalitarian aggressor. Europe would be quick to capitulate to the first aggressor to say "Boo!".

I agree with you that it won't do for Bush to make the case for war in apocalyptic terms, which would only give ammunition to the left. Your rationale for war is better. But Steyn is right, now is the time to act.

Posted by: pj at April 11, 2006 2:20 PM

Because the particular government won't exist in a couple years and the weapons and the delivery system won't exist ever.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 2:31 PM

If, by election day, everyone knows it's been coming since March, and the Leftstream Press has doing their best to get the word out to the few who haven't heard (or don't care), then how can it be an "October surprise"?

"the weapons and the delivery system won't exist ever."

Especially when we make sure they won't exist.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 11, 2006 3:15 PM

It's not going to happen until early next year. Probably within a month or so before or after the SOTU address.

Posted by: b at April 11, 2006 3:19 PM

"But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islamthe Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If theres going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate."

Iran's a Shia country. Sunnis are not about to follow it anywhere. If they were, they'd have done so in the aftermath of the initial revolution. Nukes will not alter that.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at April 11, 2006 3:25 PM

Raoul - this is the MSM trying to paint the Wag the Dog theme onto Bush to discredit whatever he does.

Posted by: AWW at April 11, 2006 3:31 PM

Spengler link is broken

Posted by: BC Monkey at April 11, 2006 3:34 PM

The terrorist delivery system already exists. The regime has lasted 27 years, it's a fair bet it will continue to exist unless we change it.

Posted by: pj at April 11, 2006 4:13 PM

Two excellent articles. For a possible date for the surprise check the wind patterns for Iran by season and note the quiet ones during a new moon for your best bet; nuclear or conventional.

Posted by: Genecis at April 11, 2006 4:15 PM


No, the particular government is accidental and can't be re-elected. There is no weapon and no delivery system.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 4:16 PM

Bad day for that argument:

"At this historic moment, with the blessings of God almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory- scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday," Ahmadinejad said.

"I formally declare that Iran has joined the club of nuclear countries," he told an audience that included top military commanders and clerics in the northwestern holy city of Mashhad. The crowd broke into cheers of "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" Some stood and thrust their fists in the air.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 11, 2006 4:34 PM

Uranium's easy. You can buy it in half the bars in Niger.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 4:38 PM

If only we had a reflexive competant executive at this moment. This is very bad news. This will require subtle judgement and the ability to act with strength as well as precision. This is not good. I hated Clinton but he would be the better man for this job. This will go badly for us.

Posted by: exclab at April 11, 2006 4:41 PM

Yeah, cause he handled the Norks getting nukes so well.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 11, 2006 4:49 PM

Clinton would have done the exact same thing, but fecklessly.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 4:49 PM


Don't you mean "reactionary"? As in the way Clinton "reacted" to every little blip in his poll numbers and made sure his missile lobbing didn't actually do any damage or further our foreign policy, but did push any bad news off to the side.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 11, 2006 4:54 PM

I think he meant "reflective" but his post is a hopelessly incomprehensible mess.

Posted by: b at April 11, 2006 4:57 PM

"Iran's a Shia country. Sunnis are not about to follow it anywhere. If they were, they'd have done so in the aftermath of the initial revolution. Nukes will not alter that."

Who said anything about following voluntarily? They seem to have managed to get Baby Assad on their side without any nukes. If you've got nukes and the other guy doesn't, it's a whole lot easier to make him an offer he can't refuse. And Islam has never really cared why the vanquished submit, as long as they do.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 11, 2006 5:01 PM

Pakistan already has the Sunni nukes.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 5:38 PM

No Clinton was not a genius at foriegn policy or war but he beats GW in every catagory. Which is pathetic, I admit. Yes I mean reflexive - in other words a leader who does not simply react but who acts with anticipation and fore thought to events that are happening or will.

b: I suppose you were the kind of kid who said "You stink!" to get a laugh without actually bothering to decide what your victim was to supposed to smell like. Very reactive. Very Bush.

Raul: Assad is not going to play anyone's game blindly. His only priority will be the same as his father - survival. And I think he may actually be smarter than his Dad. So far the current Iranian leadership does not have the kind of sophistication the Assad family has. Assad was able to fool Blair once and Bush isn't going to be a big problem. If Syria is in bed with Iran, it will be because Assad is getting something big.

After survival, Assad has no point, which is the wierd thing about Syria. If we stop threatening, Assad will need a new problem to remain in power. He will have to provoke us.

Posted by: exclab at April 11, 2006 5:45 PM


He was inferior on Africa, the Middle East, treaties, the UN, India, the Anglosphere....

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 6:42 PM

Clinton did not have a real strategic sense for foreign policy, but he was a competent tactician and could get foreign nations on board.

Bush's strength is that he does not feel constrained by State and can move policy further than what would naturally occur, but he is terrible at the actual "diplomacy" of foreign policy. I don't think either a Reagan or Clinton (or most other Presidents) would have botched the actual diplomacy job involving Iraq. He botched it - plain and simple.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 11, 2006 6:48 PM


That's entirely wrong. Reagan, by your standards, completely botched Nicaragua, though he won it, because all our allies (except Israel) opposed it. Afghanistan too was unpopular with all but a few Arab nations and Pakistan--won there too. Indeed, Clinton and Bush Sr, could bring other people along because they refused to act from a poosition of morality and accepted Realist amorality. The key to the Iraqi success was ignoring those countries that preferred Saddam.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 6:55 PM

C Durnell

Agreed. In practice Clinton and Reagan had similar competances when it came to foriegn policy. A Reagan in Bosnia would have had similar success to Clinton - ie not good but not bad.

Bush really lacks so much that is necessary for a far sighted leader. I'm afraid he is going to take some knocks.


Quite right on Africa. Clinton blew it on Africa. Fortunately for him Americans don't really get Africa so they ignore it. Even with his stupid, patronizing and insulting birth-control restrictions in Africa, Bush has actually paid more attention to that continent than anyone in a long time, and probably has done some good.

The middle east? I don't think any president has done anything worthy of note in the middle east. That includes everything from Morroco to Tajikistan.

Treaties? No. Bush is lousy on treaties. India and NPT. That one is swinging away now to come right back and smack us in the back of the head.

Posted by: exclab at April 11, 2006 6:59 PM

clinton was and is a pansy who was rolled by every world leader he ever shook hands with. he had the strategic thinking of a hamster in heat. even jimmy the wimp carter treated clinton like his prison wife.

Posted by: toe at April 11, 2006 7:08 PM

The Middle East: democratized Afghanistan, Iraq, & Palestine. Drove Syria out of Lebanon. Brought Libya in from the Cold. Forced elections in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. It's what Reagan did to the Soviet Bloc only compressed to five years.

Treaties: he killed Kyoto, the ICC, etc. Got Fast Track Trade authority and numerous bilateral agreements. And has informally created an Axis of Good that knits together Japan, Australia, Inia and the US.

If he'd done nothing but Africa, the Middle East and the treaties he'd already be top 5 among US presidents.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 7:08 PM

ex: "Yes I mean reflexive - in other words a leader who does not simply react but who acts with anticipation and fore thought to events that are happening or will."

Don't blame me for not understanding you if you're just going to go around making up definitions for words.

From dictionary.com:
Main Entry: reflexive
Pronunciation: ri-'flek-siv
Function: adjective
: characterized by habitual and unthinking behavior; also : relating to or consisting of a reflex

There are a few more, but none even vaguely approximate your meaning. I was actually giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you had the right idea but a slight mistyping problem (hint--"Preview" is your friend), but I see that I assumed too much.

Posted by: b at April 11, 2006 7:11 PM

democratized Afghanistan, Iraq, & Palestine

Not yet he hasn't on all three counts.

drove Syria out of Lebanon

he was running behind a crowd of people chasing them out.

Forced elections in Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Oh please. Not that again. Elections in Saudi Arabia? for what Dog Catcher? No! Don't! I know what your going to say. "Saudi Arabia is slowly changing" . It isn't and you know it. As for Egypt - they have not had a fair election in Eygpt and you know it.

The treaties are simply maintanence and these have been the competance highlights of an otherwise dismal carreer.

But I sure am glad he got that bearded guy who bombed the world trade center. Well that just makes the whole thing worth while.

OJ, in a way you are a hopeless romantic, but a smart one, which is the only bearable kind.

Posted by: exclab at April 11, 2006 7:20 PM


You may not like their governments, but they are democratically elected and enjoy the consent of the governed. That took thousands of years to occur, no?

Kyoto and ICC are not "just treaties"--they'd have been disastrous sacrifices of our sovereignty.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 7:28 PM

Uh no, they are not democracies in the sense of fair elections. Eygpt you can get some arguement for. No, you can't. There is are illegal political parties in Eygpt. Saudi. No. I'm sorry. Its the Kingdom of Saud. They are a bunch of royalist crooks and good friends of the Bushes and not worthy of your esteem.

Posted by: exclab at April 11, 2006 7:32 PM


Oops, you're dodging the answer again.

The Middle East: democratized Afghanistan, Iraq, & Palestine. Drove Syria out of Lebanon. Brought Libya in from the Cold. Forced elections in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2006 7:43 PM

Ex - in the US elections incumbents have something like a 90% reelection rate. According to your definition the US isn't a democracy.

Posted by: AWW at April 11, 2006 9:30 PM

With exclab we see the confusion of the means for the ends, i.e. "getting other nations on board" for some foreign policy effort. That is a means, not an end. It is worse than useless to get international concensus if it means selling out American interests. Note carefully that we are in Iraq now because Bush 41 sold out American interests to get the Coalition for the Gulf War, as it was in that Coalition's interests (not in the USA's) to halt the march on Baghdad. The cost was a lost decade for Iraq, hundreds of thousands dead, sanctions, another war, etc. Yet, exclab, you consider that a success. Do you really think the point of diplomacy is getting agreement rather than one's way?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 11, 2006 10:52 PM

So, exclab - should we attack Saudi Arabia and democratize it? We could do it if we really wanted to, probably a lot faster than in Iraq. Kill everyone associated with the kingdom, and turn things over to Western-educated natives.

AOG got it exactly right - the point of foreign policy is to get your way, not to get sycophantic clucking from the world. Our way (right now) is to make things safer for people who want freedom, and more dangerous (or at least difficult) for those who don't.

When Clinton was in office, the goal was to look good, to make things look good, to rise above the petty messiness of domestic politics without doing any real work. To look Presidential. So Bill buddied up with Yeltsin and didn't do anything to help the Russians find their way after 1991. Strobe Talbott was supposed to be the man to remake Russia - what did he do except wring his hands? Clinton did nothing in the Middle East (but Arafat stayed at the White House a lot), he did nothing in the Balkans towards a long-term solution (and thousands of Americans are still there today), he did nothing in Africa, he did worse than nothing with respect to China, and he appeased North Korea over and over. The Euros loved him because he talked their talk, with the same smoothness, and the same lack of intent.

The dangers in the world require a US foreign policy that isn't afraid to get dirty. Imagine how different things would be tonight if we had killed Mugabe last year, forced Kofi out at the UN, dumped the Ba'athists in Syria, and had been a wee bit more postive about what Cuba will look like the day after Castro's death?

Presidents who talk like diplomats but don't do anything (Carter, Clinton) are embraced by the left, but that is a damning endorsement. It's the cowboys who get the work done, whether fixing the fences or killing the bad guys.

Chris - I don't understand how Bush "botched" Iraq. Did you want Syrians in the coalition? The blue helmets in Iraq the week Baghdad fell? The US Army crossing the Iranian border in May 2003? A northern front from Turkey? The UN to admit to its painfully obvious corruption and evil? The Saudis to send troops from the south? The NYT to praise Bush as a champion of democracy? What exactly?

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 11, 2006 11:45 PM

re: "reflexive"

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." ... "When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra ... You should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night, for to get their wages, you know."

Posted by: Humpty Dumpty at April 12, 2006 12:31 AM

Actually, GW Bush is very farsighted. He's looking ten to twenty years down the road with what he's doing. He isn't picking the expediant or popular road in foreign policy. He isn't picking the consensus at State. He's doing something completely different.

What did the consensus at State ever do for us with regard to the Middle East? It kept everything exactly the way it had been - tried mightily to keep everything the way it was - for over forty years. And that worked for us how? Why keep it after the end of the Cold War?

9/11 changed him, and he's trying to change the consensus. And people are surprised that those in the foreign policy, diplomatic, and media fields that are dependant on the old consensus for their livliehoods are enraged at him and want to tear him down?

Posted by: Mikey at April 12, 2006 9:01 AM
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