2007/12/07

Response to Rick Santorum's proposal to spark revolution in Iran

I attended college in Washington DC from 1978 to 1982, the last two years of the Carter Administration and the first two years of the Reagan Administration. I was absolutely appalled to hear members of the Reagan Administration blaming the troubles in Central America (El Salvador's 12-year civil war began in 1979, as did the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua) on "outside agitators," as though one could simply create revolutions at will wherever they were tactically necessary. One item that was made quite clear by books like Washington's War on Nicaragua and David and Goliath was that the sparsely-populated NorthEast of Nicaragua was an area where the Contras could operate pretty much at will, but in the heavily-populated SouthWest area, they were a negligible presence.
Well, just as with the ABM/Star Wars/Missile Defense/etc program, bad ideas never really die, they just hibernate for awhile and then rise yet again from the dead. So I was appalled, but not particularly surprised, to see Rick Santorum produce pretty much the same "We can gin up revolutions wherever and whenever we please" idea resurrected yet again in the pages of the Inky. A buddy of mine sent the Inky a good letter and I sent them the following:

Rick Santorum describes Iran as being an extremely important component of the two armed political parties Hezbollah and Hamas. He also states that "support for pro-democracy groups can be effective" in forcing Iran to adopt policies it currently resists.

I would notice that the US has tried and failed miserably to create indigenous resistance movements in other countries. Back during the 1960s, the US failed so miserably to create an indigenous resistance movement in North Vietnam that the effort was abandoned long before the US lost South Vietnam. During the 1980s, the indigenous resistance movement created for Nicaragua did so poorly that the Contras would have been completely ineffective had it not been for other policy tools (Primarily trade sanctions) being used in concert with them. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there was no indigenous resistance movement to help US troops conquer the country, there was no "Fifth Column" to work behind enemy lines, despite the fact that US agencies had over a decade to create one.

Is Iran just smarter than the US at doing this sort of thing? My suspicion is that they're not. My suspicion instead, is that Hezbollah and Hamas serve genuine political needs within their home countries. After all, they were both successful at electoral politics there. If the US succeeds in "cutting off the head" (i.e., invading and occupying Iran), will Hezbollah and Hamas shrivel up and die? They might be weakened by the loss of Iran, but I seriously doubt their influence would end.

Santorum declares, not that Iran is a serious threat in its own right, but that "a nuclear-armed Iran would be our greatest national security challenge since the end of the Cold War." In other words, it's a comparative threat, not a threat per se. Personally, I consider Global Warming to be a vastly greater threat than Iran, but Santorum is speaking specifically of "national security" challenges.

Let's not "Put aside politics to confront Iran," let's instead see if we can work out some sort of workable solution for us all. We've had quite enough of the US showing its fangs and rattling its sabre. Those policies have gone nowhere. It's time for more serious and more sensible policies.

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