What the Iranians Are Probably Thinking

News Abroad

Mr. Polk taught at Harvard from 1955 to 1961 when he was appointed a member of the Policy Planning Council of the US State Department. In 1965 he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and founded its Middle Eastern Studies Center. Subsequently, he also became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Among his books are The United States and the Arab World, The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century, Neighbors and Strangers: the Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs and the just-published Understanding Iraq. Other of his writings can be accessed on www.williampolk.com.

The American military learned from the German army that war gaming is often helpful in seeing what motivates the opponent, what he is likely to do and what effect his doing it would have. So, I will here imagine that I am an Iranian policy planner doing what I used to do for the American government. Here is what I would see and what would I advise.

Reading what American officials are saying in the press I would assume that they are planning to attack the country, abort Iran’s nuclear program and destroy the regime. My job would be to make invading Iran less attractive and offer an alternative that America could accept. First, I would ask intelligence analysts what the risks are.

The first is espionage. The US could attempt through covert action to bring about a coup d’état as it did in Iran in 1952. Iranian security officers would report that the US is now doing this.

The second risk is an aerial attack like Israel made in 1981 on the Osiraq nuclear facility in Iraq. America has given Israel the weapons to carry out such an attack on Iran and itself has bases surrounding Iran from which it could launch its own attacks. But such an attack could probably not succeed with conventional weapons because the most important Iranian sites are deep underground. So, the Americans would probably use nuclear weapons. This would be a catastrophe: even a small nuclear weapon – what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called a “robust nuclear earth penetrator” -- would kill thousands, perhaps scores of thousands of Iranians, and throw up about 1 million cubic meters of radioactive soil.

As an Iranian policy planner, I would carefully study the recent history of Iraq as a sort of “war game.” I would see that not having nuclear weapons did not save Saddam. I would also see that it was not so much nuclear weapons that worried the US. During the Reagan and first Bush administrations, the US actually helped Saddam move toward acquiring them. Now America has accepted even North Korea into the nuclear club. So, the lesson I would draw is that had Saddam waited until he had a bomb, the US probably would not have moved militarily against him.

But Saddam did not have time to wait. Would Iran? What I would see a rising tide of threat: from being told that Iran is part of the “Axis of Evil, ” I would note that America is pressuring suppliers not to sell Iran even “conventional” means to defend itself. Iranian intelligence officers would report that for much of the last two years, Americans have been over-flying Iran, pin-pointing targets as they did in Iraq before their 2003 invasion, and infiltrating agents to encourage revolt. Since it is on the Internet, I would have read the “National Defense Strategy of the United States of America,” justifying preemptive attack. So, how could Iran defend itself?

Iran’s first defense is its people. Although the government is disliked by many Iranians, they are as unlikely to aid a foreign invader as anti-Castro Cubans were during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion or anti-Saddam Iraqis were during the 2003 invasion. The 150,000 members of the Revolutionary Guard showed their fanatical devotion to their country during the Iraq-Iran war and almost certainly would do so again. Iran is large and has several times the population of Iraq; so it could, and almost certainly would, fight a protracted guerrilla war. The government has been stockpiling suitable arms to do so.

Iran’s second asset is that American forces are bogged down in the Iraqi “quicksand.” Most Americans realize that guerrilla wars are ruinously expensive and virtually unwinnable; they might not support an attack on another country. Almost certainly America’s allies would not.

The third asset is that, unlike remote and isolated North Korea, Iran has foreign friends and allies. Iran’s national religion, Shiism, has millions of adherents outside of Iran. Paradoxically, insuring the political success of the Iraqi Shiis was the most significant gift of America to Iran. An American attack on Iran would push the Iraqis Shiis into what has been heretofore a mainly Sunni resistance. Then, American troops would be almost as much hostages as actors.

Iran’s fourth asset is that, unlike North Korea, it is a significant trading partner with countries and multinational corporations in much of Europe and Asia. China, in particular, is a major consumer of Iranian oil. Disruption of Iranian production would hurt China and drive much of the world into depression.

The Iranian policy planner, however, would be naïve to count on these assets. He would realize that governments do not always act on a rational intelligence assessments. Sometimes they are driven by ideology or listen to the siren song of those who seek their help. As in Iraq, exile groups tell the Americans that the Iranian government is weak and that the people are only waiting for a signal to overthrow it. So, the Iranian planner would tell his government that the only sure way to avoid attack is to acquire nuclear weapons. That is what all the other nuclear powers -- the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and now North Korea – have done.

The “acquisition phase,” however, is a time of great danger. Iranians must assume that America, Israel and perhaps others will try to stop Iran before it gets nuclear weapons. Therefore a prudent Iranian policy planner would advise his government to move as rapidly and as secretly as possible. Presumably this is being done. A second prudent action would be to deploy facilities widely to make their destruction difficult or impossible. This has already been done. (Parenthetically, to show that my hypothetical Iran policy planner is not just a wooly-minded Persian mullah, a distinguished student of strategy at the Hebrew University in Israel commented that “Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.”)

During this dangerous acquisition period, which might last several years, I would advise the Iranian government to throw dust in the eyes of would-be attackers. The “dust” could consist of the claim that Iran’s program is purely for the production of energy and so is both peaceful and legal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and/or that under appropriate circumstances Iran would drop work on weapons. Diplomatically, it could hold endless discussions on terms and conditions with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the European Union and, even, with the United States. This is exactly what has happened. Dissimulation (taqiyyah) is, after all, a traditional Shia Persian defense.

Dropping the role of a Persian adviser, I see two key questions: first, could Iran already have a nuclear weapon? The answer is a guarded yes. During the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union, controls broke down. The “guardians” were not being paid a living wage and were looting storage dumps. Almost everything was for sale. Iran had the money to buy. No one knows if it actually did. We know that it got components and know-how from Pakistan. If it has even one weapon, then an attack by the US would almost certainly be catastrophic either or both to America and to Israel.

Second, if Iran does not yet have the bomb, what should be done? Further threats will only harden its resolve and military action would cause unacceptable damage. The only sensible way out of the dilemma we face is a serious move toward regional nuclear disarmament and suitable security guarantees to Iran. Such a change of policy has so many benefits for America – and rest of the world including Israel – that it should be undertaken immediately.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Polk may be short on realistic recommended solution because there aren't any very good ones left.

What was needed to stop Iran from going nuclear was a carrot, a stick, and joint strategy, shared by the US and its allies, for using those two tools.

If Mr. Korachev seriously thinks there is a snowball's chance in hell of G.W. Bush becoming the first person in world history to launch a first-strike nuclear attack he is loonier than the "certified" deranged leaders of the country he seems to have a rather cartoonish knowledge of.

Fratboy W. Bush squandered America's conventional stick using it to turn Saddam's tyranny into a less stable anarchy.

His massively incompetent administration failed until this week to even discern the value in having a carrot to go along with the (since quagmired) stick.

The We-Don't-Do-Nation-Building administration lacks both a credible strategy on Iran and the wherewithal with which to formulate one. By the time Hillary or John McCain or whomever takes over in 2009 it will most probably be too late.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


I never said "the U.S. is invading Iran." It is certainly also undeniable that America still has the ability to blow up huge swathes of Iran and create an Al Qaeda paradise, without using nuclear weapons itself.

It is also painfully obvious that the USA does not have anything like the volunteer manpower, the public will, or the international credibility (all of which would be needed to force a lasting pro-Western regime change on Iran) which it DID have before large amounts of these three capabilities were recklessly and ineptly (if not treasonously) squandered on the Iraq boondoogle.

"Everyone" may see indeed see "that hour is late" on Ahmadinejad's drive for nuclear weaponry. That makes it all the more regrettable that the U.S. efforts in this late hour are headed by discredited, distrusted and proven incompetents, greatly weakened by their own hubris, arrogance, and past blunders. Slogans and jargon like EBO may win elections, but they are not the same as a credible foreign policy strategy.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


Good evening. Usually, I jump right into a posting such as yours with a fire/ aim/ ready attitude but, your post was so well written, thought provoking and logical it caused two day pause/ reflection on the points presented.

It is unfortunate that many threads at HNN turn into a pissing contest instead of an enlightened learning experience of shared ideas/ thoughts/ examples/ solutions/ problem solving and networking of resources. War especially, one involving our great nation, evokes high emotions/ anxiety/ sentiment and a defensive posture against any viewpoint not shared by the reader/ participant. If this were 1982 and a Falkland's War discussion the temperature of these posts would be freezing to nonexistent.

I totally agree that all wars are political/ ideological in nature but, carry with them an underlying current/ mix of economic need/ necessity/ wants, religiosity, social aims/ constraints, historical baggage/ prejudices/ tribalism, territorial protection/ objectives and oddly for some societies war was/ is an occupation... Sparta or Mongolia... the United States has made the military/ war an occupation/ career and we are a very warlike/ violent people/ nation/ society.

The issue of US not partaking/ utilizing/ history of preemptive warfare is a false flag just ask the North American plains Indian. The War of 1812 saw the British burn the US Capitol but, our history doesn't mention our provoking incursions/designs on Canada or actions in/around Toronto. The US has either taken lead/ directly instigated/ precipitated every conflict it has been involved in since.

As for the war in Iraq being won or lost... it's not over until the last body hits the dirt with a thud. The German's swept through France yet, lost WWII. The US had a kill rate advantage of 30-1 versus Vietnam and lost. The home team always holds the edge for they have nowhere else to go. Genocide/total annihilation is the only way to defeat the home team. There is talk by some of Germany/Japan graciousness following losing WWII but, I have many Japanese friends who during a good drunk will gladly share their resentment of the US. Wars also are proven to be very fluid/cyclical and have definite maturation patterns/ periods. Look no further than Afghanistan and the current US troubles there.

To the warhawk who boasts that the US has every right to occupy/ nation build in Iraq or cannot understand why Iraqi's are resistant my only question to these folks is a theoretical one that I have asked here before without response...

The Russian Army occupies your town do you?

A.) Appease, assist, placate, cooperate, welcome the Russian invader


B.) Kill, attack, resist, fight against the Russian invader until your own death relieves one of life's burden from the oppressor

Now put yourself in the shoes of a native Iraqi.

Take care...

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Pox infected blankets... Trail Of Tears...

Germ warfare at it's finest.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Not for the squeamish...


Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


Reality bites. Help yourself to read whatever/ comment whenever but, ignoring what may or may not be true and wearing darkened shades to filter out unpleasantness is your loss/stupidity. This information was available on Italian TV but, unless you understand Italian the post would be of little value except for the shocking video.

If you really believe that the US DOD does not have superior/space age/leading edge weaponry such as lasers then it is you who are the ignoramus.

Finally, believe me I have read all your posts and even for a dope like me am thoroughly unimpressed. My hope is that you do not make your career as an academic.

PS... don't have any unwanted 'bowel movements" after reading this rebuttal to your less than educated response.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


I am really surprised. You of all HNN posters who, happens to be one of the best historians at this site, questioning the Cherokee death march across the Trail Of Tears or more shockingly not even disputing this event/defending USG actions/genocide.

I never expected you of all people to be so short shifted to this little piece of Americana...



This little tidbit of history goes a long way helping us to understand/explain the rights nonchalant attitude/ignoring the death of innocent Iraqi's who we were sent to liberate.

Liberate from this earth that is... only 946 Iraqi civilians killed during May. We need to step it up and drop a few thousand more per month if Mr. Bush wants to show up Mr. Jackson don't you think?

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


I wasn't through with you yet as my post this morning was rushed heading out the door to the office. My reading material also includes the Weekly Standard but, why bother when we know you already devour their BS...

Here is some better material for you on laser development usage from a more comforting rightist perspective...

See this months DTI pg. 26


This will assist in your understanding of lasers as viable battlefield weaponry.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


Hello. It comes down to two things... manliness and money.

Remember George HW Bush and the Wimp Factor? Junior Bush vowed never to be cast in these particular footsteps of old Poppy. Iraq is his ball scratching moment. Iran his tobacco spittoon. Tough guy... bring 'em on/smoke 'em out... he's a sissy and latent mothers boy.

Look at the hawks... all tough talk/macho... O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh... forget Kimberly Dozier these jackals would take a serious ass whipping from an average sized school girl but, behind a microphone look out.

Who do you think some of these posters are emulating? Certainly not William F. Buckley Jr. or Bill Moyers.

This site at time seethes with machismo from the same posters who rail against Bill Clinton for coping a feel and a BJ... Oppressed sexual desires/frustrations vented at a history blog... is it any wonder no consensus or solutions are ever found here?

The second driver is money. The US does everything for/worship of cold hard cash. Nothing else matters and surely, nothing better get in the way of making it. That is why we, as a nation, have a limited moral compass/ compassion and strong desire/emulation of those with money. Regardless, of how the money was obtained.

Iran has oil. Oil equates to money. So we need to take out Iran. Though money is never mentioned as a reason... it's an evil you know especially, for those who don't have it. Or, so that those who have it say. The money men have been shut out from Iran since 1979... payback's a bitch.

Re-read your excellent post with money in mind and you'll see the tie in...

TV ratings = money

Rabid demagoguery = money

War = money

Diplomacy does not = money (in most cases) therefore, out the window with this loss leader.

The progress of mankind as an intelligent/whole/full potential being is a few thousand years away... when money doesn't matter and sex is not taboo.

Have a good evening...

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


You write, "defeated Iraq". Where the hell is this defeat/when did it happen/date and what's the name of the planet you're living on? At last glance we are still fighting and dying in country/everyday to the tune of 2.465 dead. Sure, doesn't smell like victory to me.

Your rhetoric is not only enough to choke a horse but, is totally mindless. Invest $0.50 to buy a paper/read the front page then, come back to tell us about our stunning victory in Iraq.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

"war is meant to achieve particular political ends" This Darren is undoubtedly the truth.

For the same reason I've often thought it silly that people try to equate Vietnam with military failure, hence, political failure. Not even close to being so. The Truman policy of the time prescribed the "containment" of communism. And in asia our Vietnam presence accomplished that. If not the actual killing of commies the act of warring positively curtailed Russia and China (to a lesser degree) from attempting to spread communism.

By the time we got out the world scene had changed and the commies were no longer bent on spreading communism worldwide as they did after WWII.

We are effectively doing the same thing in the Middleeast that we did in Vietnam, and with great success. It is only a matter of degree. Should we be as sucessful as we changed Vietnam's social, political and economic form forever or should our success look more like the Marshall Plan? Those that hate Republicans will only accept a Marshall Plan model and will go kicking and screaming the entire way because of the imperfections of war.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/5/2006

<And yet, Mr. Shcherban, it's the nature of those who hate America, abroad and domestically, that tells me it's on a right track.>

And yet, Mr Kovachev, the character/"nature" attacks is infamously poor substitution for logical arguments and undeniable historical facts, which I supplied (though in very abridged format) plenty, but you countered not.
Before I forget: my congratulations
on joining the ranks of intiution-driven religious and political freaks.

Any way, what higher nature are you and the your likes of?

One more sample of typically American
ignorance, arrogance and brutality.

Peter Kovachev - 6/4/2006

And yet, Mr. Shcherban, it's the nature of those who hate America, abroad and domestically, that tells me it's on a right track.

Let me know if you wish to make a point about Iran and we'll chat.

mark safranski - 6/3/2006


The U.S. is not invading Iran. The Bush administration will use an EBO campaign to deconstruct all of Iran's modern systems ( command & control, communiations, power, water, rail etc. etc.).

This doesn't mean it is wise to attack or that Iran can't retaliate or that there is a guarantee of even destroying nuke facilities but as far as destabilizing all of Iran's urban centers this threat is a very real stick. We have 3 x the air power positioned in the Gulf now that we did when we invaded Iraq.

The Iranians know this and so do the Russians and the Chinese ( hence the sudden shift at the UNSC and the discussions about having direct talks - everyone suddenly sees that the hour is late)

Arnold Shcherban - 6/3/2006

Mr. Mahan,
The whole thing is that the US foreign policy has never been guided
by firm and definite ideological or humane principles. Ideology and humanism have been used just as smoking screen to hide real principles: economic expansion and eventually world hegemony. Money, profits, as it was stressed by Patrick, that's the US corporate elite's (that designs and controls political and social life in this country) ideology in general, and religion, in particular.
Therefore, your reference to the so-called policy of containment is the reference to one of those smoke-screens, not to the actual motivations of the Truman's or the consequent Washington administration.
Americans at the time had been told
and far from just by fanatical preachers and right and nutty journalists, but by government officials, that unless Vietkong and North Vietnam were stopped, very soon Reds will be marching not only across entire Asian continent, but here - on the US territory. (Not already mentioning all other lies and provocations plagiarized directly from the manuals of Goebbels' propaganda) that Communists have not only win(though at terrible price thanks to the US barbaric bombing and napalm, but turned South Vietnam and Cambodia into communist states. Plus,
the vast majority in the world (including millions of Americans themselves) protested and condemned the US barbaric, anti-humane, and anti-democratic(against majority will) actions at the time.
However, communism has not spead all over Asian continent, not mentioning the unrealization of really scary for the Americans "Russian are coming" projection. Moreover, up to now a single piece of hard evidence is yet to be found that Russia and/or China had been planning and executing communist conquest of the world, marxist theoretical predictions of the proletarian revolutions in the mostly developed capitalist countries notwithstanding, being stopped just by the US "warring" (read - imperialism), especially in the Third World, as you hypothesize.
What was "effectively" done over South-Eastern US "warring" (with the help of their allies among the native polulation) is killing, at the least, 2 millions of Asians, not mentioning
the enormous scale of later suffering among the survivors and economic destruction, i.e. the main
goals of any terrorist groups and organizations, effected with the same
deadly means too. Not mentioning already the bloodshed in the aftermath of that Asian US affair that the US policies there had (according to ahistorical historians, like yourself) nothing to do with.
And you quite right: "we" are doing
the same thing (and principally, on the same reasons, though technically
speaking, the reasons are different)
in the Middle East and with "great success" too... considering the number
of dead, wounded, and the "degree" of the destruction of economic and social life in such a short period of time.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/2/2006

Pearl Harbor was a military attack
against military fleet. Japan never
attacked territory of the United States, not mentioning its civilians
on the US territory.
US atomic bombs were used primarily against civilian population of Japan,
as the WMD of TERROR, attacks which in modern history had been always recognized as WAR CRIMES by all civilised countries (the other thing that virtually every country had one time or another been commited such crimes). Not mentioning already that
just US conventional bombing killed dozens of thousands of Japanese civilians with destruction of Japan's major cities before the nuclear one.
Besides, the major point of my previous comments was not debating the reason behind different US military actions/wars, but stress the
record degree of hypocrisy of the US elite, when constantly fear-mongering Americans, while commiting numerous acts of outrageous agressions against other countries (Vietnam, Cambodia,
Cuba, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, and others; some - directly, some - by proxy) without its territory ever being attacked by any COUNTRY).

Arnold Shcherban - 6/2/2006

My non-dear non-friend, your obsolete argument about many people's great desire to live in this country, the undeniable fact indeed, has very little to do with their feelings and opinions about US foreign policies.
The absolute majority of those folks
are apolitical(as they are everywhere in the world, including this country)and poor that seek US residence to live better economically and socially. Millions of Muslims come and live in Western Europe on exactly same reasons, but they also are against many moves of European governments in abroad.
Just one also undeniable fact: there are millions of American citizens which feel ashamed and condemn those policies.
Forget about murderous tyrants (many of which this country either supported
in the past or continue to support as we speak, despite the protests of great majority of corresponding populus), let's play your democratic card and go for "help" to Europe.
It is also undeniable fact, according
to numerous polls in the past and in present, that majority (but rarely their governments) in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, i.e. major European states oppose many US initatives on the international arena, not mentioning already this country's geo-strategic agenda.
Unfortunately, your imperialistic
mind apparently found my other, much more important, arguments and facts indormitable to debate.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/2/2006

Vietnam: defoliants, which also happened to be extremely harmful for
humans and animals and considered by
UN commissions as chemical weapon, i.e. WMD, the conclusion surely opposed by just one country - US.
Iraq: radoactive bombs and shells, with human victims among Iraqis(especially children) and "coalition of the willing" troops.

Tim R. Furnish - 6/1/2006

What in God's name are you talking about? What "personal attacks" have I engaged in?

Tim R. Furnish - 6/1/2006

No, it's not "self-published." Greenwood/Praeger published it: http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/C8383.aspx
I don't treat this website with contempt. I treat folks who engage in ad hominem attacks and Far Left ideology contempt. In fact, since I take the time to actually come on here and answer my critics (go read some of my dozen or so articles on this site), I must take it rather seriously, wouldn't you say?

Rob Willis - 6/1/2006

Goods for service, lad, goods for service.

Rob Willis - 6/1/2006

Uh, that should be "germs" in that strange verbal gap.

Apparently I have some.

Darren Michael Peterson - 6/1/2006

Oh no! I cannot believe it. A professor of a college comes onto a public blog and writes the way that you do? My God I feel sorry for anyone taking a class from you.

And it is supposedly only the "lefties" that make such bad professors.

I am doubly shocked. You profess to be an expert on Islamic history and instead of persuading people based upon your knowledge you make personal attacks.

You are a member of a college yet you treat this website hosted by a university (and their guests) with such contempt... then you wonder why people do not take you seriously?

It really is almost to precious to believe.

Darren Michael Peterson - 6/1/2006

I would say that the open-mindedness of the left is reserved for people who seriously wish to explore ideas. Why should anyone seriously wish to debate whether the earth is flat just because someone wants to claim it is? Besides naming a few of the sects of the Islamic faith and the childish continuation of lowering the standards and attacking well meaning people wishing to discuss and learn about serious issues... you have shown yourself worthy of a guest spot on Rush's radio show or maybe FOX news.

Ahhhhh... that old attack of the liberal when he doesn't want to play the game, "But you are supposed to listen to everyone!" No sir, only to those with something worth listening too.

If you are an author, then you must know that people will use the way you present yourself as a measure of your credibility. Alas, from what I have read... in this case, writing a book does not an author, or scholar, make.

BTW, I am unable to find your book under your name using Google. Is it self published for just a few readers? Or can anyone find it out there with the rest of the mainstream?

Darren Michael Peterson - 6/1/2006

Mr. Safranski,
I agree that the recommendations may not necessarily work, that regional disarmament is difficult, if not unlikely.

What I personally liked was the human face of the Iranians. I have known many of them who fled Iran after the Shah. I also really believe that you must know everything you can about your opponent... believing that he is inferior or incapable of rational thought leads to assumptions that usually have to be paid for in blood.

Firmness in international dealings, especially from a moral standpoint is difficult. President Carter was vilified because of his reluctance to deal with despots and tyrant... the problem seemed to be, a lot of them were on our side. I believe that his Camp David peace accords are worth the effort though of dealing with other people as equals.

Beginning a negotiation in the diplomatic realm by making unilateral demands and threats, no matter how well it plays at home will not further any diplomatic goals.

Yes. We have to be secure. We want all people in the world to have the freedoms we enjoy. As anyone who has had children or studied discipline knows... punishment really does only work for short-term behavior. It can also create resentment and a desire to retaliate.

Carrots and stocks can work. More carrots than sticks. The middle-east sees the past differently than we do. They see actions we have taken in light of the cold war, where we supported unsavory characters and they have not forgotten.

They are also a very proud people. Some Americans will mistakenly equate material worth with pride... believing that the Iranian people would be willing to forsake their national pride (like the Iraqi were presumed to do once we defeated Saddam) to gain the material wealth and freedoms we do have.

There are not many democratic traditions within the middle-east. Many of the countries were created based on the needs of the European victors of WWI rather than the reality of the people occupying the land. Iran is really not one of these though.

The only real democratic Muslim country in the area is Turkey. It was an internally caused shift that was fairly bloody. However, even with their strong desire to be aligned to the west, their secular government and their tradition of being a worthy ally in NATO they are still not considered "western" enough for the European Union.

It makes me wonder if it is possible for any Arab or Muslim country to become "civilized" enough to meet the demanding criteria that we hold them to? Turkey should be courted and immediately brought into the EU and a free trade agreement with America. We should use examples of success for any country that deals with us on a mutually respectful basis and hope for continuing growth.

If there is to be compromise, if there is going to be a way to eventually persuade the people of the middle-east that our way is better it should be by promotion rather than force.

I personally do not feel qualified to tell the non-combatant casualties that I thought it was in their best interest that they die or lose loved ones because I felt they deserved freedom along the American lines. I believe that this should be left up to them with as much encouragement as we can.

I do agree that it will be difficult. Solutions are what is needed. Some who have posted have been very articulate with the problems... and the problems with Mr. Polk.

While Mr. Polk's essay is but one voice, all the voices looking towards a rational solution should be welcomed.

Peter Kovachev - 6/1/2006

...ah, but the original condition was devoit of wages and money as well!

Darren Michael Peterson - 6/1/2006

Mr. Ebbitt,
I made one last comment in the sand box portion and decided that they were having too much fun and didn't require nor want adult supervision. So I will post under this subject from now on and since they don't have anything particular to say, I won't bother reading it.

It is indicative of way things are today, even in our national political arena where we feel a need to demonize the opponent instead of articulating (objectively and honestly) their beliefs versus ours on an issue. Like Sunday talk shows... guests with opposing views are not invited to air their views, but to be battled with by the host so they can try pontificate their own views.

Is it any wonder that some would consider diplomacy useless? Or that the UN has only one purpose and that is to support us and to give us the resolutions we can justify as a basis for actions. Yet, when the UN does not do our dance they are attacked?

Same with organizations for human rights. Their reports are valid for detailing the violations of our enemies, but if they report on human abuses in America then they also are attacked.

Domestically and internationally, what I see is a bunch of rabid people in a pissing contest with another group of rabid people... neither side willing to back down. They both are 100% morally certain.

I am more a pragmatist than an ideologue. That is one of the reasons I don't like words or behaviors redefined to win an argument, such as the people who wish to believe that Mr. Kovachev's initial posting was not attacking Mr. Polk personally. Okay, I will grant that it is my belief that it was a personal attack and those that disagree are not within the same frame of reference I am. However, then in my opinion all their credibility is lost and why bother any more?

If we think about it... diplomacy really isn't that big of a deal between countries that think alike. Anyone can manage those. It is the countries that we are not in agreement with... the contentious relationships that require statesmen.

All we have are politicians. Politicians who have learned that by dividing, making it an "us versus them" issue instead of one based upon the differences of the means to what is best for America they can win.

Rhetoric, name calling, "plain talk", and "cowboy antics" plays well for the home crowd but is detrimental in the diplomatic arena. I personally do not need my emotions stirred to do what is right. Instead, I want to know all I can and then do the best with the information I have and the reasoning I applied to it.

Some may really really really hate diplomacy. They may despise having to consider any other nation's concerns. Tough... that is the way of the world. That is the pragmatic streak.

Yes, we all want to be secure. We all want everyone to share in the rights we enjoy. Reality is... we are not going to get there by the road we are taking.

Progress will be made by mature, intelligent people. Not because someone uses boorish language and behaviors to stifle debate. Not because they want to make me react from fear.

Darren Michael Peterson - 6/1/2006

Mr. Furnish,
Possibly you don't believe that it was a personal attack. Fair enough.

As to the imposition of democratic values... it can be argued that those were already a part of the societies defeated in WWII and we were just restoring them.

India? I do not know if I would really want to use them as a prime example of Western interference in a country... the "civilizing" or westernizing of India was extremely bloody. The breaking away of the Muslims into Pakistan and Bangladesh was also incredibly bloody.

As for Turkey, you may note in some postings I have made, that Turkey is indeed an example of the democratic institution in a Muslim country.

It was brought about internally... They have been our supporters in NATO for about 50 years, have been trying to enter the EU for quite a few years... yet are still met with the western attitude that they are not up to the standards required.

Which shows me that the fundamental changes expected of Muslim countries before they are considered acceptable (civilized?) will not let this end with Iraq or with Iran.

Asking Americans to sacrifice should be based on a strategic goal with clearly defined objectives and a means to get there. I have not seen anything other than rhetoric designed to instill fear and an attempt to bully.

I would say that the whole "neo-con" debacle is going to be a sad chapter in our history. For the record, it is widely believed that the "neo-cons" were democrats who disagreed with the Democrat's stand during the Vietnam era. That American should take the role of creating change through the world.

They created wonderful reports detailing all the sins of all the countries in which they wanted to spread democracy. Unfortunately, they seemed to believe that all we had to do was intimidate them or invade them to achieve these goals.

I do not know about Wilsonian idealism as pertaining to the 1970's up to today... I believe that there are ways we can influence change in the world. I do not believe that is starts with calling those agree with "evil" and making ultimatums. Yes, they may be evil... but that is not a responsible way to being negotiations.

Rob Willis - 6/1/2006

Patrick, pop quiz: When were first confirmed to be the cause of disease?

Rob Willis - 6/1/2006

If you guys can pull this off, remember, you have to turn it over in original condition. That means tearing up a bunch of roads, buildings, bridges, etc.
Re-stocking the mountain lions and Kodiak bears might be tough, but hey, there will be a huge labor force willing to pitch in for low wages, eh?

Tim R. Furnish - 6/1/2006

I observe that all you've managed are ad hominem attacks. Care to dispute any of my historical examples or, Allah forbid, actually READ my book before you condemn it out of hand? What happened to open-mindedness on the Left?

James Spence - 6/1/2006

Pay attention. "old venerable essence of Islam" were my words, not "strain". I’m astonished by your character revealed from your comments here considering you wrote a book about an Islamic movement. Now I wonder how much you really know. At one point I thought your opinions were credible , but that’s over, seeing as you’re the type who’s entertained by boorish comments from some big mouth warrior over in Canada who I wouldn’t give the time of day. But you really redefine the meaning of scholar. Congratulations!

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

...and not for the ones who don't want to wake up the house with their loud laughter either, Mr. Ebbitt.

Your "article" failed to mention teluric currents, voodoo dolls, joo-joo magic, poisoned candy, AIDS powder, impotency rays and other popular phantasmagoria of the Arab street. Now that I know what you read for information, Mr. Ebbitt, I feel better for ignoring most of your posts.

Have a good night and don't let the death rays bite.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Mr. Shcherban,

As I find lengthy responses to boilerplate politburo releases pointless, I'll just save my comments for one. With regards to "the will of the overwhelming majority in the world," I'm not sure how you've determined what it may be, since the "overwhelming majority" is governed by murderous tyrants who won't let the folks below speak too much. But if immigration applications and attempts to sneak in are any indication, that majority would give their mothers to the hyenas to have a chance to live in the US.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Actually, come to think of it (although it will undermine my pithiness), I have more than two words for you regarding our nuking of Japan in WWII:
Bataan Death March
Alliance with Hitler
But as you're probably a Chomskian, this short historical litany of horrors perpetrated by the Empire of Japan will no doubt fail to penetrate your thick cranium.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Ah, irony.
Let's see: regarding the U.S. use of nuclear weapons, I have two words for you: Pearl Harbor.
And I'd be interested to know the other alleged examples of the U.S. using WMDs. Please.

Arnold Shcherban - 5/31/2006

As far as I'm aware of there is only
one country in this world, the most democratic, peaceful (a la business-minded) and the least evil who actually not just used nuclear weapons on two occasions, and WMD, in general, on many others, but accumulated the enormous arsenal of those and continue to develop the new ones and upgrade the old ones.
That same country which initiated directly or by proxy the most number
of military attacks/wars against the other countries/governments around the world in the last half of 20th and 21st centuries; the same country
that blocked the greatest number of
UN Security Councel resolutions. The same country that killed more FOREIGN civilians combined than any other country in the world over the abiovementioned period of time, the same country whose governments continuously spit on UN, international laws, and the will of the overwhelming majority in the world, acting on international arena as it pleased, while professing itself as the Land of the Law, simulataneously usurping the rights
to have "interests" in any corner of the earth.
The same country that perpertually announces new and new great threats and dangers any other country(ies) that doesn't play ball with it at the time cause to its security and those interests in order to continue its drive to world economic and military hegemony.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Yes, tanks are more fun. I'd like to borrow one to run over a neighbour's noisy motor bike.

I'm glad you'll let me have BC, Professor, I'll even take the Liberals, only because of the pretty mountains, the phenomenal salmon fishing and the fact that my wife's family have a swell spot on one of the Gulf Islands. Perhaps we can give Quebec to a future Aztlan then, since neither one of us wants it. We can let the UN feed them. Of course, they could ask for "territorial integrity" like the Pals, and that would be interesting.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Well, double-honoured, Professor. Of course I've read your articles here, all of them I'm sure and with pleasure. I'm just so lousy with names.

Most article contributors here either ignore us peons in the pits or respond with a few haughty lines. And here I am, bantering with you about how to divvy up Canada and to let the Aztlan fans have their Aztlan so that they can eat it after all the supermarkets have been been cleaned out in a fortnight.

Now here is a contributor, right in this issue, who represents the more typical attitude on these pages:

"I welcome informed collegial comment on particulars of historical fact, comparative text, and the overall meaning of the discoveries presented. And, i'll respond point for point in this forum, to such critique from colleagues. So, first read the book." (Steven F. Sage, The Playwright Hitler Plagiarized).

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Honoured to be offered club membership. This for the butlers: I prefer peaty single malts, like Laphroaig and Lagavulin, at room temperature, in two-shot measures in a tumbler and neat, of course. After half a dozen of those my taste buds will fall asleep, so Grant's will be fine.

Didn't know you had essays here; I'm off to check them out now.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Oh, I achieved archdemoniac status sometime back.....as evidenced by the comments by the Islamophiles on some of my own columns on HNN. Welcome to the club!

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Goodness, no, Mr. Furnish, it would have never crossed my mind to confuse with such. As things are, I suspect that you and I have become the arch-demons of this forum and that if continue carrying on like this, we'll soon be assaulted with wet letuce leafs.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

I meant tanks, not heavy machine guns. And I meant we should just throw in the towel on AZ, NM and SoCal (but NOT TEXAS--we stole that fair and square!) and shift our border north to include Alberta, Sasquatch (or whatever you call that place), etc. But not BC: the libs can have that. That way, English stays the primary language AND global warming ha less of an impact on our new Americo-Canadian Imperium. Plus, we all have lots of oil and UBL and his ilk are thus defanged.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Well, they don't speak for ME!!!! (As you have no doubt by now ascertained.) Nor, I would argue, do they speak for the other 59,999,999 folks who voted for Bush last time.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

What "old venerable strain of Islam" are you talking about? Muhammad's, with its military conquests? Ibn Taymiyah's, with its division of the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, the latter fit only for conquest? I don't agree with this argument that militant, intolerant Islam is a modern, atypical mode of Islamic thought. It's a strain from the beginning.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Can we negotiate on your offer? M-60s are fine, but if Rambo can get them so can we. Cobras are little out of date. How about some Apaches instead? I thought of asking for a smallish carrier, but repainting the whole thing would total our annual military budget.

No deal on the union thing, though. The Aztlan fans will get in their jalopies to sample our free medicare and generous welfare, and Arizona will suck our lakes dry for its golf courses.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Good Lord, Mr. Spence, I thought opinions such as yours were merely caricatures of conservative pundits.

So, you'd rather wait until Iran strikes with one of its missiles first before responding? And then what would you have your government do, slap Ahmenedijan with a white glove and read the Queensberry rules to him?

If you took the time in learning the difference between a tactical bunker-buster, even a nuclear one, and a strategic multi-warhead missile, you might find that the former is quite a bit more livable than the latter. By far. To put it in plain terms, battlefield nuclears against a military target will kill mostly involved personnel, whereas a loose nuclear exchange (the US or Israel would retaliate massively, have no doubts) will lead to the deaths of millions and unimaginary misery for hundreds of milliohns. The consequences of such as a scenario are actually quite predictable.

Nevertheless, let's hope that Iran understands the seriousness of its course and the determination of the US and Israel on this "no-nukes-for-you" issue, rather than banking on swooning Cassandras such as Mr. Polk. There is still a little time left for the mullahs to step back from the precipice or for the Iranian people to shake their heads and swing those mullahs from Tehran's lamp posts. We can all hope, although hope's cheap.

But even more so, let's hope that attitudes and "philosophies" such as Mr. Polk's and yours -- if you can call pre-emptive surrender a philosophy, rather than a fear-induced bowel movement -- are not representative of your nation and people. Because a nation that worries more about the safety of a self-declared enemy than the survival of its own people deserves to be parcelled up into auction lots and sold off on e-Bay to the highest bidder.

James Spence - 5/31/2006

Never mind. My main question was your stand on a nuclear attack and you answered it . The other point. I wanted to communicate a concept in good faith, not use it as a sword in a dispute. Should have extended the analogy? if only because it implicitly challenges the notion that we are dealing with two radically different, mutually opposed civilizations with the same idiotic intolerance. The Islamic fundamentalism and comparison I am talking about is not the old venerable essence of Islam but the new Deobandism strain that informed the Taliban.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Mr. Peterson,
I don't actually agree with your that Mr. Kovachev "personally attacked" Mr. Polk. Perhaps we should Mr. Polk decide that. I will agree that Mr. Kovachev was less stuffy than many of the posters on here, and buried within his irreverent comments are a number of salient policy criticims of Mr. Polk's cliched essay.
Now, as to what seems to be the main substantive question you addressed to me: can democracy be imposed? Well, we certainly imposed it on Germany and Japan after WW II, did we not? The British, one could argue, imposed it on India. The rub seems to be whether democracy can be imposed on a majority-MUSLIM country. Well, again, Kemal Ataturk imposed it on the Turks after he chased out the Ottoman Sultan. Granted, that was domestic imposition, not foreign, but it was still resisted (although resistance proved futile). I think the jury is still out, but what I find fascinating is that the great neo-con Bush is acting, in this regard, as a Wilsonian idealist and all his critics on the Left seem to have suddenly decided it's not worth it to "bear any burden, pay any price" to help certain Muslims enjoy democracy.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

You know, actually, if our "friends" to the south, assisted by their useful idiots in the media and universities here, are truly hell-bent on reclaiming "Aztlan," then perhaps we should strike a deal with you folks (minus Quebec) to join together? Hell, everyone's calling us an "empire" anyway--may as well act like one.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Hey, I'm all for loading Canada up on M-60s and Cobras....long as you promise not to use them against Montana.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Well, we were the Brits back then and in a sense we still are, as much as our Libs have tried to kill that thought. The Queen is still the official head of our government and the Union Jack is still one of our official flags (something that they don't mention in our school). Many of us still fly the Red Ensign instead of the maple leaf.

Well, I'd prefer if we Canucks acted as globo-cops, of course (beats watching maple syrup drip), but that might be a bit of a challenge with those 50,000 troops (half as reservists), with the forest-green uniforms to add a splash of colour against the drab rocks of Kandahar and those Sea King copters of ours that need something like a week in service for every minute of very hairy flight.

Hey, why don't you big shots give us some of your spare stuff? You give the Egyptians all those fancy goodies they can't even find the gas caps to without an advisor and what have they done for you lately anyway?

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Mr. Spence,
Oh please: I'm getting tired of that ridiculous analogy between Protestant fundamentalists and Islamic ones. Not to be a shameless self-promoter, but try reading my book on the topic. There is no equivalent religio-political movement in Christianity to Mahdism in Islam (which is not to say that intolerant Christian movements don't sometime erupt into history; of course they do, but their motivations are QUITE different from Mahdist ones in Islam). For a Christian movement to be even rougly analogous, it would require a charismatic leader to declare himself the Second Coming of Christ--and last time I checked, that hasn't happened too often. Holy men who think they're the Mahdi, on the other hand, have been very prevalent in Islamic history.
And no, I don't advocate nuking Iran. But I do think it would be extremely dangerous for a Muslim leader like Ahmadinejad, who's obviously expecting the imminent return of the Mahdi/Hidden Imam, to have a nuke at his disposal.

James Spence - 5/31/2006

In response to #90291
Since you agree with Kovachev I don’t see how you can justify a nuclear attack upon a country that hasn’t yet attacked us despite their wild rhetoric. There are significant numbers in both parties of Congress who think the nuclear option against Iran would be absolutely nuts.

Concerning movements, the US may also be viewed from within and without as a country with it own brand of Christianity, with its own "rightly guided one", just as powerful and potentially dangerous as Islam’s Mahdi movement since America’s fundamentalist movement appears as being manifesting itself through its politicians and military power combined with sometimes irrational foreign policy in defeating the "bad" or violent religion and securing the earth with its own God and idea of democracy.

As Kovachev states, to "… kill a few Iranians, irradiate a few tons of soil, anger the Russians and the Chinese and possibly precipitate an economic crisis, we should let Iran develop nukes and learn to live with the consequences" could bring up consequences we can’t even conceive of yet. Besides nuclear fall-out on civilians and an global economic crisis as serious consequences, the success of a preemptive attack with bunker busters would be doubtful since these devices have never proven themselves in a real situation. Second, it wouldn’t just a few Iranians killed. And ultimately, it would probably encourage and strengthen the Mahdi movement.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Hmmm....so you're trying to take credit from the Brits for 1812?
I just recall an article--I believe in "The Economist"--some time back last year about the dismal state of Canada's forces (all, I believe, 50,000 of them--in toto): outdated equipment, lack of training, etc. I'm glad the new folks in Ottawa are going to rectify that.
I must confess to a Niall Ferguson-esque belief that if the U.S. doesn't act as globocop, no one will. And better us than the Chinese or, God forbid, French.

Peter Kovachev - 5/31/2006

Now, now, let's not be cheeky, lest I remind you why your White House had to be painted white.

Canada curently deploys an experitionary land force of about 2,500 in Kandahar province, and also deploys troops in Central Asia, the Balkans and other hotspots on NATO and UN missions. With 1/10th of your population and after a succession of Liberal party governments which decimated our forces, it's not such a dismal record. The current government is determined to beef-up our forces and its equipment and to take on more NATO combat missions, rather than UN peace-keeping duties.

mark safranski - 5/31/2006

Dr. Polk did a good job of laying out what high level analysts would surmise but his offhand recommendation was weak. If regional disarmament was that easy, it would have been done already and currently is about as likely as colonizing the moon.


Tim R. Furnish - 5/31/2006

Not to offend, but isn't "military presence" and "Canadian" a bit of incongruous juxtaposition?

Peter Kovachev - 5/30/2006

Ha! See where stereotypes get you? Actually, where the public is concerned, we're not that much different from you, except that we're monarchists and are big on universal healthcare. Don't forget that we just voted-in a Conservative government which is cranking up our military presence in Afghanistan. As with you folks, our media and foreign affairs drones tend to be on the Left, hence the impression.

NPR, like our CBC is a dinosaur and needs to support itself. To be honest, I first heard the Hidden Imam term from you. I'm familiar with Mahdi-messianism which has been popping up every once in a while. Of course when the folks used to riot over this stuff with swords and sticks few noticed. Bombs got more attention and now nukes have us riveted.

It's good that you're busy, it will keep you off the streets and provide Mr. Peterson with the brief respite he needs to calm his indignation.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/30/2006

Oh, and one more thing: you're CANADIAN!?!?!??!!??!?!?!
Pardon me if I appear to be the stereotypical warmongering Yankee, but....I thought all you guys were simply transplanted Swedes?

Tim R. Furnish - 5/30/2006

Well, I would be nuts myself not to encourage you....although I do want to respond to Mr. Peterson myself once I'm slightly less busy than a one-armed suicide bomber.
Did you hear the NPR story this morning about the Hidden Imam? Ah, those cutting edge NPR reporters--wasn't this big news about 5 months ago?

Peter Kovachev - 5/30/2006

Mr. Furnish,

I'm glad to amuse. Your encouragement will, of course, prompt me to clown around even more, to the disapproval of the likes of Mr. Peterson.

As for Ahmenedijan and his ilk, I do get your point, but the term "nuts" is a very relative one. Acting out one's beliefs without taking reality or consequences into account is one way to define insanity. Mind you, given the fact that so far the concerned parties have done little to respond to the Iranians' performances, it may be that the "nuts" act is just an act, the "crazy like a fox" strategy designed to frighten the opponents. In the case of the Europeans, who have been peeing in their trousers over this and have been offering a sweet inducement after another, I'd say the act is paying off rather handsomely.

Peter Kovachev - 5/30/2006

Mr. Peterson,

You are repeating yourself. It wasn't I who exploited your service record, as you oddly claim; it is you who have been flogging it with every post to establish greater credibility in what is essentially a policy argument. As for a service record providing imunity from softness on terrorism or other issues, just look at Peres and Sharon. Still, you can see from Mr. Furnish that not all veterans see eye to eye on such issues.

With all your blustering about an intelligent debate, you have yet to present a position other than "I'm right because I'm a veteran" or "Mr. Polk is right because he has experience." Well, Mr. Furnish is also a veteran and he disagrees with you on your approach (and finds my posts amusing, to boot), and as for experience, Josef Goebbels had that too, but I'm not about to take advice from his thoughts on the world.

You say that my proposal is simplistic. I would call it elegantly simple, as it presents a fairly simple argument: a nuclear Iran cannot be an option for our future and with time running out, immediate and costly measures are far preferable to inaction or procrastination. As for Mr. Polk, I have already said why I think he's wrong on this issue. To sum-up and further clarify: His proposed solution (regional disarmament) is not a solution but a face-saving strategy for abject capitulation. That a military strike and/or decapitation of the regime may be our best option is supported by the following: 1) regional disarmament, even if all parties were to agree to it today, cannot happen within the narrow time frame we have, 2)countries such as China and Russia will not assist in applying any meaningfull non-military pressure on Iran, 3) the Europeans are unreliable, and 4)Iran cannot be trusted and has even bluntly refused to comply with any such demands.

As you appear to be easily bamboozled by "complexities," let me condense what I think Mr. Polk is saying: Because we might kill a few Iranians, irradiate a few tons of soil, anger the Russians and the Chinese and possibly precipitate an economic crisis, we should let Iran develop nukes and learn to live with the consequences. Well, we all know what the consequences can be, as Iran has stated them repeatedly and if you are ok with that, fine, say so and give us a good reason why you think it makes sense.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/30/2006

Wonderful, a person with experience. However, I do not know if your experience meets with the approval of Mr. Kovachev. That might depend on the date of your service and the closeness of your beliefs to his.

So, if you do have time, can you answer this?

It was presumed that the Iraqi people would greet us with open arms and welcome democracy. Thus, it was assumed that they were rational people under the influence of a dictator... that they valued what we valued and would ignore the methods to attain the means.

It is presumed that we cannot deal with these countries because they are all religious fanatics who want nothing more than to kill us.

I will agree that democracy is the best. That each person should have the freedoms we enjoy. Can it be imposed? Would we be willing to have forces enter our country to give us a better govenment? Especially if the invading forces didn't care anything about our history, culture or religions? Just that they had a better system and saw us as oppressed?

I am not saying that they weren't oppressed.

Since you are experienced and knowledgable, which I will not denigrate. I have no desire to personally attack people who offer an opinon of a person's arguments. I do however dislike personal attacks disguised as reasoned opinions.

So, time permitting, possibly you will be list the reasons why Mr. Polk was deserving of the personal attacks. Thus, to remain focused on my contentions... it would require not just specifics as to where Mr. Polk was wrong, but also why it is worthy of the attacks on him and not his positions.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/30/2006

Mr. Ebbitt,
I guess I shouldn't be surprised but I am. I always believed that the more knowledgeable about history a person was, the more aware they would be that war is meant to achieve particular political ends.

By stretching things a bit, "defeating Iraq" is probably technically correct. Defeating the enemy on the field of battle. However, as anyone who studies war, occupations and especially insurgent wars knows, defeating the enemy on a field of battle does not a war win.

However, to borrow from another topic on this blog, I guess history, like the definition of winning can be seen through a particular perspective based on a political agenda. Reality doesn't matter. Even the President is admitting that we have not won... but when it comes time to winning points on a blog, truth rarely matters, what does matter is trying to quash the opinion of the other person based on a personal attack.

A discussion or a debate is no longer a matter of countering one person's statements with counter-evidence and working together towards a truth. It is personally attacking the other person in an attempt to "win".

However, the need to split hairs on that point shows a shocking lack of understanding between the differences of strategic and tactical goals and the proper people to determine them and carry them out.

While negotiation is messy and takes time... it should be designed to allow all participants to leave the table with at least a bit of self-respect. To do otherwise would be a continuation of the grievances already smouldering in this area. It would just rise up again and again.

Sine this is a site for history, should we ignore that fact? Isn't the recent history of the middle-east region a study of western societies shaping their course through the use of force? Where, in any area has this been successful?
Are not those actions a significant cause for today's problems?

Some would rather believe, because it allows them a continued sense of justification for any actions, that is really is all about nutso religious fanatics rather than circumstances being a breeding ground for fanatics to recruit.

The contradiction of this view takes just a few seconds... we believed that the Iraqi people would welcome us with open arms because all people would welcome the freedom of democracy... yet we also believe that they are all religious fanatics who cannot be reasoned with.

So, I guess who "they" are depends on the moment and which particular attack is needed against anyone wishing to discuss anything less than invasion or nuclear bombardment of underground facilities.

A simplistic demand based upon use of force, even if successful at the moment is but a finger in the dike.

Is it any wonder that this administration is always in "crisis" mode putting out one fire after another? Alternatives are neither solicited nor appreciated. Sometimes it appears that people choose to attack the person personally in an attempt to minimize his point of view. Name calling has replaced ideas.

Maybe, just maybe if more consideration of what the Iraqis were thinking was questioned we wouldn't be in this mess. However, the consensus of the think tanks seemed to indicate that we would be welcomed with open arms, the oil we "liberated" for the Iraqi people would pay for the invasion and we would be out of there in about 6 months.

To blindly jump into a situation requiring the use of our military forces, to not try to understand everything that we can about the enemy is criminally negligent. However, based on some of the responses here, all we need to do is redefine a few key definitions and keep repeating "we won." I wasn't aware that this was a game.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/30/2006

Mr. Peterson,
To answer some of your questions (the ones I have time for right now): I am a proud veteran, a former member of the 101st Airborne Division (and an Arabic interrogator). I also wrote a book on the Mahdi: "Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden."

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/30/2006

Then by all means, let's do the same thing with Iran that we did with Iraq. I am sure that the results will be just as successful.

Let us ignore the fact that our military is stretched beyond what is considered most to be prudent. Let's just go and demand that Iran open their doors or else we will.

Granting that we will be able to do this... actually somehow get within the facilities, are you prepared for the consequences?

I have no qualms about fighting terrorism, and unlike those Monday morning warriors that rely on being scared to death by fear mongers, I opposed the invasion of Iraq but support staying until we fix what we broke. Why? Because that is truly the moral thing to do.

Instead, what I am seeing are people who are waking up from their blood-lust with an emotional hangover and saying that we need to get out of Iraq.

Unlike the invasion, it is no longer fun and game, shock and awe. It is real consequences of simplistic ideas.

I am glad that you share the opinion of Mr. Kovachev's. Each is entitled to an opinion. I presume that it also is supportive of his contempt for necessary casualties? Combatant and non-combatant. Especially when he knows that the possibility of him being one is like the snowball in hell? Other life is cheap.

Personally, I do not care one way or another about what people may or may not think of my military experience because it was done for my sense of duty.

I just want to be very clear here though. Because, the warriors of today are the veterans of tomorrow. They serve with a sort of understanding that they are making sacrifices so others don't with the hope that the people calling on them to risk their lives don't use them unwisely. Oh sure, they will do whatever is required, they always have, but they hope that it is towards a purpose.

Are they honored today and then cast out tomorrow if their opinions differs? Because, the way we treat veterans of all our previous wars is what we can expect future generations to do to these fine men and women.

May I presume that you are American? Did you enjoy the day off yesterday? Just another holiday. Isn't it neat how sacrifices paid by men and women can be so easily dismissed and manipulated when it is to the advantage of a person that will denigrate their service in an attempt to win points on a blog?

Now as too just waltzing in after a seven day notice. Our military is spectacular... the best ever. But, unlike the movies and the microcosm of televised invasions, they are not supermen.

From your previous comments it seems as if you have an appreciation of some of the religious nuances playing out in the area. As a visitor to a site dedicated to historical perspectives on today's events I would be lead to believe that you also have an understanding of past and recent history of this area.

So, what, in particular is wrong with Mr. Polk's posting? Or, is it just a fuzzy, doesn't feel right with my sense of how this should be done?

To Mr. Kovachev, I was wrong. It appears that this is like a grade school playground where points are awarded.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/29/2006

I meant Mr. KOVACHEV's comments are entertaining and illuminating (see below). I share his opinion of Mr. Polk's and Mr. Peterson's.

Tim R. Furnish - 5/29/2006

Bravo! Not only illuminating but entertaining!
I would beg to differ on one point, however: the folks like Ahmadinejad who fully expect the return of the Hidden Imam as the Mahdi are not "nuts," but simply acting on a belief shared by all Shi`i Muslims (and, if you take the Mahdi as unHidden, ALL Muslims, including Sunnis).

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/29/2006

Mr. Kovachev,
I clearly gave my experience in an attempt to curtail the usual response that I am some soft on terrorism and willing to sacrifice America to the enemy. That you would choose to mischaracterize it as an attempt to limit discussion is a cheap shot that shouldn't surprise me since it seems it is about "winning" instead of about solutions. Was anyting in your first post a discussion or just a rant?

This is not a grade school playground and points are not awarded by using cheap shots that are uncalled for. There are no groups of hangers on for you to impress.

Besides, I served out of my sense of duty... not whether or not it was appreciated by the public. Which is a good thing.

That is why I have always despised anyone that tries to present their political party as being the only one that truly represents or cares about the people in uniform. They both use the military to their advantage and those young men and women serve because it means something to them.

The way that you exploited my service is just typical of what I expect and I am rarely ever disappointed. Use 'em when you need 'em and dump on them when you don't.

So, you could not attack the logic of my posting... you chose to attack me. That is exactly the attitude that you showed towards Mr. Polk and motivated me to respond. I do not know Mr. Polk, but let us take a look at the facts as you lay them out.

Yes, I liked what Mr. Polk had to say because he was attempting to use intelligence in a complex debate. I like to read opinions based upon intelligence, not emotion.

He was using his experience which has absolutely no value to you. You belittled his experience and then mine. It is obvious that the only valid opinion is yours. From your first post it was simply an emotional reaction to what was written.

When asked for something besides a rant you give a simplistic scenario and ta-da! Done. That simplicity is the same as "They will welcome us with open arms!" Look to the Iraq-Iran war and see if you think they will just sit idly by while we go in and dismantle their faciliies.

Of course you are free to characterize the war in Iraq any way you choose. Even though the reasons why we went to war turned out to be wrong... well, it was still the right thing to do. We freed the people... though, don't you think that those non-combatants should have had some say as to whether they thought the price was worth paying? No, because only your opinion matters and they are just trying to manipulate and stifle debate (which yours was not a debate but a tirade) with their whining little miseries.

Combatant casualties? You have already shown that you couldn't care less.

You use cheap shots to disrespect the people who do have the guts to stand up and talk about casualties so blightly because you know for a fact that you won't be one of them. What honor is that?

Your half measured attempts at humour are a poor excuse for intelligent discussion and debate. Again, if this were a playground I am sure all the little children would be smirking and chuckling behind you as you bullyed your way through an argument. A louder voice and moving within their "personal space" is also a good tactic to intimidate.

Who do you think will be responsible for actions after the Iranians refused to open up their facilities in your scenario? You? I really don't think so. Some are better at leading the cheers from the side line and telling those doing the work how they should feel, how proud they should be.

Don't worry about sending your thoughts and comments to President Bush. We have a whole group of similar thinking cowboys here. AEI and PNAC are two of them. Again, they, like you are excellent at articulating the fear but are completely clueless when it comes to solutions.

You have identified Mr. Polks talents, sir, what are yours?

Peter Kovachev - 5/29/2006

Mr. Peterson, as fascinating as your military record may be ... whether a romantic one as a fighter jokey or a more mundane one as a clerk in the PX ... it's neither relevant, nor is it the only one on the block. In short, the soldier-peacemaker shtick which is supposed to cause everyone to humbly shut-up is so old, you can put it up for auction at Sothesby's. So much for your argument from authority.

Likewise, whether Iraq was a mistake or not is neither here nor there. Iraq and Iran pose different challenges. I happen to think that defeated Iraq was not a mistake, although I would have done a few things differently. But my opinion on that too is not important here. So much for your strawman bedecked with red herrings.

What you are essentially saying is that because you like Mr. Polk's thinking, because you are a veteran and because there are people wiser and more accomplished than I, I cannot express a critical opinion unless I do so in the most abject manner possible and humbly provide a detailed contingency plan.

Bollocks. There plenty of folks smarter than you and I put together who have said worse stuff about Mr. Polk. Knowing of his contributions on UNRWA and the EU, having read his elitist gobledey-gook and having laughed at his "assessment" of the Arab-Jewish conflict, which I think is full of errors, propaganda and outright lies I have, admittedly, very little respect for him or your State Department carreerists for that matter. But that too doesn't matter in the end.

What matters is what I addressed from the start and throughout my post, namely that Mr. Polk's advice is utterly useless, if not outright suicidal. In case you missed it, my position was that his regional disarmament proposal is, as should be clear to anyone with a television set, unlikely to happen in the long term and impossible in the short term...the short term being before Iran manages to join the "nuclear club."

The other point that you may have missed is that the West, especially Israel, the US and Europe simply cannot allow Iran to become nuclear. In spite of whatever high-faluting abstract principles and pretty well at whatever cost. That I think that anyone who entertains notions that we can live with a nuclear Iran is either an idiot, a Fifth Columnist or a coward happens to be my personal and unvarnished opinion. No, not much wiggle room there.

Neither Mr. Polk's waffling, nor your warrior-scholar posture address the key issue: Iran is governed by lunatics who are about to have The Bomb, the Big One, that is, and who have openly declared their intentions to destroy one state and its people (Israel) and to attack two others (Europe and the US) unless they do this or that. I would think that anyone with half a brain would worry at least a little and come up with better solutions than endless diplo-babble and recycled musings about global or regional disarmament.

Which takes us to your other grand challenge, namely that I don't offer solutions. Don't worry, I'm working hard on polishing them up before your president calls me this evening for my advice. In the meantime, my humble suggestion is this: Give Iran 7 days to evacuate their facilities and open them up for dismantling by UN types or Care Bears, for that matter. If it doesn't comply or if it drags its feet, then those who are directly threatened ... Israel, the US and the EU need to go in as a coalition and convert Iran's nuclear project to free-floating atomic particles. If there is any flight time left over, perhaps they can get a few mullahs in the government as well, but that's only for extra points. The principle behind my obviously undiplomatic approach is fairly simple and eminently moral: Governments' primary responsibilities are to the safety and well-being of its own people. Any entity which threatens mass destruction must be disabled ASAP. Hopefully that can be done by limiting non-combatant casualties, but this should never be a priority consideration. Sounds a bit harsh now, but in the advisory paper I'll be writing for Messrs Olmert and Bush (the Europeans are hiding somewhere under the bed), my ideas will come off a little more polished. Maybe I'll hire Mr. Polk to tart-up my proposal a bit, as this is where his main talents appear to lie.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/29/2006

Mr. Kovachev,
While your essay was complete and replete with criticism of Mr. Polk... I have to say, any positive, substantial suggestions on your part seem to be lacking. In truth, besides your obvious contempt for anyone and everyone that disagrees with you... I found it to be... well... pointless.

As with the AEI and PCAN, you can easily list the reasons as to why Iran is a threat. I would assume no less from a 6th grade social science class. It is easy to list off their intents... what takes a bit of reason, a bit of extrapolation and thought is a solution. That is where the supposedly "intelligent" people from these think tanks and those who attack a discussion of alternatives.

They can list, chronologically, alphabetically or in order of importance well known and understood threats posed. Yeppers. Got it. We know.

Solutions? None. Nada. Clueless. But, they can sure pour on the vile rhetorical attack to try to minimize and denigrate anyone that does not march step with them.

I have a suggestion... if EVERYTHING they said about what would happen in Iraq was WRONG... why in God's name would anyone continue to give them and their followers any creedence.

Before I am attacked as a "know nothing" liberal, let me say that I am in my mid-40's, served in the USAF for 10 years. Served overseas in Greece and in Turkey (thus my interest in the West's arrogance in ignoring a Muslim democracy that has been a partner in NATO for about 50 years and has been trying again and again to be seen as "fit" to be a member of the EU.

I am a fortunate survivor of a terrorists attempt to blow up my car in Greece. I am 40% disabled and have made the study of history my hobby and passion. I am a firm believer in protecting America from danger.

However, I do not, nor will I ever cower in fear. I will not change my beliefs based upon attempted intimidation by anyone. Terrorist or right-wing whacko who screeches about the sky falling. I believe in appropriate, mature responses to threats... not using fear as a justification to go out running around the world and "pre-emptively" attacking anyone that I fear. That is a coward and there is really no other way to define it.

Your personal attack against a man expressing the benefits of his experience and the way to personally attempt to denigrate his experience, knowledge and service reminds me of the attitude most people who serve this country can expect once they are done sacrificing for the Monday morning patriots. (See the increasing discussion of the fear of the costs of supporting the vets! Oh my God. It might cost almost as much as a B2 bomber!)

I cannot say about the "Great White North or old wind-bags. However, I can see from your arrogance that anyone else with a contribution should politely be ignored seems to me that you have done well with importing the hubris and arrogance of this administration and their group think. Funny, I always had assumed that our neighbors to our north were more reasoned than that. Guess I was wrong.

Thank you though for your well reasoned, clearly laid out expression of exactly where Mr. Polk is wrong and why. I fell much better now having a "fair and balanced" view from the other side.

Peter Kovachev - 5/29/2006

This has to be just about the silliest essay I've read on this site. Mind you given Mr. Polk's biography, which could have gone under the title of one of Maxim Gorky's books (hint: "Life of a Useless Man"), I shouldn't pretend to be surprised.

To recap on reality as we know it: Iran is not your usual country, not even one resembling the old USSR with whom Mr. Polk may be confusing himself in his autumn years. As of this morning Iran is still an autocratic tyranny governed by a collection of violent, hate-filled and fascistic fanatics with a psychiatrically certifiable lunatic in the wheel house. As things stand in the real world today, Israel has all but been guaranteed destruction (a notion with which State Department careerists have been able to cope with quite well) and Europe is being openly threatened (it's ok, they'll quickly comply). Then there is the Great Satan, of course ... i.e., all you folks living to the South of me. Neither the big ocean between the next Sons of the Caliphate and yourselves, nor the calming assurances from the your Fifth Column can hide what any cafeteria cook in Bushehr would be able to tell you: An Iranian nuclear device need not be delivered by a long-range missile. It could just as conveniently make its leisurly way to New York harbour in a rusty, Nigerian-registry freighter manned by eager "martyrs." So, let's see; Iran has the virgin-chasers in the thousands and rusty freighters are dime a dozen ... all that those bearded darlings in Teheran and Isfahan really need is a few plain old nukes. Hardly rocket science, pardon the pun.

As a "remedy" to this arguably alrming crisis we now have Mr. Polk, a policy dinosaur of the State Department diplo-cracy, suggesting essentially that the US and the free world should roll over with its belly to the skies and beg for the impossible, namely a regional nuclear disarmament. Brilliant. Perhaps Mr. Polk is too busy writing and lecturing, so let's have Mr. Darren Peterson here as the rep for the free world. He appears quite able and willing to assume the proper position and to make the sweet sounds.

Meanwhile, while the brave and caring diplomats and their spiritual deity, the UN, discuss the meal plans and haggle over the number of limos for their disarmament summit, Iran can have its chance to churn out nukes in all colours like a Ford factory in heat. But then, that's been the plan all along, I suppose.

To get us to accept his "only sensible way out of the dilemma we face," from hereon known as the Polk Rollover-and-Beg Act, we are only required to accept a few little assumptions as facts, assumptions which somehow didn't merit more than a passing thought in Mr. Polk's wonderfully articulate blueprint for unconditional surrender.

The first is that Israel, Pakistan and India have been chafing at the bit to get rid of their nuclear arsenals by Thursday at the latest, and to declare the ME a nuclear-free zone whilst holding hands, swaying and singing "Give Peace a Chance" on the floor of the General Assembly. The second is that Iran's government is rational and shares the same values as Mr. Polk. The third is that Iran may already have bought a nuke or two, which supposedly makes any impolite requests on the part of the free world very dangerous. The fourth is that the Iranians have managed to secure their production plants so well that nothing short of a bunker-busting battle-field nukes could slow them down. And the fifth, which hinges on the fourth, is that destroying Iran's nuclear capacity may, horror of horrors, result in thousands or "score of thousands" of enemy deaths, not to mention tons of environmentally unfriendly soil, is something we must accept as "utterly unacceptable.

We are given no hints as to what military measures Mr. Polk finds "acceptable." Maybe he has moved onto a higher plane of universal consciousness than the rest of us, and would find even the destruction of a few ant colonies unacceptable. We don't know, but we do know what sacrifices on behalf of us simple and war-mongering peons he does find acceptable: The fairly good possibility of another genocide of Jews to cure the world of Dastardky Zionism, a few nukes in Southern Europe as a lesson in proper international conduct, and if the US happens to balk about any of this, a mushroom cloud over New York or New Orleans.

Gee wiz, guys, up here in the Great White North we have quite a few expired old wind-bags supplying the editorial desks with doodle-paper as well, but at least we have a tradition of politely ignoring their neuron storms until well after the bugles and the gun salutes.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/29/2006

Lying to negotiators? Who would have thought... I presume that this is considered SOP for negotiations... isn't that what Reagan meant by, "Trust but verify?"

In other words, each country will do its best to defend itself. Were the negotiations simply American threats disguised through the use of European mouthpieces? What makes Europeans the best to negotiate with middle-eastern countries?

What I always find surprising is we have had a relationship with a predominantly Muslim country for over 50 years yet we never seem to utilize them. They have been trusty members of NATO, trying to join the EU (but somehow never meeting the "expectations" of Europe). It has a history of secular government. I am, of course, talking about Turkey.

Negotiation should be incremental with a specific goal and a flexible means of getting there.

Failure of the European negotiators does not necessarily mean that it should now be considered, "Well gave it a try, let's now attack." Sometimes unacceptable conditions are presented with the goal of forcing the other side to become intransigent.

Now, some might be willing to write me off as an appeaser. That is fine. The level of negotiation is negotiable.

When the alternatives are less then, well, let's say pleasant it should necessitate the greatest effort.

I would never suggest not planning action, nor would I hesitate to use force based upon a "real and present" danger to America.

As I mentioned, this President's ability to unify this country and the international community is compromised. His credibility is shot and there has been a pattern of using fear to justify questionable actions. Trust is gone that the American people are being given objective information.

This is a terrible predicament for the American people to be in, but who's fault is that? We have not been given the opportunity to build trust because everything has been "secret" since day one of this administration. If the government cannot trust us with the formation of our national energy policy, how can we believe they trust us with the truth about Iraq (which was shown to be incredibly inept) and Iran?

Yes, Iran is learning that no WMD meant destruction for Iraq and for N. Korea having them means safety.

Imagine for yourself any, I mean any reason where our country would allow itself respond to strong-armed tactics. Personally, I can't. We can delve into philosophical beliefs whether or not it is "moral" to lie when faced with certain alternatives.

True negotiations need to be pursued without regard to the "think tank" macho garbage which is passed off as intelligent reasoning.

Ricardo Luis Rodriguez - 5/29/2006

Precisely because of those considerations was why the US let the Europeans take the lead in negotiations 3 years ago. The approach you suggest is the one that was tried, US rhetoric heated up as it became clear that the Iranians were lying to European negotiators.

Darren Michael Peterson - 5/29/2006

Mr. Polk,
Thank you for the assessment of what is a very likely scenario playing out in Iran.

Any compromise by Iran can now be seen as a victory of "cowboy" diplomacy rather than a reasonableness on the part of the Iranians. A lose-lose proposition for them, is it not?

Even if Iran makes a good faith effort there are those in postitions of power and influence that may not be predisposed to taking advantage of it. Appeasement on the part of Iran may just mean more pressure applied until Iran responds in the manner needed by the "neo-cons" to lead us into another action?

I am afraid that we have painted ourselves into a corner that this President will be unable to get us out of. His credibility is gone domestically and internationally.

Along with that comes one of two choices, hope that things don't go out of control until a new administration can come in or we are dragged into another unnecessary war based upon failed policies of this administration and the people influencing them.