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Friday, March 27, 2015

John Bolton's Dangerous Fallacies

Former UN ambassador and Republican operative John Bolton the other day wrote an op-ed in the Times advocating bombing Iran as the only way to stop its presumed nuclear weapons program. Bomb Iran  His argument is simple:  the Kerry negotiations will fail, and Iran will build a nuclear bomb.  Bomb Iran now, before it's too late.  He figures the US and Israel working together will set back Iran's program three to five years.  We should also support regime change in Iran.

Bolton is a serious, hard-charging guy.  His bio is impressive, even inspirational.  He's done a lot of good things for the conservative movement in America.  He's completely sincere.  But he's nuts.

  • He offers no evidence a massive attack will succeed, even if it could be justified legally.
  • He fails to consider that such an attack might make Iran more dangerous and give more support to the Tehran regime.  It would also convince them they NEED a nuclear bomb.
  • He doesn't see how bombing Iran will discredit any Iranian opposition.  ALL presidential aspirants in Iran have backed its nuclear program. 
  • He pays no heed to international blowback against the US.  Why that would be worth just delaying Iran's program, he doesn't say. 
  • He ignores how such a bombing might in fact make other nations MORE sympathetic to Iran. 
  • He acknowledges that other nuclear programs have been discontinued by negotiation, but somehow Iran is different.  
  • He assumes that, in response to Iran, other nations will go out and get their own nuclear bombs.  (I guess by magic.)  He takes the Saudis' threats for granted. 
  • He doesn't apply this logic to North Korea, which presumably has the bomb and is demonstrably more pugnacious than Iran is.  
Bolton is fighting an old war.  Iran represents no threat to us.  (Never has been, really.)  In fact, Israelis don't even believe Iran represents a threat to them.  Bibi's "winning" in Israel (such is the inherent perversity of proportional representation systems) had nothing to do with his stance on Iran. 

The best policy on Iran:  keep pushing for concessions and keep dialogue open.  Get them to stand down centrifuges.  Increase inspections.   De-escalate tensions and ease sanctions.

Okay, it might not work.  Got any better ideas?  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Mysterious Lee Kwan Yew

Singapore's great Mandarin leader just died at age 91.  Like other authoritarian rulers--one things of Ho Chi Mihn--he had for some time held the title of "senior minister."   For the ruler of a city-state, he exerted a good deal of influence and earned a great deal of respect.

Kissinger offers a tribute to his friend here.  The World will miss Lee Kwan Yew   Journalist David Ignatius provides another perspective, which reveals something of the closed nature of Lee's thinking:  Fearful visionary

One story I like about Lee, told by Charles Hill in his book "Grand Strategies."  The Harvard faculty during the Sixties invited Lee to speak.   They expected him to denounce the Vietnam War.  To their surprise, he supported the war, which he maintained, gave the other nations in Southeast Asia freedom to grow and prosper without fear of Communist influence or intimidation.

Something else to keep in mind:  Lee represents a kind of modern Leviathan vision.  To explain, Lee offers a formula for peace and economic prosperity, as long as you give up political freedom and certain civil liberties.  In their recent book "The Fourth Revolution"  Micklethwait and Woodridge described Lee's as an alternative future model to be wary of.

Americans once earned something about Lee's model when a young man was caned on the buttocks for vandalism.  This was a significant national story twenty years ago.  us-student-tells-of-pain-of-his-caning-in-singapore

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Putin Has Nothing on the IMF

Here's a provocative piece from the National Interest on the real danger to Ukraine.  bretton-woods-the-real-threat-ukraines-sovereignty  A lot of countries probably would agree.  Has any other institution done more to cause political instability?

I never quite understood why the many Ukrainians revolted for a free trade agreement with the EU that would have wiped out the rest of their industry.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Venezuela's Collapse: A Key Indicator

I've read numerous articles over the years on Venezuela's declining health care system; this one perhaps is the saddest:  Venezuelans Suffer

If anything demonstrates the failure of the Chavez system, it is this. Caracas brought in all these Cuban "doctors" (most of whom are nurse practitioners) but it allowed its public hospital system to collapse.

Anyone out there who still supports this phony "socialist" revolution?  Chavez fans, speak up. Granted, he was a political genius of sorts.  But it was more as a power artist, not as an institution builder.

His successor, Nicolas Maduro, is living proof that Darwin's theory of evolution is false.

Image result for nicolas maduro

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Iran Nuke Deal and Bibi's Speech

The Obama administration has made negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program its signature foreign policy effort.  So far, progress has been tough.  The Iranians need to get sanctions lifted but they are reluctant to give much of their program up. The US, which leads the P5 negotiators, now wants a program freeze for 10 years and has dropped demands for dismantling centrifuges.  Iran still would have to accept a far more rigorous inspection program on all its facilities.

Israeli Prime Minister "Bibi" Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last week and denounced the current proposal.  He called it a "very bad deal" that would guarantee the Iran gets lots of nuclear bombs.   Judging from the thunderous applause, most of Congress seemed to agree with him.  See Barone's column here:  Sharing Netanyahu's views  Predictably, Charles Krauthammer called Bibi a new Churchill for his stance:  Churchillian Warning.

A few opinions on this.  The administration is right to negotiate and to get some deal that improves our visibility on Iran's program.  Especially with oil prices this low, Tehran needs to work out a deal to get an ease of sanctions.  We should be patient, but not desperate.

Bibi has no solution to the Iran problem other than the US attacking Iran.  Israeli defense officials consistently downplay the Iranian threat.  It was not an issue in their last election.

Do the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program?  The only strong evidence is the large number of centrifuges.  The intelligence community thought back in 2007 they had stopped the weapons portion of it.  Iran's supreme leaders have at various times publicly called nuclear weapons "haram."  This issue took on a lot more urgency when former President Ahmadinejad started threatening Israel, but he's out of power for some time now.

If Iran got a nuclear weapons, would it attack Israel?  Only if you believe it has forged a national suicide pact with itself.