Thursday, January 26, 2006

Time to Pick on Steyn

A recent post by Lawrence Auster about a recent article by Mark Steyn brought a few things to my attention.

First, for all of his bluster about how cowardly the Europeans are for not dealing with Iran's (supposed) nuclear weapons programs strongly enough, he never actually proposes anything more aggressive to deal with the issue. Rather, he suggests a number of ways that we might harry and annoy the Iranian regime. Although he doesn't come out and say it, presumably the goal of Mark Steyn's strategy is to lead to the overthrow of the current Iranian regime. Unfortunately, his ideas are too random and do not gel together at all; there is no overall strategy to turn any Iranian insurgency or instability into a change of regime. This makes his strategy incredibly dangerous - at least if the Iranians are actually pursuing nukes. You don't want to antagonize the Iranian government - particularly if they have a nuclear bomb - by stirring up dissent against it unless you have a plan to actually overthrow it.

It would be one thing if the ideas Mark Steyn proposes would actually do anything to slow the nuclear program, but I don't see how they would, so all he would accomplish is to get the Iranian government more angry at us at precisely the time when they are the most dangerous. Perhaps, as Steyn writes: "A Tehran preoccupied by internal suppression will find it harder to pull off its pretensions to regional superpower status." But all that this would mean would be that Iran could devote less resources to conventional warmaking. It wouldn't likely stop any nuclear weapons programs that Iran might have.

So ultimately, if we follow Steyn's advice but do not have a plan to get regime change in Iran, we are screwed. The absolute worst thing we could do would be to take actions which get Iran mad at us but do not effectively weaken it at all, particularly if Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons. If there is a rabid dog in the neighborhood, you either shoot to kill or you try to avoid him. You don't go up and shoot him with a BB gun.

Second, even if we assume that Steyn does have a plan for regime change, that is no guarantee that Iran would give up any nuclear weapons programs it might have, nor that the new people in charge would be trustworthy with them. However, it is in no way clear that Steyn cares whether or not Iran has nukes as long as the regime is changed. Indeed, Michael Ledeen, the neocon who brays the loudest for us to help catalyze or instigate a regime-changing revolution in Iran has hinted that he might not mind a nuclear-armed Iran if it were under other leadership:

To be sure, many of our finest Iran-watchers, including the great Bernard Lewis, believe that any future Iranian government, even a democratic one, is likely to continue the nuclear program. That may be true, although we should remember that once South Africa became a democracy it abandoned nuclear weapons. But even if it is true, a democratic Iran will not be inclined to commit hara-kiri by launching a nuclear first strike against Israel, nor will it likely brandish its bombs against the United States.

This suggests a loyalty more to ideology than to the nation.

Lawrence Auster calls Mark Steyn's position "Ledeenist," which I believe I have just shown is a very apt description.

Thirdly, Steyn can't resist using this article as an opportunity to spout off some of the usual neocon lies, even though they are tangential to his "argument" (if you can call it that) at best.

and for the Iranians recent history, from the Shah and the embassy siege to the Iraqi "insurgency" and Jack Straw's soundbites, tells them the West can't muster the strength of will needed to force them to back down.

(That is, the insurgency is mostly or entirely the creature of Iran)

As the foreign terrorists have demonstrated in Iraq, you don't need a lot of local support to give the impression (at least to Western leftists) of a popular insurgency.

(That is, the insurgency is mostly foreign and has little popular support).

That the insurgency is mostly foreign has been debunked, it is most unlikely that the insurgents are heavily dependent on Iran, and it is quite likely that there is significant popular support for the insurgency (I'll get more links up later). So he is basically pouring B.S. on us.

In short, Mark Steyn is being, well, Mark Steyn.

That is all.

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