Monday, March 19, 2012

A War of Words

At least, that's what it is at this point. With America still chugging along in Afghanistan, and most people tired of endless war, you'd think the suggestion that we start another one would be met with a little more resistance.

But the drums of war are sounding in Israel, it seems, and Iran is in the cross-hairs. Iran, who has been developing nuclear capability (they say for peaceful purposes; their sworn enemy Israel says otherwise), is being pressured by international sanctions to stop their projects and make them more transparent to inspectors.

With Iran seemingly defying these demands, the US is in a tough position. Israel, who has long been presented as a close ally to the United States, is demanding support from us in their intent to bomb Iran to the stone age. Israel, we are told, is ready to spark a pre-emptive engagement with Iran, and is waiting on US support. Meanwhile, here at home, American Media is playing up the various sides of this debate for the info-tainment of it's customers. On the one hand, we are strong allies with Israel. America has a large Jewish population, and we've generally overlooked that nation's various diplomatic shortcomings (we practically ignore it's treatment of Palestine). On the other hand, America has been at war now for over a decade. We have grown tired of foreign nation-building, we've spent trillions of dollars with no material outcome, and we've thrown ourselves into an economic slump before calling off the troops. So, who's right?

Well, to be sure, Iran having a nuclear weapon is a concern. Their leaders have stated many times that they would like to destroy the nation of Israel and return that land to the Palestinians. Nuclear capability by any nation in that part of the world should raise red flags, especially when you consider how things like technology and weaponry have a funny way of moving from one group to another. It is in the best interests of the world, Israel and America in particular, to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

But then you have to consider the lessons learned from the last several years. We went into Iraq on the apparently falsified information that they had WMDs. We lost thousands of soldiers there. We are still fighting in Afghanistan, in a situation that has quickly started deteriorating. Furthermore, we should have learned that war can be much more costly and much less effective than diplomatic policy. We are already sanctioning Iran, we have cut off treaties and contracts with them, and several banking and lending groups have starved them of funds as well. While Iran has outstanding contracts for oil sales, it cannot renew those contracts while under sanction. Eventually, they will be starved economically, and will have no funding with which to pursue nuclear capability.

Finally, you have to look at where we are getting most of our information. First and foremost, we are hearing from pro-Israel individuals and organizations. Many of these groups, though not all, have been calling for military action against Iran, which is understandable given their political ties. We are also hearing a lot from conservative politicians, who have also been outspoke supporters of the Israeli state in the past. In all, the number of voices calling for direct action seem to vastly outnumber and overcome any voices of caution or diplomacy.

It seems to me that we should be stepping lightly on the issue of Iran. It is clearly concerning for Iran to have nuclear weapons, but the sanctions and stress already placed on the nation should be sufficient to starve them. In the past, America has resisted the chance to negotiate with Iran for whatever reason, and has relied instead on political ostracization and socio-economic pressures. In his recent book A Single Roll of the Dice, Trita Parsi notes that there have been several occasions, both under Bush and Obama, where Iran has offered to sit down and discuss it's nuclear program, and the US has declined. This tells me that the US government has less concern about Iran than Israel, or at least believes that the threat of Iran is not as severe as pro-Israel groups would lead us to believe.

There are no perfect answers, and certainly we can't know what the best course of action may be. I happen to think that pre-emptive action against Iran should be used only in the economic, political, and diplomatic sense. We don't need another war in the Middle East. We don't need to show our support for Israel by sacrificing our own soldiers for their cause. If Israel wants to strike Iran, they have already said they will do so with or without the blessing of the US. We should wash our hands of the whole thing, step back, and let them duke it out.

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