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  • Fat_Man

    “the “benign Iran” scenario that animates the Obama Administration’s hopes looks less likely.”

    It was always delusional. And Obama has done a poor job of implementing it and an even worse job of selling it to the American people. At every moment when a more thoughtful leader might have pulled up and said, woah, time to circle the wagons and re think our policy, he has doubled down and gotten more secretive and oppositional. The utter moral failure of sacrificing the Green Revolution to policy was just the first disaster. Later ones include the Syria red lines, the Lybian intervention, and the ham handed attempts to invent a peace process for Israel and the PA.

    In fairness Obamas middle east policy was not something he thought up himself, nor was it solely a “liberal Democrat crusade. The is a bi-partisan invention. It was laid out in a report issued in 2006 by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission that was co-chaired by Bush 41’s former secretary of state James Baker and former Democrat congressman Lee Hamilton. The report is discussed at length in an excellent article, which you should read in full:

    “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy: The president has long been criticized for his lack of strategic vision. But what if a strategy, centered on
    Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day?” an Essay by Michael Doran on Feb. 2 2015

    The article lays out the 2006 Report’s four main policy recommendations:

    “withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli peace process; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria. Baker and Hamilton believed that Bush stood in thrall to Israel and was therefore insufficiently alive to the benefits of cooperating with Iran and Syria.
    Those two regimes, supposedly, shared with Washington the twin goals of stabilizing Iraq and defeating al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadi groups. In turn, this shared interest would provide a foundation for building a concert system of states a club of stable powers that could work together to contain the worst pathologies of the Middle East and lead the way to a sunnier future.”

    David Goldman reported that the ISG 2006 report “was a carbon copy of the Council on Foreign Relations report of 2004, written under the supervision of [Robert] Gates [Secretary of Defense 2006 — 2011 for Bush 43 and Obama] and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser”.

    “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy Began in 2006 with Robert Gates” by David P. Goldman

    The policy has had a lot of high level institutional support in the Bush 43 and Obama administrations. Not only did Gates carry over, but
    Hamilton’s staff included Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, and Benjamin Rhodes, a White House PR flack.

    This show of bi-partisanship does not absolve Obama of responibility for monumentally incompetent implementation combined with a uniquely obtuse failure to change course when he is losing. But, it is worth noting.

    Calling a pro-Iranian policy realist is a true abuse of the English Language. Anyone who claims that the Mullahs of Iran are rational actors
    in foreign policy is not a realist, he is an opium smoker.

    • Kevin

      To me a rational actor is one who calculates the means to use to pursue the ends they desire. Just because the ends are foolish or evil does not make them a non-rational actor – we just fail to appreciate what they want (often by assuming it is what we would want in their shoes). So I woukdnt assume the Iranian regime is not a rational actor for this reason. (It may not be if internal processes prevent it from acting in a unified manner but that’s another issue…)

      If there’s a non-rational actor at work here I would say it is the US gov’t which is employing delusional means to achieve the ends it desires, and persists in doing so in spite of their repeated failures to advance its objectives.

      • Fat_Man

        Your definition of rationality is off the mark. Not only must the means be rational, so must the ends. Accelerating the appearance of the messiah is not a rational end.

        Further in the sphere of international relations the ends must be licit.

        A country might need money very badly. If their neighbor won’t give it to them on request, it would be rational to go take it by force. But, that would hardly make it rational. Even if in order to avoid retaliation, the poorer country killed everyone alive in the richer country.

        It is true that Obama is delusional, but he is also term limited. We can pray that the next President will be more attuned to the real world.

  • Kevin

    The point about many of these regimes needing to expand to acquire ever greater resources in order to survive is well made. Often revolutionary movements are able to mobilize greater resources than their predecessors and thus can generate impressive growth in the beginning, but eventually the limits to extensive growth is reached and growing calcification and corruption reduces the efficiency of the system leading to the regime needing to acquire additional resources just to avoid shrinking its economic and political base. Containment and isolation can help here, though it is a very long process as a declining regime can increase repression and hunker down for a very long time as it’s economic base slowly whithers away underneath it. North Korea and Cuba show absent an external push how long such decaying regimes can last – China perhaps shows that internal reforms can improve efficiency enough to exit this spiral of decline.

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