Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Men Behind The Curtain

International relations are a dance: sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but usually most of what you see is only half the performance.
Yesterday, Israel admitted it is just a step or two from open war with Iran. The war is not a full-scale conventional military one, but involves proxies like Hezbollah and is conducted on a limited but unending scale.
This is a good confession for Israel to make. It also seems to come in direct response to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's speech at the UN last week on the anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In that speech, Ahmadinejad warns against sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
Insanity breeds insanity. You know, you think that the world would have learned the lessons of nuclear weapons, but then you realize that if American exceptionalism makes us feel that somehow the rules of the world don't apply to us, then what's to stop anyone, sane or not, from believing that those rules do not apply to them?
Indeed, the Bush (and now Obama) doctrine of pre-emptive military interventions simply give nations like Iran an excuse to flout the rules. As recent events in Times Square portend, Iran ain't the only one. And it ain't only nations.
And these doctrines are just the latest in a long series of hegemonic didactisms from a series of presidents stretching all the way back to Truman: the US will throw its weight around if it deems it necessary.
Which is fine if there's a genuine threat, in my opinion. The question becomes, then, what term of art is applied to "threat"? Communism was a threat, I suppose, when it was poised just ninety miles off the coast of Florida (it still is). But then the degree of that threat must be taken into account. Yes, when the Soviet Union was at its pinnacle of power perhaps the threat posed by Cuba was more formidable, but it's clear now that the threat from a tiny island off our shores is rather minimal.
History teaches us, tho, that the United States will define threats to mean practically anything. We overthrew the elected government of Mossadegh in Iran, and saddled them with the Shah. We paid a price for that, and that should have been the end of it. We overthrew a general in Iraq who nationalized the oil industry and replaced him with Saddam Hussein. We've paid a price for that any number of times, altho Saddam and Iraq have paid a much heavier price.
And then we pitted Iraq against Iran.
We've sort of earned the contempt of that region, and that's before we get anywhere near the Israel/Palestinian question.
And now, it seems, we've pitted Israel as our proxy against Iran, if the comments from Ya'alon are coupled with Hillary Clinton's reaction to the Ahmadinejad speech. It seems like we've played a pawn on the board. 
Nothing good can come of this.