Barnett, T.P.M. 2007. I expect more reasoning than that. Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. March 31, 2007. Available online: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2007/03/the_side_ive_always_been_on.html#comment-14579.
Neither an asset nor a liability
Great thinker Tom Barnett kindly responded to a question I had on his blog yesterday. To his comment that “”I think that if Bush attacks Iran on his watch, he’ll screw up the Big Bang permanently” I asked “Why?” His response, and my follow-up, is below
Are we supposed to bomb by the list?
Tom’s referring to the Index of Economic Freedom (hat-tip to Catholicgauze) which places Iran’s economic freedom in the “repressed” category, between Angola and Republic of Congo (by comparison, the United States is free, Norway is mostly Free, Mongolia is moderately free, and Vietnam is mostly unfree.)
Of course it does not make sense to use war as our only tool. Along with peace, war is one of two tools. But Iran’s disconnectedness (outside of oil) does mean that Iran is not much of an engine of liberty. Destroying the Islamic Republic of Iran is hardly a duty. But nor would it be worse than, say, the loss of Syria or Togo.
Yes, I think pushing the region toward needed change is more important than getting our rocks off on Iran right away. If that doesn’t make me seem tough enough, then so be it
Iran had a great potential to be a source of change, if Tehran and Washington had acted different between 2003 and 2005. In the same way, the Japanese Empire was a potential force for good before the 1930s. But Iranian attacks on Americans these days are as real as Japanese attacks on Americans were then.
Iran has failed as a major vehicle for change. The safety of Tehran is not more important than the destruction of Tehran.
We need to think more effects based and less bombs on target–as in, how about we trigger a revolution in Iran as quickly as possible?
The quiest way to trigger a revolution would be from above, as was the case in Serbia. Whether that would be a good thing is a different question.
Do you think that attacking the regime now will get us that? Or do you think, given past experience with Iran, that such an approach will prove counterproductive?
Look where we’ve pushed connectivity and won: former Soviet Union and China and Vietnam.
Look where we’ve pushed isolation and propped up dictators: Cuba, North Korea, Iran.
And look we’re we’ve perused connectivity through force: Serbia and Iraq. At best, we get a government we want. At worst, we get the sort of violence that already exists in the Afro-Islamic Gap.
My argument has been simple and consistent: topple totalitarian regimes and soft-kill authoritarian ones.
In the absense of other events, this would be a great idea. But we have (wisely) topped authoritarian regimes in the past (Italy and Japan) while out of necessity we have (wisely) soft-killed totalitarian regimes as well (China during Nixon and Mao.
And show some respect for sequencing and load-bearing.
Indeed. And in our quest to overloading through feedback and feed-forward, topping Iran is a wash.
That’s why I’d advocate doing what is necessary to make Iraq work and let Shiite Iraq play Poland to Iran’s Soviet Union.
The problem here is that tyranny does best when the economy relies on exporting raw materials. An Iraq under Iranian domination is even more mattressed by oil. Furthermore, widespread & correct Iranian perception of the backwardness of Arab culture may limit what lessons the Iranians will learn from Iraq.
Grand strategy isn’t just pulling triggers
Nor it it about not pulling them. It’s about pulling them when we should and not pulling them when we shouldn’t. In Iran, it doesn’t matter.
Thanks to Tom for the conversation, and to Curtis and all other commentators as well!