How to Lose a War

John McCain is ditching the policy that defeated Communism

When it comes to the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues, Republicans like to harken back to the stalwart presidents of the Cold War. John McCain has invoked Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan as kindred spirits, and so has George W. Bush. Which raises the question: Why do they embrace those leaders while rejecting their policy?

The centerpiece of the U.S. approach to the Soviet Union was captured in a famous 1947 essay by American diplomat George Kennan, who rejected either war or retreat in favor of "a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies."

Some conservatives, regarding this as appeasement, advocated "rollback" to liberate captive nations from oppression. But even resolute anti-communists like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon saw the risks and costs were too high. They kept troops to guard Western Europe, built a robust nuclear deterrent and employed prudent measures to block Soviet expansion. That was containment.

But in the months before the Iraq war, it became a dirty word. "Containment is not possible," President Bush insisted, "when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies." The only remedy for such regimes lay in pre-emptive war. McCain agreed, saying the only option in Iraq was "disarmament by regime change."

Amid all the war hysteria, it was easy to forget containment worked against Stalin and Mao -- both unbalanced dictators with nuclear weapons. They were far more formidable tyrants with dreams of world domination. Yet we managed to preserve our security without pre-emptive war.

For that matter, containment had worked against Saddam Hussein. In the 12 years after the first Gulf War, we kept him in a box, where he was no threat to us or his neighbors. In 2002, he even had to accept the return of United Nations weapons inspectors -- who found no weapons of mass destruction because, thanks to our efforts, he had none.

But as Yale foreign policy scholar Ian Shapiro noted in his 2007 book "Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global Terror" (just published in paperback), the Bush administration was dissatisfied. One reason was its unfounded certitude that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz also complained that containing Iraq had cost a staggering $30 billion over those 12 years.

Today, that sounds like a bargain. The long-term cost of the Iraq war, according to an estimate by Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, will exceed $3 trillion -- or 100 times the cost lamented by Wolfowitz.
Ronald Reagan took a different approach. In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he continued President Carter's covert aid to the rebels, but didn't send American troops. Likewise when a pro-Soviet regime gained power in Nicaragua. The key to containment was finding affordable means to constrain and weaken the enemy, without bleeding ourselves down in wars we didn't have to fight.

Our policy in Iraq has been just the opposite. And Iran could be the next mistake. McCain says Tehran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons -- which implies he would go to war to prevent it, no matter what the price in blood or treasure.

The claim is that the Iranians are too crazy to be deterred from using nukes against Israel or giving them to terrorist groups to use against us. One common trait of governments and their leaders is an overriding desire to survive. If Iranian nukes are ever used for aggression, the regime can be sure Iran will be, as Hillary Clinton so vividly put it, "obliterated."

Shapiro told me he sees no evidence that Clinton or Barack Obama would return to containment. But the challenges we face are likely to push them toward it. Those dilemmas, after all, have prompted a reconsideration by none other than President Bush.

One member of the Axis of Evil, North Korea, has acquired a nuclear arsenal. Instead of launching a pre-emptive strike, the Bush administration has chosen to 1) live with it if we have to, 2) negotiate with Pyongyang to give it up, and 3) maintain strong defenses in South Korea.

That route is plainly the least bad option toward North Korea. But don't dare call it containment. And don't get the idea it could ever work anywhere else.

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  • Neil||

    Remember, it was conservative Republicans and Joe Lieberman Democrats who won the Cold War.

    Obama just isn't tough enough to deal with the dictators and terrorists hes so eager to have a "conversation with".

  • Pottsy||

    Neil, your website is butt ugly and you're dead wrong. Levi's and Sony won the cold war, everyone knows that.

  • Neil||

    No, Pottsy, Reagan won it when he stared down the Soviet Union by putting those missiles in Europe when the left wanted a "nuclear freeze" and told the commies to tear down the wall.

  • Brandybuck||

    One thing Reagan DID NOT do was to invade and occupy the Soviet Union. Too bad Bush didn't learn that lesson...

  • Diamond||

    So Neil, do you piss in public pools for fun?

  • Neil||

    He funded the forces of freedom in all over the world (Angola, Central America), though, and invaded Grenada. The leftist Democrat Party was against both things.

  • Who cares?||

    Who cares about terrorists or wars or Commies?

    Who is going to make sure that Halliburton has enough money so that they can send congressmen on 3-week long factfinding missions to Tahiti in January to study insurgent forces on Bora Bora?

  • ||

    Mc Cain is ditching the policy that defeated Communism because that situation was different than current one. Neither Mao nor Stalin was irrational. They were rational in a brutal dictatorial kind of way. Their rational was to hold on to power and to stay alive, and both of those goals were dependant on preserving communist rule.

    In addition there was not choice. Pre-emptive war there would mean a global conflagration that would leave, possibly, no one untouched.

    Current situation, on the other hand, has been brought on by militant Islam bent on spreading its ideology by sword. It poses no existential threat to the west, at this point, through the power of its weapons, but it uses terror to threaten and intimidate west into giving up its ideals of liberty, tolerance, and freedom from religious oppression.

    It would still be a problem no matter what choices Bush would have made, but it's important to remember that there have been 7 years since the last attack on American soil. May be it is because he took the fight to the enemy. The best defense is offence. Mc Cain knows this instinctively.

  • Elemenope||

    How many people did the forces of freedom free from their mortal coil, Neil?

  • Neil||

    Ilya Gertsikov-

    Thank you for trying to explain to these leftists the harsh realities of Islamofascist terror.

  • Elemenope||

    The best defense is offense.

    Ask Napoleon how that worked out. Or Hitler.

    And even if that statement is sometimes true, it is almost never true in *asymmetrical* confrontations, which the current wars tend to be.

  • thoreau||

    There are some points here that need constant repeating:

    Amid all the war hysteria, it was easy to forget containment worked against Stalin and Mao -- both unbalanced dictators with nuclear weapons. They were far more formidable tyrants with dreams of world domination. Yet we managed to preserve our security without pre-emptive war.





    For that matter, containment had worked against Saddam Hussein. In the 12 years after the first Gulf War, we kept him in a box, where he was no threat to us or his neighbors. In 2002, he even had to accept the return of United Nations weapons inspectors -- who found no weapons of mass destruction because, thanks to our efforts, he had none.


    ...

    The claim is that the Iranians are too crazy to be deterred from using nukes against Israel or giving them to terrorist groups to use against us. One common trait of governments and their leaders is an overriding desire to survive. If Iranian nukes are ever used for aggression, the regime can be sure Iran will be, as Hillary Clinton so vividly put it, "obliterated."

  • Neil||

    Thoreau the Iranaian leadership isnt reational they just want to kill Jews and after that it doesnt matter to them if they die or are "martyered" they get to see Allah then.

  • ||

    "Containment" might not be the correct term in the present circumstances, but the overall idea is still valid. Getting bogged down in the details of now versus then doesn't change that. And we've all seen how ineffective preemptive war turned out to be.

    Realpolitik gets a bad name because of some of Kissinger's actions, but basing foreign policy on reality rather than moralistic crusades seems a wise idea to me.

    In the end, American fiscal limitations will have more to do with modifying our foreign policy than any philosophical change. We simply cannot afford a bunch of preemptive wars and resulting occupations.

  • ||

    Thoreau the Iranaian leadership isnt reational they just want to kill Jews and after that it doesnt matter to them if they die or are "martyered" they get to see Allah then.

    Oh, please. The Iranian leadership has demonstrated decades' worth of rationality. They've quite effectively maintained power in the face of their economic incompetence by diverting public attention to "The Great Satan" or "The Evil Jews." It's a classic from the totalitarian playbook.

  • Neil||

    ChrisO they want to "wipe Israel off the map". What part of that DONT you understand?

  • Elemenope||

    The Iranian leadership isn't rational they just want to kill Jews and after that it doesn't matter to them if they die or are "martyred" they get to see Allah then.

    Did you get a copy of their super-secret plans? Or a long-distance mind-reading device? Because it doesn't follow from their actions or their public statements that they are either

    1) Irrational

    or

    2) Willing to die in order to kill Jews

  • Elemenope||

    ChrisO they want to "wipe Israel off the map". What part of that DONT you understand?

    Neil, are you saying that the USSR (your paragon of "rational" powers) didn't want to wipe the US off the map?

  • Episiarch||

    Neil, I'd like to ask you a serious question. Who do you think the last Cylon model is?

  • ||

    ChrisO they want to "wipe Israel off the map". What part of that DONT you understand?

    Yeah, and I want six-pack abs. Neither is a very likely occurrence.

  • Neil||

    Tell me when Stalin came out publically and said he would "wipe America off the map".

  • Neil||

    You know back in the 1930s Hitler laid out his diabolical plans for world domination but like you they said "oh they're not that crazy, they're not irrational, we can do business with Hitler" etc.

    Howd that work out? Need a black Umbrella?

  • thoreau||

    Neil is such an awesome performance artist. His inability to remember "We will bury you" is especially cute.

  • ||

    Hitler was neither crazy nor irrational. He was overambitious.

    I don't think anyone is saying that we should ignore potential threats posed by Iran and North Korea. But charging in with the cavalry is far from the only, or even the best, approach.

  • ||

    Neil | May 8, 2008, 1:45pm | #
    ChrisO they want to "wipe Israel off the map". What part of that DONT you understand?


    Okay, assuming that it's any of our business what happens to Israel the sheer logistics of an Israeli invasion make this impossible.

    Iran would have to go through either Iraq or Turkey, Syria and Jordan, destabilizing the entire Middle East in the process. The real players in the M.E. (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt) won't let it happen. They have too much riding on stability to let a full scale war break out. If Iran attempts to "wipe Israel off the map", they will be put in their place without us even having to raise a finger.

  • Episiarch||

    Neil, do you think Clark will finally get together with Lois on this season of Smallville, or will it be next year?

  • Neil||

    Kwix you don't need to go through any country to launch a few nukes overhead.

  • ||

    Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that Israel has the most advanced military machine in the M.E.? Granted, that comes from its close relationship to the U.S. but still, I suspect that Israel can handle themselves quite well without us having to set foot anywhere near Iran.

    Saying that we need to invade Iran to protect Israel is like saying we need to provide all Blacks with welfare because they "obviously" can't provide for themselves. I think that both Black people and Jews will surprise you Neil.

    Always bet on Yahweh.

  • Pottsy||

    Yeah, and I want six-pack abs. Neither is a very likely occurrence.

    Not to mention that Ahmadinejad, who is responsible for the Israel comment, and also not exactly universally well liked in Iran, does not have power over the armed forces. Khameni has rejected that Iran would ever attack Israel unprovoked. Not that that should be taken at face value, but viewing the Iranians, or ANY adversarial government as being some sort of evil, monolithic entity all marching to the beat of the same drum is just boneheaded. One of the most important lessons from the cold war is that there is always the possibility of internal collapse, made even stronger when the ruling regime is of a totalitarian bent.

    But then, I don't think anyone can expect someone of Neil's intellectual capabilities to understand that.

  • Elemenope||

    Always bet on Yahweh.

    Except during world wars. You can't forget that crucial corollary!

  • Neil||

    You want to give a link to that Pottsy, that he said he wouldn't attack Israel unless provoked? Linky?

  • Elemenope||

    Hitler was neither crazy nor irrational. He was overambitious.

    Agreed.

    Also, he was crazy and irrational.

  • Episiarch||

    Neil, would you say that Cannibal Holocaust was exploitative, or that Deodato was merely trying to expose the subjectivity of journalism?

  • Pottsy||

    Sure, Neil, if you're too lazy to do a little research before discussing an issue, then here.

  • Neil||

    What the hell are you going on about Episiarch?

  • Neil||

    LOL Pottsy the far-left Guardian? Give me the original source, they will twist anything to get a pacifist view.

  • Neil||

    Oh and the article was written by a Muslim LOL please try harder pottsy.

  • ||

    Clark and Lois may be unable to safely consummate their relationship, Episiarch.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Neil,

    If I recall my reading correctly, Charlie Wilson had a huge part to do with defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. A liberal democrat who helped defeat communist forces . . . you seem to have selective memory.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Elemonope,

    He was also probably Jewish. He destroyed his family records so it is impossible to find out for sure.

  • Episiarch||

    I've seen that, ProL. Clark seems to have had no problem hiding the salami with Lana, so I doubt it's a concern.

  • ||

    Naga Sadow,

    I thought the possibility of Hitler having Jewish blood (in recent generations, anyway) had been fairly convincingly discredited, though, naturally, I can't recall why I think that.

    Episiarch,

    I can't help it if they don't understand Kryptonian physics in these Superman TV shows and movies. Someday, a Superboy series will be produced where Lana nearly gets her head blown off while servicing Clark. After which he either swears a vow of chastity or finds an additional use for his cape.

  • Pottsy||

    Sorry, Neil - I forgot that Muslims are all evil terrorists hell bent on destroying us to get to those virgins in the afterlife.

    I don't agree with everything in ANY media outlet, but the fact of the matter is that the veracity of the statement and the response by other players inside the Iranian government IS up for debate. Of course, if you'd prefer to further the case for global war based on the possibility that someday, somehow, one country halfway around the world might try to attack another country halfway around the world, be my guest. Just keep in mind that 1979 might not have even happened if it wasn't for douchebags like you, but with actual power, thinking they could meddle in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

  • Naga Sadow||

    PL,

    Not convincingly discredited. He altered whatever documents that he did not destroy. I've read also that it wasn't true but then I wonder why he would go through all the trouble with his records. I stand by my assessment that he was "probably" Jewish. Can't be certain what you can't prove, regardless of circumstantial evidence.

  • ||

    The problem is not that the Iranians are too crazy to be deterred from using nuclear weapons. That is a bullshit straw man. The problem is that nuclear weapons mean that confronting Iran risks a nuclear war. Despite what the paper hanging hostage taking little bastard in charge over there says, I don't think the Iranians are itching to start a nuclear war with Israel or the US.

    But, if the Iran had nukes and say Hammas pulled off a big attack in Europe or the US, what the hell are we going to do about it? Short of a chemical or biological attack are we really willing to risk a nuclear war over one terrorist attack? Would we risk a nuclear war to go in and clean out Lebanon or attack terrorist camps in Syria? I doubt it and even if we were, it is a horrible risk to have to take.

    Further, once Iran has nukes, what is going to prevent them from exterminating their dissidents? Right now, Iran can't get too out of control because they have to at some level care about international opinion. Once they have nukes, all bets are off. No one will dare confront them.

    Then of course there are Iran's regional enemies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the gulf states. What is to stop them from proliferating in response to Iran? They are terrified of Iran. Is a nuclear stalemate among potentially radical and unstable governments in an area that holds half the world's oil really what we want?

    Then there are the security issues. What happens if the Iranian people or the Army finally do get enough and there is a revolution? We worry about the security of the Pakistani nukes, what about the Iranian ones? Do we really want to be in a position where we hope the Mullahs remain in power for no other reason that they are our only hope to keep some accountability over Iranian nukes?

    There are enormous consequences to Iran getting nukes and none of them involve them going crazy and nuking us and none of them are good. The worst part is that it is completely in Iran's national interest to obtain nukes. Becoming a nuclear power would make them virtually immune from international pressure and give them enormous power to bully their regional adversaries. That is why Obama's talk of "diplomacy" is wishful thinking. What does Obama plan to do to get the Iranians to act against their national interests? Ask them nicely? The only thing Obama or anyone else can do in negotiations is to do what Clinton and later Bush have done with the North Koreans; pay them protection money and hope they don't double cross us and build the things anyway.

    Part of the problem is that Europe is playing good cop to our bad cop. A nuclear Iran is more of a threat to Europe than it is to the US. Those missiles won't be aimed at Washington. They will be aimed at Paris and Berlin. Further, the US doesn't have huge unassimilated and radicalized Muslim populations eager to do the mullahs bidding. The problem is that the Europeans are too afraid of their internal Muslim minorities to do anything about Iran. And why should they as long as they think that in the end the US will say screw it and bomb Iran alone leaving Europe to bemoan American unilateralism and war mongering while all the while breathing a sigh of relief privately?

    The US needs to call Europe's bluff and admit that only a multinational sanction and or war effort will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. They need to tell the world that they are not going to act against Iran absent UN/NATO mandate or self defense. Let the Europeans stew over the real prospects of a nuclear Iran and make them do something to defend themselves for a change. Saber rattling only lets the Europeans know that we will deal with the problem and take all of the heat without their help.

  • ||

    While I'm not sure that "rollback" is particularly libertarian, I'm not sure that containment and Kissinger really are either.

    But anyway, I also love how the lead is about McCain, Steve saves all his heat for McCain, but then notes "Shapiro told me he sees no evidence that Clinton or Barack Obama would return to containment. But the challenges we face are likely to push them toward it. Those dilemmas, after all, have prompted a reconsideration by none other than President Bush."

    So, umm, Clinton and Obama are saying the same things about bombing Iran, but he claims that they'll obvious reconsider their rhetoric, and he admits that Bush has not bombed the DPRK or Iran despite rhetoric.

    But apparently it's inconceivable that McCain would change his mind, just as apparently the post-Bosnia (where he was a skeptic) turn towards more "boots on the ground" for McCain is viewed as irrevocable. He may be stubborn, but I doubt that even Sen. McCain is that stubborn. (If he is, then I sure would enjoy seeing the farm bill actually be vetoed, like he claims.)

  • ||

    Epi and PL,

    Actually, Clark and Lana have only made the beast with two backs when he was depowered. Bizarro laid some pipe without killing her, but he probably did it backwards.

    (Backwards sex for Bizarro: His kryptoprick inhales to "ejaculate" or Lana wears him out with a strap-on? Or both...)

  • ||

    Naga Sadow,

    Well, no one really knows, but I think most historians tend to reject that rumor as unsupported. He likely did have Czech blood, which he may have wanted to hide, and one site I saw suggested that the Schicklegrubers had serious genetic issues.

    SugarFree,

    Okay, then. Hope he doesn't kill Lois.

  • ||

    One other thing, it would nice if someone would actually know something about the history of the cold war before they start celebrating the real politick that won it. The cold war sucked. Two countries sat with knives at each other's throats, spent billions of dollars and for 40 years were one miscalculation away from destroying the world. When you think about the Cuban missile crisis and the numerous times we now know that the US and USSR almost accidentally started a nuclear war you realize we are all lucky to be alive. And recreating this and hoping we get lucky again is a good thing?

  • Urkobold™||

    AND THE COLD WAR DEPRIVED US OF ACCESS TO HOT, RUSSIAN WOMEN. DAMN THE COLD WARRIORS! DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!

  • Episiarch||

    NutraSweet, I thought that he recently had been sinking the pink with Lana when repowered. Maybe I was wrong.

    In any case, he needs to get past Lana and go for Lois.

  • ||

    PL,

    She should be OK, she looks built for speed.

    Link NSFW

  • ||

    Also, just because you would prefer not to have to do containment, doesn't mean that you reject containment. If it were possible to shoot the Rosenbergs and Klaus Fuches in 1945 and keep the Soviets from getting the bomb and enabled the US to help Eastern Europe throw off the Soviet yoke in the 1950s and avoided 40 years of MAD, I sure as hell would have done it. As it was, we couldn't do those things and we got stuck with 40 years of containment and MAD. Just because it was the only option doesn't mean it was the best of all possible options.

  • zoltan||

    Episiarch, I do not understand the appeal of Lana. Maybe because when I watched the show when it first started, Clark was a pussy who couldn't handle a chick like Lois. But he really needs to grow up.

    And concerning the article, I'm in the middle of The Lexus and the Olive Tree which talks about the dichotomy of the Cold War system and the globalization system. I'm not taking it as gospel or anything, but there is a point. Can we even go back to the Cold War system and its policies? I do agree with the comment that we need to base our actions on reality instead of moralistic crusades though.

  • ||

    "ChrisO they want to "wipe Israel off the map". What part of that DONT you understand?"

    According to Juan Cole, a professor of the Modern Middle East at the University of Michigan, "The phrase [Ahmadinejad] then used as I read it is 'The Imam [Khomeini] said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope - that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government."

    Arash Narouzi, an Iranian intellectual who was no friend of the regime in Tehran, made much the same point: "What exactly did he [Ahmadinejad] want wiped from the map? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word 'map' was never used. The Persian word for map, 'nagsheh' is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase 'wipe out' ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's president threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map' despite never having uttered the words 'map, 'wipe out' or even 'Israel'".

  • ||

    bookworm,

    I wouldn't take Ahmadinejad totally at his word. That said, he is a career criminal nominally in charge of a fanatical and criminal regime. Nuclear weapons would certainly be a handy toy for him to have. There are a lot of ways to cause mischief without trying to nuke Israel.

  • ||

    Epi,

    Clark was without powers for the summer and they quit getting it on when he got them back. He started back up, having gotten over his fear of killing her during sex, but that was really Bizarro.

    I have this weird memory for continuity, not a rabid fanship for the show. I can do this for everything I watch. Would you like me to catch you up on the episodes of Gossip Girl you might have missed? I lot of big things happened this week...

  • Episiarch||

    Episiarch, I do not understand the appeal of Lana.

    Agreed. Very pretty but way too skinny and short. However, she has proven herself to be very conniving and devious in that Luthor way.

    I am bone tired of Clark's infatuation with her but I also realize that as soon as he gets with Lois the show is basically over.

  • Episiarch||

    Would you like me to catch you up on the episodes of Gossip Girl you might have missed? I lot of big things happened this week...

    Faaaaaaaaaag.

    I was pretty buzzed during the last few episodes I've seen so my memory for continuity is quite bad. I guess I'll have to defer to you.

  • gmatts||

    "Remember, it was conservative Republicans and Joe Lieberman Democrats who won the Cold War."

    No. Conservative Republicans were busy during the Cold War accusing Eisenhower, Truman and anybody else they didn't agree with of being communists.
    Why would you use "Joe Lieberman Democrats" to describe someone during the Cold War. Lieberman came to Washington as the Cold War was pretty much over. I guess that Lieberman was at the front lines of the Cold War while working in the Conn. Attorney Generals Office.

    "Obama just isn't tough enough to deal with the dictators and terrorists hes so eager to have a "conversation with"."

    Is Bush being tough when he talks, holds hands and walks thru flower gardens with the Saudi Royal family. Or Mubarak from Egypt. Becuase they seem to me to be dictators. And in the case of the Saudis, terrorists as well.

    "He funded the forces of freedom in all over the world (Angola, Central America), though, and invaded Grenada. The leftist Democrat Party was against both things"

    You forgot to mention the forces of freedom that were funded in Iran during the Cold War.

  • ||

    "But, if the Iran had nukes and say Hammas pulled off a big attack in Europe or the US, what the hell are we going to do about it?"

    First of all, why would Hamas attack Europe or the US? The only reason they would have to do so is because of our meddling policy in the Middle East. We can end that possibility by ending our meddling foreign policy.

    Besides, why would Iran want to attack us with nukes when they know that we could obliterate them with nukes?

  • ||

    "No. Conservative Republicans were busy during the Cold War accusing Eisenhower, Truman and anybody else they didn't agree with of being communists.
    Why would you use "Joe Lieberman Democrats" to describe someone during the Cold War. Lieberman came to Washington as the Cold War was pretty much over. I guess that Lieberman was at the front lines of the Cold War while working in the Conn. Attorney Generals Office."

    Again it would be nice if someone knew something about the Cold war. Before Watergate the Democrats were every bit the cold warriors that the Republicans were. Truman fought communist insurgents in Greece, conducted the Berlin Airlift and acted to stop communist aggression in Korea. Kennedy acted to get missiles out of Cuba and got us seriously involved in Vietnam. Of course Johnson went to war in Vietnam. After Watergate, there was a surrender wing of the Democratic Party. That wing fought tooth and nail everything Reagan tried to do in the 1980s and called him a senile old man and a war monger for telling the truth about the Soviet Union. Had it been up to the post Watergate/Vietnam left, we never would have won the cold war. Granted that didn't include the entire party, there were still lots of principled anti-communists in the Democratic Party, but there were a lot who weren't to.

  • ||

    Faaaaaaaaaag.

    Yes. Watching a show with her, her, her, and her on it is very gay of me.

    Who's the fag now, bitch?

  • ||

    "Besides, why would Iran want to attack us with nukes when they know that we could obliterate them with nukes?"


    Because they know we are not going to obliterate them with nukes. Did we obliterate Afghanistan with nukes? Did we obliterate Iraq with nukes? No. Further, is it your contention that the US nuking Iran and killing millions is some kind of good outcome? The less excuse we have to do that the better and the only way we would ever do that is if the Iranians were crazy enough to do the same to us, which is another reason we are better off with them not having nukes.

    Why would the Iran or Hammas attack US or Europe? Because it would cause us to stop supporting Israel and any other of their adversaries in the region. Why on earth would the Taliban and Osama Bin Ladin have ever attacked us? I know our horrible policies. Okay, if we disengage from the Middle East, what is to stop a nuclear armed Iran from basically taking over the entire place? That by the way has always been the Mullahs stated goal; spreading the Islamic revolution throughout the entire Muslim world. If we want to surrender the entire middle east to them and I guess fall at their feet and beg for their favor, you are right they are not much of a threat nukes or no nukes. But if that is the option, at least be honest about it and say so rather than pretending that things can go on as they are with a nuclear armed Iran.

  • ||

    "I wouldn't take Ahmadinejad totally at his word. That said, he is a career criminal nominally in charge of a fanatical and criminal regime. Nuclear weapons would certainly be a handy toy for him to have. There are a lot of ways to cause mischief without trying to nuke Israel."

    First of all, the Supreme Ayatolla Khameini is in charge of foreign policy. Second, I don't think Ahmadinejad or Khameini is crazy enough to nuke us or Israel because they know we would obliterate them in return. Third, if we start up a war with Iran, it will be devastating in economic terms and in lives lost. It's better to negotiate with Iran the way we're doing with North Korea. Iran reached out to negotiate with us in 2003. They were willing to recognize Israel, stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, and to not develop nukes, but the Bush Administration was not willing to negotiate. Apparently, Bush, Cheney, and the neocons will accept nothing less than regime change.

  • ||

    "Did we obliterate Afghanistan with nukes? Did we obliterate Iraq with nukes?"

    Afghanistan and Iraq never attacked us with nukes. Do you really think we wouldn't respond with nukes if we were attacked with nukes? Iran would never take that chance.

  • ||

    "Why would the Iran or Hammas attack US or Europe? Because it would cause us to stop supporting Israel and any other of their adversaries in the region."

    Exactly! John, you finally get why their attacking us. It's because of our meddling foreign policy. They would have no reason to attack us in the first place if we were'nt meddling over there. We need to have neutral relations and free trading relations with all countries over there.

  • ||

    "Afghanistan and Iraq never attacked us with nukes. Do you really think we wouldn't respond with nukes if we were attacked with nukes? Iran would never take that chance."

    I think we would obliterate them. That said, I don't think they are crazy but there is certainly some non-zero chance that they are. Second, even if they are not crazy, that doesn't mean that they might miscalculate and start a war. The Soviets were not crazy or suicidal, yet there were several times during the cold war when they nearly launched an attack on the US. Heck, even the US nearly launched a pre-emptive nuclear war against both the USSR and China during the Cuban Missile crisis. Had Kennedy listened to Curtis LeMay, they would have. Once Iran has nukes, we face all of those kinds of prospects over again. That is a pretty lousy risk to take.

  • ||

    "Okay, if we disengage from the Middle East, what is to stop a nuclear armed Iran from basically taking over the entire place?"

    We could be a balancer of last resort. We could threaten Iran with retaliation to keep them from using nukes. We could let other countries in the area know we have their back and that there is no need to give into Iran's blackmail. But, I think Iran is more interested in having nukes to keep us from bullying them. They see that that has worked for North Korea. Remember also, that Iran has not attacked a single country in modern history.

  • ||

    "I think we would obliterate them. That said, I don't think they are crazy but there is certainly some non-zero chance that they are. Second, even if they are not crazy, that doesn't mean that they might miscalculate and start a war. The Soviets were not crazy or suicidal, yet there were several times during the cold war when they nearly launched an attack on the US. Heck, even the US nearly launched a pre-emptive nuclear war against both the USSR and China during the Cuban Missile crisis. Had Kennedy listened to Curtis LeMay, they would have. Once Iran has nukes, we face all of those kinds of prospects over again. That is a pretty lousy risk to take."

    The problem with preemptive wars is do we go all over the world starting up wars with countries over what might happen in the future? This is a prescription for endless wars, but maybe this is what the military industrial complex and the warmongers want.

  • ||

    I think Iran is looking for nukes to be able to exterminate internal dissent without having to worry about international pressure. You can get away with a lot more of that kind of thing if you have nukes. I think they are also looking for nukes as a way to bully and dominate their neighbors. Yeah, we can have their neighbors back but then we are right back to a cold war with Iran. That may be what we have to do. I am not sure what the military options really are. If you told me we could launch a series of air attacks and keep them from getting nukes for the next 10 years I would do it. But I am not sure that is possible. The only way we can stop them without bombing them is get the rest of the world, Russia and Europe on board for seriously sanctioning them. I am not sure that is possible either. But one thing is for sure, that is not possible if Europe and Russia think we are going to bomb Iran with or without their support.

  • gmatts||

    "Again it would be nice if someone knew something about the Cold war. Before Watergate the Democrats were every bit the cold warriors that the Republicans were. Truman fought communist insurgents in Greece, conducted the Berlin Airlift and acted to stop communist aggression in Korea. Kennedy acted to get missiles out of Cuba and got us seriously involved in Vietnam. Of course Johnson went to war in Vietnam."

    And all the while the hard core conservatives, like those in the John Birch Society, were accusing all those people you mentioned above of being communists.
    (I should have wrote "hard core conservatives" in my 1st post, not just "conservative republicans. My bad)
    Truman's policy (later backed by Eisenhower as well) in Korea was to essentially fight for a stalemate with negotiated borders. yet Truman was ridiculed by those on the far right then for "suurending". It was even argued that he should have invaded China. Kennedy was blamed for the missile crisis as a result of the Bay of Pigs and was criticized for not invading Cuba, or some type of action in Berlin. Yet he negotiated with the Soviets and everyone lived. It seems that many people who are comfortable today playing the "surrender" card would be equally comfortable years ago playing that same card against the people above that you refer to as the good Cold Warriors.
    As for Johnson, I'm not sure what makes him a good ColdWarrior. Just the fact that he favored war with North Vietnam?


    "That wing fought tooth and nail everything Reagan tried to do in the 1980s and called him a senile old man and a war monger for telling the truth about the Soviet Union."

    And there were a fair amount of hard core conservatives that were extremely upset with Reagan for negotiating with the Soviets. Namely, those that make up the the neoconservative movement today. They cried that it was defeat, surrender, etc. The Soviet Union was running on fumes by then, bleeding themselves in Afghanistan, and every move that Reagan made in terms of negotiating with the Soviets at that point was seen as "surrender" by hard core conservatives, who greatly overestimated the strength of the Soviet Union.

  • ||

    Containment?

    Inextricably linked with the strategy of containment were the Korean and Vietnam War, which in terms of casualties and costs (as a percentage of GDP) dwarf that of the Iraq war. Also, military spending under Reagan, when there was no shooting war, is roughly the same as a percentage of GDP as it is today, Iraq/Afghanistan included.

    Also, we shouldn't necessarily be so concerned with Iran/Iraq, etc. getting nuclear weapons because they might (have) used them at the outset, but rather it gives an aggressive/nasty/genocidal regime more leverage to do all sorts of other things. An example, imagine if Israel had not bombed Sadaam's nuclear reactor, and that, by 1990 Iraq had a few nuclear weapons. Repelling Sadaam's invasion of Kuwait (and then perhaps Saudi Arabia) would have been much more dangerous and costly. This is precisely the reason the West had to grin and bear the Soviet Union's domination of Eastern Europe for 50 odd years. But I guess according to Chapman, this wasn't such a big deal.

  • ||

    "Would we risk a nuclear war to go in and clean out Lebanon or attack terrorist camps in Syria? I doubt it and even if we were, it is a horrible risk to have to take."

    The only reason we would be doeing any of the above is for helping Israel. Israel's treatment of Palestinians is what is creating the terrorist activity against them. We should not subsidize Israel's policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid by taking on their enemies. It is up to Israel to develop better relations with the Palestinians if peace is to prevail in that region.

  • ||

    I'll just add, lest I'm called a neo-con stooge using my secret Jew beams, using WWII as a guide to fighting Islamic terrorism, is just as useless as using Cold War containment as a useful guide, not to mention when you're presenting a rose-colored, and more importantly, inaccurate portrayal of what containment entailed.

  • jeopardy contestant||

    John said:
    "Okay, if we disengage from the Middle East, what is to stop a nuclear armed Iran from basically taking over the entire place?"

    I'll go with "Nuclear Amed Israel" for $400, Alex.

  • ||

    "Repelling Sadaam's invasion of Kuwait (and then perhaps Saudi Arabia) would have been much more dangerous and costly."

    I wonder though if Sadaam would have ever attacked Kuwait if Ambassador April Glaspie hadn't given him the green light. If instead, she would have gotten back with Bush and told him of Sadaam's intentions and then Bush give him a warning, he probably would not have attacked. The same thing applies to a nuclear Iraq. Also, why do we have to be the policeman of the world? Shouldn't we encourage countries in the area to form alliances against bullies like Sadaam's Iraq? If we always play the policeman of the world, these countries will never take responsibility for their own defense. Also, we will drain our economy in such an endeavor. Eisenhour believed that our strenth was in our economy, not a blustering foreign policy.

  • ||

    "Further, once Iran has nukes, what is going to prevent them from exterminating their dissidents? Right now, Iran can't get too out of control because they have to at some level care about international opinion. Once they have nukes, all bets are off. No one will dare confront them."

    Is it our business to confront them? There are oppressive regimes all over the world. Is it our business to confront them all? It is up to the people of Iran to overthrow the mullahs if they so choose to. They did it before.

  • ||

    Bookworm:

    The point of my post was not necessarily an endorsement of the US being the world's policeman, but it was meant to address what I feel was the article's mostly inaccurate/misleading portayal of what containment entailed, and how it doesn't that much to teach us with respect to how we deal with Islamic terrorism and/or aggressive Middle East regimes.

    Nevetheless, I find your idea that other middle eastern countries could have banded together to repel a nuclear armed Iraq -- especially when said countries would not include Israel -- wishful thinking.

  • ||

    "Then of course there are Iran's regional enemies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the gulf states. What is to stop them from proliferating in response to Iran? They are terrified of Iran. Is a nuclear stalemate among potentially radical and unstable governments in an area that holds half the world's oil really what we want?"

    Countries seem less likely to attack each other when they both have nukes. It is only when one country has nukes and the other country doesn't when the country with nukes is emboldened to nuke the other such as when we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were considering nuking China in 1958.

  • ||

    "Nevetheless, I find your idea that other middle eastern countries could have banded together to repel a nuclear armed Iraq -- especially when said countries would not include Israel -- wishful thinking."

    I also pointed out that we could be balancers of last resort. We could warn the nuclear country not to use nukes or we would respond in kind. We could tell the other countries in the area that we have their back and therefore, not to give in to blackmail by the nuclear country.

  • ||

    "I wonder though if Sadaam would have ever attacked Kuwait if Ambassador April Glaspie hadn't given him the green light."

    Who knows. Kim Il Sung probably wouldn't have invaded South Korea had we not told him we wouldn't stop him. The point is miscalculations happen, which is why the world is better off the few countries have nuclear weapons.

  • ||

    Kennedy was blamed for the missile crisis as a result of the Bay of Pigs and was criticized for not invading Cuba, or some type of action in Berlin. Yet he negotiated with the Soviets and everyone lived.

    Well, except for the people shot trying to escape from East Berlin. Constructing the Berlin Wall was a blatant treaty violation by the USSR, and the Western Allies had the ability and the legal right to knock it down before it was finished, but JFK sat back and watched it go up.

    And you're not seriously saying that criticism of JFK over the Bay of Pigs fiasco was unfair, are you?

  • gmatts||

    "Well, except for the people shot trying to escape from East Berlin. Constructing the Berlin Wall was a blatant treaty violation by the USSR, and the Western Allies had the ability and the legal right to knock it down before it was finished, but JFK sat back and watched it go up.

    And you're not seriously saying that criticism of JFK over the Bay of Pigs fiasco was unfair, are you?"

    But the legal right and ability to knock down the wall would not have been worth it just to prevent the Soviets from erecting a wall. My cmment about eveyone living was in regards to the Cuban Missile Crisis and that JFK's negotiating, or "surrender" as some would have labeled it, prevented millions of lives being lost.

    And no, I'm not suggesting that the criticism over the Bay of Pigs was unfair. My point was directed at someone who was stating that long ago Democrats were good Cold Warriors and then got taken over by the surrender wing of the party post-watergate. Kennedy f-d up with okaying the Bay of Pigs, triggering a response from the Cubans and Russians that almost led to catastrophe in the missle crisis. But in both instances he was labeled as being weak, or surrendering by many political opponents. In contrast to the view that the other poster seemed to present that prior to Watergate: Democrats and Republicans always simpatico in their approach to the Cold War.

  • ||

    Israel's treatment of Palestinians is what is creating the terrorist activity against them.

    Actual, I think it is Israel's existence that incites the terrorist activity against Israel.

    We could threaten Iran with retaliation to keep them from using nukes. We could let other countries in the area know we have their back and that there is no need to give into Iran's blackmail.

    After bailing out of Iraq and leaving our allies there to the mercy of Iran and its proxies, and/or declining to take effective action to prevent Iran from getting nukes in the first place, I'm sure our assurances will carry a lot of weight.

    Second, I don't think Ahmadinejad or Khameini is crazy enough to nuke us or Israel because they know we would obliterate them in return.

    If he nukes Israel, I think the Israelis would take care of it for us. But it raises an interesting question: should we nuke Iran if it attacks anyone other than the US with nuclear weapons?

  • ||

    After bailing out of Iraq and leaving our allies there to the mercy of Iran and its proxies, and/or declining to take effective action to prevent Iran from getting nukes in the first place, I'm sure our assurances will carry a lot of weight.

    Wait, did the US promise to keep 100,000+ troops in Iraq until it was a democratic paradise? There's a big difference between an assurance of a swift retaliatory strike and an assurance of a decades-long occupation, in any case.

  • ||

    And if you're saying that acting in such a way that Iran's position in the region is strengthened will cause our allies to distrust us, well, that ship sailed five and a half years ago, to the whoops and cheers of you and your ilk.

  • MJ||

    Realpolitik, of course, means getting into bed with and supporting unsavory and even oppressive governments because your Machivellian calculations say the alternatives are worse. Some people think that such a policy radicalizes the oppressed peoples and encourages terrorism against the US due to the moral compromises inherent to such a strategy.

    Which is not to say we should not pursue a containment policy, but that there is no alternative to fighting the enemies of our country that does not have potential negative consequences. That also means we should follow a hot war strategy when the case makes sense.

  • ||

    MJ,

    A hot war strategy also requires slipping into bed with unsavories, unless you want to fight the whole world alone. Look at our support for disgusting, autocratic regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Tajikstan, among others, which are all necessary to keep above water the War on Terror and the Iraq war in particular. Look at our alliance with Stalin in WW2. Look at the murderous regimes we supported in Korea and Vietnam.

  • ||

    Not to mention the murderous Israeli govt, but sometimes I wonder if that's a case of the tail wagging the dog, which makes it quite a different phenomenon indeed.

  • Brian Carnell||

    @bookworm...the claim about April Glaspie is nonsense. This is Tariq Aziz from a 2000 interview with Frontline:

    "Could you elaborate on the point about mixed signals sent by the U.S. during the run-up to the invasion of Kuwait? How did those influence your government's decision?

    There were no mixed signals. We should not forget that the whole period before August 2 witnessed a negative American policy towards Iraq. So it would be quite foolish to think that, if we go to Kuwait, then America would like that. Because the American tendency . . . was to untie Iraq. So how could we imagine that such a step was going to be appreciated by the Americans? It looks foolish, you see, this is fiction. About the meeting with April Glaspie--it was a routine meeting. There was nothing extraordinary in it. She didn't say anything extraordinary beyond what any professional diplomat would say without previous instructions from his government. She did not ask for an audience with the president. She was summoned by the president. He telephoned me and said, "Bring the American ambassador. I want to see her." She was not prepared, because it was not morning in Washington. People in Washington were asleep, so she needed a half-hour

    To contact anybody in Washington and seek instructions. So, what she said were routine, classical comments on what the president was asking her to convey to President Bush. He wanted her to carry a message to George Bush--not to receive a message through her from Washington."

  • MJ||

    "A hot war strategy also requires slipping into bed with unsavories,..."

    Yes, I did not say it did not. Of course, because the Bush administration has not been pursuing a purely hot war strategy (such a strategy is not desirable or even feasible), there has always been a Realpolitik containment aspect to it outside of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is normal. There is no morally pure, consequenceless strategy to follow. In some cases a shooting war is the best option, in most cases it is not.

  • MJ||

    "Not to mention the murderous Israeli govt, but sometimes I wonder if that's a case of the tail wagging the dog, which makes it quite a different phenomenon indeed."

    Well, you show yourself to be a useful idiot for the Palestinians.

  • Nick_M||

    Assuming the absolute irrationality of the enemy has always been, and will always be, the first and most necessary step in the justification of one's own extremism.

  • ||

    I'm just really amused by the phrase "forces of freedom."

  • jkp||

    Alas, the pre-war Iraq containment policy debate was NOT so cut-and-dried as Mr. Chapman presents it. Many were arguing for and end to the policy by the end of the 90s, and were using pictures of starving Iraqi children as anti-American propaganda.

    True, there was still a bipartisan core of support for the policy in the U.S., and it may have weathered the anti-containment propaganda storm. Mr. Chapman, however, was one of the chorus of ante-bellum voices arguing for the END of the linchpin of the Iraq containment policy, the economic sanctions:

    "In the 10 years since Saddam Hussein launched his ill-fated invasion of Kuwait, Iraqis have had to bear the burden not only of a bloodthirsty tyrant, but also the weight of an international economic embargo. The embargo, championed mainly by Washington, has largely failed to achieve its objectives, but every failure is cited as proof that it must continue."

    Steve Chapman, "Iraq Policy Doesn't Stand Up To Inspection", CHICAGO TRIBUNE (Aug. 27, 2000).

    Also, I trust that it was not a malicious error, but only Mr. Chapman's forgetfulness that led him to omit the fact that economic sanctions against the U.S.S.R. was a key part of containment until the Soviet empire collapsed.

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