BTW - since I see Japan coming up a lot more lately, here's a link to an analysis of the economic challenges that the the new government there is facing. Despite the dateline, it was originally published a week or so ago. I was thinking of including an excerpt in a CotD - it was one of those bearish articles I was reading when I instead put up that "bull of bulls" call.

Aside from the intrinsic interest, the article brings up the "best-laid plans" aspect of the machinations of Russia, China, Japan, and others. We're hardly the only ones who've been dealt an imperfect hand, or with difficult adjustments to be concerned about.

I persuaded myself over the course of a few weeks that politically as well as strategically, there was no choice but to support full implementation of the McChrystal plan - even if you were skeptical about it. As for Iran, if you accept that Iran going nuclear would be a significant and possibly irretrievable strategic setback, and that it's approaching some point of no return on effective military action, then maybe you have to support action to prevent that from occurring, including a military strike, even one handled less than optimally by the Obami.

After all, even if Obama couldn't be expected to handle all of the details as well as President Julius, the main operation would be handled by others.

@J.E. Dyer - read it, highly informative as usual - but not very optimistic! If we were determined to maintain or re-gain our strategic footing, we'd go either the Friedman route of fight/flee or the hawk route of fight/fight, but your analysis seems to suggest that we're better than halfway to flee/flee anyway.

Also, JED, I'm wondering about your response to Friedman's analysis.

@J.E. Dyer - JED - that's a big subject. I'll have to get to it later, since I've already been procrastinating my day away.

@Sully - Iran as we know it is locked into an expansionist mode. It can't change course any easier than Adolf Hitler could have decided to bank his gains ca. May 1941 and call it a splendid career, just to give one famous road not taken. I've stated that Obama lacks a regime change stance, but in a broad sense that's not accurate: He's pursuing a policy that implies regime change in the sense of a fundamental change in the character of the regime from revolutionary Islamist to world citizen in good standing. Iran can't change course without changing itself fundamentally.

I don't agree, incidentally, that the argument for pre-emption by any means necessary is contingent on a security for Israel argument, though Israel's concerns are certainly a major part of any realistic calculation.

I think Iran will keep on going until it discovers that it's gone too far - where that point is is very hard to predict - and then it will be beaten up, badly.

I also think that if Iran does obtain a real nuclear arsenal, there is a good chance that it will find itself constrained - and changed - in ways that the radicals will not enjoy.

Alright - who kidnapped JED's bat?

@fuster - I think there's a wide range of possibilities, including the one outlined by Amir Taheri (no softy on Iran) that Iran, in line with fatwas including ones by Khamenei against nuclear weapons, would take the program all the way up to pre-weaponization, all the while milking Western cowardice for all its worth. As I've stated several times, in many ways they're getting everything they could want from having nukes without actually building them.

It's not in their method or part of their identity to appear to cave in, though they did, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war under Khomeini, show a willingness to accept realism as the better part of insane commitment to martyrdom. As others have pointed out, the legitimacy crisis appears to have hardened their position, given them less "wiggle room."

The Yom Kippur launches and A-jad's intensifying antisemitic irascibility seem to suggest that they're still banking credibility at our expense. Unless faced with a truly dire threat, or with what the late Les Aspin used to call "compellance," why shouldn't they play things out? Put to the test, for instance, the unwieldy coalition that would be needed to enforce "severe, crippling" sanctions? If the sanctions regime broke down, then they could have their regional hegemony and eat it, too.

Sully, the main check on such action would or should be prospects for the regime's own survival.

Every time I read somebody discussing the possible fallout out of a strike on Iran, I see the price of oil upped another $100/barrel. A couple of weeks ago, it was $300/barrel. A few days ago, it was $400. Today I just read someone predicting $500. All of that presumes that Iran's reaction to being struck is to cut off its nose to spite its face.

All of this is theoretical - assuming a bizarro world in which American generals and politicians are willing to take risks and fear escalation less than their adversaries - so let me put it fancifully: If Julius Caesar was president, Iran wouldn't dare mine the Strait of Hormuz, even if it wanted to, because Julius Caesar would say "if you drive the price of oil to $500/barrel, I'm going to annihilate your country, and plow radioactive salt in the fields."

Even without President other-JC on the other side, the Iranians in the aftermath of a serious strike would have to worry about regime survival, including threats from within as well as from outside, and over the medium and long term as well as the short term. They'd have to engage in some kind of retaliation, and they're nutty enough to do all sorts of nose-cuttings, but, if they go too far, the odds greatly increase that there won't be very much of the "Revolutionary Islamic Republic" left over after everything's shaken out.

In the end, I think that's where this is heading sooner or later - at least by the odds. The main question is when and at how much cost.

@fuster - the main form of retaliation that concerns Friedman would be in the Persian Gulf. You don't need to invade Iran to deal with the threat to shipping. As for other forms of retaliation, a US that was willing to bust up the place would also have a much more credible deterrent against more ambitious mischief-making - more Dirty Harry, less


Just to be clear, Friedman isn't arguing for an invasion of Iran, but rather for a strike (actually a short campaign) and whatever mop-up, aimed at eliminating its nuclear potential for the foreseeable future and containing any retaliation. Regime change, if any, might well follow, but would be up to the Iranians. As to whether it would really be "commitment-free," a US effort to influence the shape of subsequent events wouldn't have to require an invasion.

A successful campaign against Iran also wouldn't necessarily require withdrawal from Afghanistan, but Friedman is obviously very pessimistic about the prospects there.