Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iranian Elections

The probability that the vote counts declared in the Iranian elections were real is around 0.5%. In other words, before we listen to any stories about vote manipulation or use any logic about which provinces should have voted for whom, we can already be 99.5% certain that the Iranian election was fradulent. Just using province logic basically makes this a 100% certainty.

I see two big points out of this:

1) Does anyone think that this rioting would be happening if the next door rival country (Iraq) were not a democracy? The Iranian government would have had a much easier time promoting pro-Ahmadinejad nationalism if Iraq were under Hussein - also a sworn enemy, but one who oppressed his people.

Even if you don't believe that Iraq was seeking WMDs, you can't deny Iran was... and if this does successfully shake up the government (unlikely but at least there's a shot), then the war in Iraq really did protect us all from WMDs... just not in the way Bush thought.

I think Bush was a terrible president because of his awful social and environmental policy and the abominable way in which he appointed people to positions. People confuse his foreign policy, however, with his logistical ineptitude. Yes, the Iraq war should have cost less, and yes it should have been over sooner. However, in a sense, it does seem to be acting in the exact way he wanted it to - Iraq became a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, and a reasonably dependable ally.

In other words, just because the Iraq war wasn't handled well doesn't mean it was a failure.

I tend to think of war as a waste of lives and well-being, and if given the decision again, I think we'd all say the US should not invade. However, Saddam really was a nightmare, and it's hard to argue that Iraq is not better off now than under Saddam. It's just us who are worse off (our national security probably is better, despite most claims to the contrary, but the war cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars)

2) I hope this serves as somewhat of a wake-up call to Obama, whose foreign policy is beginning to scare me. His comparison of Israeli settlement to the Holocaust was absolutely smear work (a much better comparison to the Holocaust would be the treatment of Jews in every Muslim country in the Middle East - the reason you don't hear about it is because they're all dead or exiled).

Israel is a functioning democracy, and trying to force it to bend to US will while extending negotiating power to governments not significantly different from Iran's rebalances power into highly corrupt hands. Additionally, shooting for a two-state solution ignores the problem that the Palestinian state or states (Gaza and West Bank) will either be run by Hamas or a joint effort of Jordan and Egypt; without Israeli or US intervention, it's hard to see any other outcome. We've seen what will happen if it's run by Hamas - Incessant rockets into Israel, followed by Israeli invasion.

A state run by Egypt is not necessarily a good thing, given that Mubarak probably won't live much longer and when he dies, Egypt will have its own set of massively difficult problems and may not be able to keep control of a Palestinian state. Jordan can't run Gaza because Israel separates them.

A two state solution can only work once Hamas and Hezbollah have been crippled, so pushing the Israelis into it before they're ready can only lead to problems. The real thing Obama should be working with the Israelis on (read "working with", not "forcing upon") is how to harm Hamas and Hezbollah without hurting the civilians whose propensity for peace is desperately needed for any solution. As Golda Meir noted, "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us."

In any case, hopefully viewing the situation in Iran makes Obama realize that Israel does what it does because it has, again in the words of Golda Meir, "no alternative," given the governments that run its neighbors.

EDIT: One more brief side point:
Imagine, for a moment, that instead of Iran doctoring its election, Israel did it. Do you think for a moment that Obama would have remained as silent as he has?
REEDIT: A decent point. A strong rebuke by Obama would enable Iran to point the finger at the US, instead of losing nationalism as a force against the current rebellion. Decent reason not to respond.

That said I'm not sure I buy the notion that Iran "doesn't know how to respond" to US efforts towards greater diplomacy. It wouldn't be that hard for them to spin, so I suspect that's one journalist talking loosely.

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