Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pre-Game Warm-Ups

Pre-Game Warm-Ups
© 2006 Ross Williams

I'm either prescient or I'm not, but in any case I enjoy watching the posturing that goes on before the first pitch. In baseball or world politics, both.

Personally, I believe Iran is setting itself up for a Third Millennium Thermopylae. For those who missed that class in Western Civ, Persia tried taking advantage of the European factionalism and invaded Greece. That required they send their entire army of a few hundred thousand soldiers across the Hellespont, through Thrace, across Macedonia and down the pass at Thermopylae. The Greeks knew they were coming and sent 300 Spartans[1] to meet them at the pass.

Three hundred Spartans... two hundred thousand Persians... some folks might call it a mismatch. It was, actually. The pass at Thermopylae was two-chariots wide; Greeks were armored with body-length iron shields and helmets, the Persians with woven reeds and dishtowels on their heads; the Greeks were armed with spears and short stabbing swords, the Persians with long, curved scimitars that required a full swing to do any damage. ... in the two-chariot wide pass at Thermopylae which didn't offer enough room to swing a dead cat. Or a even dead kitten.

Yes, it was a mismatch. The Persian army was decimated. As they've always been whenever they faced European forces.[2]

Latter-day Persia is squaring off against Western forces again, trying to take advantage of current European factionalism. At this point it's merely a war of words. Persia's chances are fairly good if that's all they're going to sling around. When Persia needs to turn tail is when the words turn into bullets and bombs.

But it would do most of us well to watch the words, and who's slinging them. That's what most of us – by which I mean "Westerners" – do not do well. We aren't good at paying attention to the pre-game. By the time the game is actually going, we don't know who's in the line-up, why the star player is sitting on the bench, who's not going to be used out of the bullpen and why, and then most of us criticize the manager for making bone-headed moves that we don’t understand because we weren’t paying attention in the first place.

If we'd pay attention to the pre-game show where most of this was covered, we’d know that what we think are bone-headed moves probably aren’t, and we wouldn't be making a fool of ourselves in the late innings. We're in what might very well be the pre-game show for the next Persian ass-kicking. It's time to pay attention. Here's the lineup:

Persia is now called Iran.

Persia's king is named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he is Iran's President. He used to be the Mayor of Tehran, and before that he was the "student leader" of the group that seized the US embassy in 1979.

Persia has been trying to build nuclear bombs, and had its nuclear facilities turned off by the UN's nuclear inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Persia has recently turned on their nuclear facilities, claiming that – with a double-digit percentage of the world's known oil supplies sitting under their sand – Iran needs nuclear power for electricity.

Nobody believes Persia wants to make electricity with enriched uranium, and Britain, France and Germany have been extremely critical for several years about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Persia's king recently declared that the Nazis never exterminated 6 million Jews, so Israel needs to be moved to Europe or North America. He as much as volunteered to do the moving.

Europe – and particularly France – has been accusing the United States of ignoring potential Iranian threats to peace and stability; American pseudo-enlighteneds have therefore been doing ditto.

Persia and Syria are the state sponsors of the terrorist group Hezbollah, which operates in Lebanon against Israeli interests.

Because Lebanon is what it is, Lebanon has little interest in participating as a proxy or pawn in the pan-islamist posturing against Israel. What Lebanon is is: heavily christian, tired of losing wars against Israel that are started by pan-islamist ninnies and which Lebanon is goaded into joining, tired of being treated as the red-headed step-child of every Arab-state neighbor which has expansionist notions – by which we mean Syria – and it wants to be left the hell alone.

Syria is severely implicated in the assassination of Lebanese politicians who have been telling Syria to get bent, and in the "suicides" of their own politicians who have been blamed for Lebanese interference.

Lebanon used to be to France what Cancun is now to America ... before the Palestinian Partitioning, and before Lebanon was goaded into joining anti-Israeli wars, and before they lost every one of them, and before the Syrian-inspired civil wars and two decades of Syrian occupation, and before Hezbollah was set up to turn Lebanon into a staging area for terrorism.

France kinda wants their playground back, and doesn't like Syria or Iran monkeying around with Lebanon, or using it as a Hezbollah-proxy battlefield.

France recently announced to the entire world in general – meaning Iran specifically – that if any terrorism targets French interests, France has no moral qualms about using nuclear weapons in retaliation against the state-sponsors of that terrorism, particularly if that state-sponsor has or is attempting to get nuclear weapons of its own.[3]

Persia's King recently announced to the world in general that if anyone – meaning France and the rest of Europe – tried stopping Iran from getting nuclear power – by which they mean nuclear weapons – that they would hold "the crusaders" responsible – by which they meant the US and Israel.

There's a few more players on the field, of course, but this identifies most of the big names. It's interesting to note the near-unanimous European position on Iran, which manifests itself in UN disapproval of Iran. It's interesting, because there was exceptionally similar European/UN disapproval of Iraq throughout the 90s as well, even up through late 2002, until it became obvious that the US was prepared to actually do something about it besides bloviate.

If the US does something about Persia besides bloviate, how long will it be before other nations in the west forget their complicity? How long will it take before the American dilettante pea-brains accuse the US of orchestrating the entire episode for some conspiratorial neo-con plot or other? The US really wants Persian oil as a bookend to the Babylonian oil we’re stealing from Iraq, or we’ve resurrected the Shah and want to put him back on the throne, or we’re fulfilling some zionist prophecy from an End Times religious cult, or something.

Iran has already stated that if France does anything, it will be America’s fault and they’ll take it out on Israel. It won’t take more than a half ounce of typical undergrad rationalization to conclude that it really was America’s fault and Israel needs to pay for it because not even France can do anything that isn’t approved by the US. America must really be as all-powerful as Iran says, which means that, golly, Iran is only trying to assert its own independence and that makes Iran the good guy here by standing up to the mean ol’ US.

Never mind that today these same people are claiming that we should be concentrating on Iran instead of Iraq, because Iraq was never a threat, and that we should have listened to Europe on Iraq anyway. They’ll change their story on Iran if and when the US puts its money where Europe’s mouth is. …again.

How do I know this? Because they changed their story on Iraq. All through the 90s, when the UN was defining Iraq as a “regional threat” to peace and stability, and the UN was finding boatloads of chemical weapons, chemical weapon factories, biological weapon programs and nuclear weapon parts in Iraq, America’s neophytes were claiming Hussein to be not merely a menace to other nations, but a genocidal crackpot who kills his Kurds and religious dissenters. Something should be done, Europe demanded. Yeah, something should be done, just like Europe says, American simpletons shouted.

Well, we did. And it wasn’t six months before the first vague quacks of quibbledicking could be heard. If there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the quibbledicks demanded to know in late 2003, where are they? Iraq was never a threat, the quibbledicks asserted; they were just an annoyance. Sure, Hussein was mean to his people, the quibbledicks rationalized, but being mean doesn’t necessitate war. If we invaded every nation with a mean leader…

The babies that were dying in the 90s because Hussein refused to follow the UN’s European-inspired sanctions magically became, in 2003, babies killed by evil US hegemonic imperialism. The Kurds being killed by Hussein were suddenly killed by Iranians using US weapons. The Shi’a that Hussein killed were forgotten.

The tiniest whispers of rationalized reality became the cacophony of The US is Always Wrong. And all it took was millions of Americans to not pay attention to the scouting reports before the game started. The weapons of mass destruction were there in 1998; the UN found, literally, tons of them. Where did they go? That’s a good question. I wonder if Syria has a good answer.

The US did listen to Europe in the 90s when they were babbling about Iraq. We went along with European-inspired sanctions, and the European-inspired Oil-for-Food fiasco – that the US abided by but Europe didn’t. And it was our fault. All of it.

Europe is now babbling about Persia; Persia has become the new Middle Eastern focus of European scorn… as Iraq was 10 years ago. Millions of unobservant American parrots are channeling their European doppelgangers and demanding to know why we aren’t actually doing something about Persia. Or else they’re scoffing at our inability to do something about Persia because we’re all quagmired in Iraq.

Europe is warning that it will be necessary to deal with Iran, and they’re probably right. Our faux-scient know-it-alls are scolding us for not being wise to Iran[4]. But if we do something about Iran, it won’t be a year before it all becomes our fault for doing something about Iran. Europe will have changed its mind and we’ll be scolded by our ignorant masses that we should have listened to Europe’s new warning: deal with North Korea instead, who is the real problem, and not Iran which is nothing more than a nuisance. Or maybe the real problem will be, by that time, the Darfur mess – which is a purely internal Sudanese matter. Or maybe it will be the Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba socialist trifecta coming up on the outside.

No matter what we do it’s wrong. That much is certain. If we listen to what Europe says now, we will have been advised to listen to Europe after they change their minds. If we listen to Europe later, we will have been better advised to listen to them now. If we don’t listen to Europe at all … well, Europe changes their minds often enough that whatever we do will be in step with their exhortations at some point.

As always, the fans who find their seats in the 5th inning after drinking overpriced beer for the first 4 will be right about everything. They always know more than the manager does. That’s the way baseball works.

And world politics.

[1] plus a handful of others who didn’t really figure in the battle. Sorry Thebes.
[2] Those who did pay attention to this class in Western Civ will want to quibble; they'll triumphantly declare that the Spartans lost their entire force. Right, they did. 300 Spartans and tens of thousands of Persians died at Thermopylae – give or take 2,500 years of historical exaggerations. Then they’ll quibble that the Persians conquered Athens … which was evacuated. What can’t be quibbled is that the remaining Persians met the united Greek army on the plains of Plataea, and ... well, Xerxes, the Persian king made it home. Mostly because he fled before the battle started. The rest of the Persians fertilized central Greece.
[3] The desire to point out the situational hypocrisy of France rears its head yet again. Not because I'm necessarily indignant about France being a hypocrite in international affairs, because national interests require hypocrisy in the short term to ensure survival in the long term. France knows what it's doing, and why; I know what France is doing, and why. My desire to point out France's situational hypocrisy is aimed at the neophytes and simpletons who actually believe that France is any more noble, altruistic and morally defensible than the US.
[4] aren’t these the same people who scolded Bush for including Iran in the Axis of Evil®? By golly, they are…


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