Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Failure of Opportunity

I wrote this after I lost my job. My intent was to flesh it out, expand it to about 2000 words, and see if it was something that could be sold. It never felt quite good enough and I never had the opportunity to edit it and add enough meat to make it worth the attempt; but it also encapsulated my feelings about our current problems with Iran.

So, without the proper editing and a little lighter than it should be, I offer it up here with some small apology and hopes that it makes up for the American Idol post that I’ll be writing tomorrow…

It has become popular to suggest that war represents a failure of imagination on behalf of a country’s leadership. Somehow every political situation should have a non-violent, non-military diplomatic solution that achieves optimal results while avoiding blood shed. This is tripe--a utopian delusion unsupported by an adult’s view of the world.

War quite regularly represents a failure of opportunity; it is often the recognition of the immediacy of a crisis coupled with no feasible compromise position. Was there, magically, a non-military solution to Hitler’s attempted conquests or Japan’s dream of a co-prosperity sphere? The difficulty is in knowing whether the opportunities for peaceful resolution have run dry.

Today the West is facing that question in its pursuit of a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran--an ideal solution that may not exist.

Iran is openly and aggressively seeking to become a nuclear power while hiding behind the scant and irregular camouflage of a peaceful uses excuse. The intentional provocation is not something that can be ignored by anyone who seriously fears nuclear proliferation. In a specific sense, a nuclear Iran would mean destabilization in a region where we have significant humanitarian, economic, and political interests; in a much greater sense it would open the gates to other counties’ nuclear ambitions by making it clear that the Western powers won’t act to stop proliferation.

One of the quiet purposes of the war in Iraq was to create opportunity and influence where they didn’t previously exist--to give the United States and her allies leverage in finding non-violent ways to enforce our national security concerns. Middle Eastern dictatorships and theocracies were given a demonstration of the US military’s destructive power, our leadership’s willingness to topple enemy governments, and our national will to stick through significant loss of American lives. It was (and continues to be) an expensive effort that ha yielded mixed results.

Certainly some hostile nations have been more pliant in finding ways to support our war on terror (militant Islam), and, arguably, Libya’s new move to openness and the changes in Lebanon probably wouldn’t have happened if regional leaders did not have renewed faith in America’s strength of will. But it’s questionable as to whether this newfound influence is long lasting or whether changes go deeper than a sort of superficial support in our hunt for terrorists.

Ignoring Iran would do nothing to ensure that our influence remains strong, mooting one of the arguments for involvement in Iraq. A nuclear armed Iran would work directly to undermine our mission in Iraq, would hamper our influence in the region, would give cover to anti-Israeli actions, would threaten to interfere with oil production, and would represent a serious foreign policy failure for every Western nation (most especially the United States).

The failure of imagination is not in being incapable of finding a peaceful solution; the failure is in not seeing the potential hazards of failing to enforce the West’s national security needs. The simple fact is this: the West cannot accept an Iran that has the capacity to produce and potentially sell nuclear weapons. At the same time Iran is showing no willingness to abandon their ambitions and UN sanctions would be an unreliable (and probably ineffective) solution. Middle ground for diplomatic maneuvering is a pretty small bit of real estate.

There may yet be hope. There may yet be a way to find a non-military solution to a problem that by all appearances has no happy answers. The immediacy of Iran’s nuclear program and unwillingness to halt enrichment, though, has to lead serious minds to one conclusion: we are facing a failure of opportunity to find a peaceful resolution. This failure may lead us directly into an unwanted confrontation with Iran, but it won’t be because our leaders lack sufficient imagination to solve the problem; it will be because this is a deadly serious issue in which there is almost no room for compromise.

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