Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Atlantic Threats

Atlantic Threats

One of the great things about blogging about events and politics is that I can justify reading all sorts of crap that normal people can never find the time to read. One such sources of crap is The Atlantic, which, if you don't already know, is sort of a pseudo-intellectual version of Time. It is bearable because they run pieces by P.J. O'Rourke and Christopher Hitchens, two of the great contemporary zero base thinkers. They also can surprise, such as the time they ran one of the most cogent analyses of the global warming science, but that was back in 1998. Mostly, however they run ideologically driven pseudopolitical propaganda in between cutsie interviews that are soooo hip. Very little zero base thinking is in evidence, and its nemesis, common knowledge, is everywhere within its pages. A great example of the latter is in the latest edition in which they got 38 "foreign policy authorities—selected for their breadth of knowledge and first-hand experience in international affairs" to comment on and vote on the question: Q: Which states will pose the greatest overall threats to U.S. security over the next decade, either directly or indirectly?

The answers were scored thus:
1. Iran 18.5
2. North Korea 6
3. Pakistan 5
4. China 4
5. Saudi Arabia 5
6. Iraq 5
7. Russia 0.5

First of all, let us peruse the list of the "authorities" they chose:
Ken Adelman, Madeleine Albright, Graham Allison, Ronald Asmus, Sandy Berger, Daniel Blumenthal, Max Boot, Steven Bosworth, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ivo Daalder, James Dobbins, Lawrence Eagleburger, Leslie Gelb, Marc Grossman, Douglas Feith, John Gaddis, Jay Garner, John Hamre, Gary Hart, Bruce Hoffman, John Hulsman, Robert Hunter, Robert Kagan, David Kay, John Lehman, James Lindsay, Jessica Mathews, William Nash, Joseph Nye, Carlos Pascual, Kenneth Pollack, Thomas Pickering, Joseph Ralston, Wendy Sherman, Ann Marie Slaughter, James Steinberg, Susan Rice, and Anthony Zinni.
Without spending too much time on this, I would estimate that at least two thirds of the names on the list are associated with democrat administrations or leftie positions. Four republicans and three neocons are all I can recognize at first blush. So much for seeking a balanced view. Even so, why is it that my own reading of the scoring on the list of countries is that it is presented in reverse order? How is this possible?

I come to a different conclusion. First, I judge major, hostile powers with thousands of nukes, and fleets of planes and missiles, to be much greater potential threats than tiny countries, run by paranoid madmen, which have only a theoretical nuclear potential. So, I put China first, Russia second. But that is nitpicking next to my biggest complaint, which is, how is it possible that Iran got more than three times as many votes than anyone else? On my list they would be dead last.

Why? First, they have no nuclear weapons (yet). Second, as a result of the last four years of the Bush presidency, we have overwhelming forces poised on both their East and West borders. How much of a threat can they be under any scenario other than that of a bunch of leftie democrats taking over the American government? Even so, Iran's enemies list cannot have us at or near the top. Russia and Iraq are their great present and traditional enemies, with Kurdistan coming to the fore with the possible dissolution of Iraq. I don't even think that Israel is near the top of the list of countries that should worry about Iran. These two countries used to be great allies, and they still share the same enemy, the Arabs. Remember that Iran was recently at war with Iraq, but they never were at war with Israel.

Korea, with actual nukes and missiles to deliver them, must be considered a greater threat. The liklihood that they would launch an attack against us is at least as great as Iran's (zero), but their possesion of actual weapons puts them much higher on the threat list. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? Under what scenario would they threaten us? Beats me. And Iraq? Now I am really lost. For Iraq to become a threat to us, we would have to completely fail in our mission there. Every responsible observer realizes that failure in Iraq would sow the seeds of global disaster. What, therefore, makes these "authorities" believe that we will fail there?

The answer is, what these results mean is that there is, rather than a foreign threat, there is a complete lack of belief in American willingness to pursue our own interests. This list makes no sense unless Iran gets nukes, we abandon Iraq, and Israel ceases to exist as a focus of Arab enmity. Add in a side order of Russia changing course abruptly and becoming a peaceful democracy, rather than the nuclear armed imperialists that they have become in the last decade. Assuming those predicates, I would be gloomy as well. But, unless we assume total American failure of will, this list is upside down at best, irrelevant at worst. That assumption would not be just pessimistic, it would be paranoid. And defeatist. Leftist.