Here We Go Again
Posted by Michael Cohen
The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.
I suppose this shouldn't come as a huge surprise since we've heard the sabers rattling on Iran for a few weeks now. But one part of the story really jumped out at me for its sad/tragic/comedic nature:
A move toward putting the Revolutionary Guard on the foreign terrorist list would serve at least two purposes for Ms. Rice: to pacify, for a while, administration hawks who are pushing for possible military action, and to further press America’s allies to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.
Only in the Bush administration would declaring a foreign country's military a terrorist organization qualify as a moderating step.
Not to be overly filppant here, but Iran's nuclear program is a serious issue. After all, non-proliferation has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy since the dawn of the nuclear age. I didn't even realize until recently but according to former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, President Clinton actually threatened the use of force against North Korea in 1994 if they reprocessed spent fuel to make plutonium. And the Clinton Administration wasn't exactly what you would call "trigger-happy" so clearly this was a big deal at the time.
Yet, in one more example of why the war in Iraq has been a disaster for U.S. foreign policy, our choices are incredibly narrow in how to deal with this issue. Due to our weakened international standing we have greatly diminished influence with our Allies and in the United Nations. But from military standpoint even if we wanted to rattle some cages (and no, I am not advocating a military strike against Iran) the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and the weakened state of our military makes such an option much more difficult. Even if we wanted to threaten force I don't think it would resonate with the Iranians. As Perry argues, it certainly resonated with the North Koreans (and so no one gets the wrong impression I am not advocating a military strike against North Korea).
This represents a fundamental weakening of America's deterrent power. In their rush to show the world how "tough" America is, the Bush Administration forgot one of the fundamental lessons of deterrence - once you use force and show people the limitations of how far you will go in using it, it tends to make people fear you less. If you look at the way we've conducted the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we ironically seem like a bit of a paper tiger, unwilling to take the really difficult steps necessary for victory (such as sending US troops into Tora Bora to capture or kill the guy who murdered 3,000 Americans). This is one case where sometimes what's not known is more powerful that what is.