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December 06, 2007

Tomdispatch: Dilip Hiro on "Bush's Losing Iranian Hand"


The Zero-Sum Fiasco
Bush in a Humiliating Zero-Sum Iranian Game of His Own Making

By Dilip Hiro

Bush's woefully misguided invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, carried out under false pretences, has not only drained the United States treasury, but reduced Washington's standing in the Middle East in a way not yet fully grasped by most commentators. Whereas Washington once played off Tehran against Baghdad, while involved in a superpower zero-sum game with the Soviet Union, the Bush administration is now engaged in a zero-sum game, as a virtual equal, with Iran. That is, America's loss has become Iran's automatic gain, and vice-versa.

To grasp the steepness of Washington's recent fall, recall that until Saddam Hussein's disastrous invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the zero-sum doctrine in the region applied only to Iraq and Iran, two minor powers on the world stage.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 6, 2007 09:42 AM

He's losing more than just his hand, since he's got a death grip on OUR ass I guess that's going too.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 6, 2007 12:47 PM

The larger zero-sum fiasco, which Hiro doesn't mention, is Washington/Beijing. As the US mires deeper in Iraq and increases the western vacuum in Iran with "diplomatic isolation", and sinks in national power, the Chinese are moving in to Iran and up in national power.

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 6, 2007 01:01 PM

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.

Posted by: Pvt. Keepout at December 6, 2007 01:26 PM

replace the word 'misguided' with criminal and/or imperial and i'm there

Posted by: almostinfamous at December 6, 2007 01:37 PM

Just imagine: Statues of George W. Bush in every town square , the inscription reading: "He brought down the Empire."

Every year, on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we gather around the statue and sing Bush's praises, for freeing us from the burden of having to run the world. Then we head to the mall to spend our renmibi on a few modest "Bush Day" presents for our loved ones: a few good Cuban cigars, a packet of organic Coca leaves, direct from the People's Republic of Bolivia, or a gallon of the finest Venezuelan gasoline.

Why, it brings tears to my eyes, just thinking of it.

Posted by: SteveB at December 7, 2007 12:29 AM
Having emerged in a self-congratulatory mode as the "sole superpower" after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. now finds itself competing with a secondary power in the Middle East. This humbling realization seems to have finally penetrated the minds of top policy makers in the Bush administration, causing concern.

This speaks to the dearth of high quality enemies, and what responsibility we have in engendering high quality enemies, because if you roll around with a pig you get hot and dirty, but the pig likes it (or so I've been told -- and incidentally, that's why I like ATR -- no low hanging fruit tirades against the least common denominator of the blogosphere).

I remember reading a philosophy essay some time ago and the gist of it was along the lines of "why would God create evil, Him being perfect and all". And the answer they gave was along the lines of "because good becomes better with the presence of evil; goodness is honed with practice".

I didn't really get that argument at the time, but I think that I do now. If the bad guys are so milquestoast that you've got to go around making them look insane for opportunistic purposes -- i.e. to create an arbitrary standard of goodness for purposes of nationalism -- then you're well on your way to not being good because that standard of good vs. evil is so skewed. In the absence of real evil you start to regress.

Anywho -- two other things I found interesting in there:

1. The JCS apparently are setting national policy on containing Iran in the sense that the Soviet Union was contained. They had a nukes, but with those nukes came responsibilities and costs that tend to drive a country, system, ideology to ruination. Plus, it's a war/strategy that they know how to fight.

2. The paragraph of the many "onlys" reads to me like there is a systemic effort to quietly putsch these guys. It's out of the hands of the average citizen, and in the hands of the overclass. I see overclass fingerprints all over it when the paragraph ends in "decline inside the beltay".

The Iranians as rational, cost-benefit calculators? Only the near collapse of presidential and vice-presidential polling figures, and the endless policy failures that proceeded and accompanied those numbers; only the arrival of Robert Gates as secretary of defense and a representative of the "reality-based community," only the weakening of the neocons and their purge inside the Pentagon, only the increasing isolation of the Vice President's "office" -- only, that is, decline inside the Beltway -- could account for such a conclusion or such a release.

That's a combination of many "onlys" that defies belief in coincidence.

Posted by: Ted at December 7, 2007 10:52 AM

dear god:

In the absence of real evil you start to regress.

this is negative framing. negative framing is not a good way to inspire positive outcomes.

i have many hours of experience coaching deities from pantheons around the world. if you would like a consultation, please call me at the nearest phone, at your convenience.

with regards,

Posted by: hapa at December 7, 2007 11:40 AM

You --

i have many hours of experience coaching deities from pantheons around the world. if you would like a consultation, please call me at the nearest phone, at your convenience.

Me --

I didn't really get that argument at the time, but I think that I do now.

Well, damn. I guess it's back to the drawing board.

You --

this is negative framing. negative framing is not a good way to inspire positive outcomes.

Help a brother out. What do you suggest?

I was just thinking that if/when we have this apparent need for a contrasting evil that defines goodness, we might consider something like, oh I don't know -- hunger, ignorance, pestilence, secrecy, corruption, etc -- rather than opportunistically assigning hard to define qualities of evil to short Iranian civil servants. I can't see that the standards of evil-ness are helped much when they're bandied at people we demonize.

Posted by: Ted at December 7, 2007 12:06 PM

@ted: ok here's what i'm thinking.

well of course the idea that the morality of an outcome is determined by consensus characterization (and identification) of the outcome's chief engineers is very popular among professional saints; democratic politics being something of a market in righteousness, the efficient path to accomplishment is relative, so to speak. mass media means a mass market in mudslinging. hehe.

this is not to define evil out of existence. this is to say that when outcomes, however harmful, are described as evil, it colors perception of both instigator and victim in what look to me to be undesirable ways, because from the very fact that the group is now divided between those involved and those not, and no one wants to be associated with either wrongdoing or suffering, the instigator becomes a bad apple; the victim becomes a bad person. people ask "why do bad things happen to good people" because they think they know why bad things happen to bad people or good to good.

in terms of defining evil as you said, it's hard to tell which of technological learning or social crusades has done more to champion good. they probably each make the other stronger. i'm not big on sin, myself, currently preferring a bastardized local economics approach — expansion of fulfillment, right — sort of — but more even, i don't even now really talk about suffering — it's more like, these people are stuck in the mud so deep they can't even build a platform to get out of it — here are ways we can help with that first step.

hohoho, this is very serious.

Posted by: hapa at December 7, 2007 04:16 PM