Friday, May 28, 2010

The Tragedy of an Iran War


All war is tragic. The buildings destroyed, the resources wasted, the lives extinguished, the bodies maimed, and the cry of each lonely orphan and widow/widower...the standard for war is evil. And conflicts throughout history have only been unique in their respective horrors.

The most conservative estimates put the death toll from the Iraq and Afghan occupations at around 100,000 Iraqis and 20,000 Afghans. Plus our nearly 5,500 soldiers that have perished.

But some wars are particularly terrifying. Examples include the Nazi-Soviet War, in which almost 27 million Soviet citizens were killed, alongside 6 million Germans. Then we have the Soviets and the Allies in the West beating Germany and its populace into the ground for years after victory. The lightning quick mass murder in Rwanda is another that comes to mind.

I don't mean to belittle Iraq, but the country is an artificial state, carved out of the land by retreating British colonialists with no regards for ethnic borders. But a war with Iran will be different, as I have said.

It will be a great tragedy to start a war with a 2,500 year old civilization because of Israeli paranoia. Iran is one of the most vibrant cultures in the world, its longevity a testament to the power of cultural cohesion and a centuries old anti-war foreign policy.

Yes, yes, the human rights abuses. Well consider the oppression of these countries: China, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Korea, and, of course, Israel. We are allies and major trading partners with far more ruthless regimes. Not to mention our own.

To attack Iran means to rally the Iranian people around a hard-line government that was so vehemently and boldly challenged in 2009. The West will have forever lost its opportunity to reach out to the Iranian people, especially the young. The inevitable escalation will mean that Iranian infrastructure and maybe even cultural centers will be attacked in the total war that will follow any first strike. One of the oldest societies in the world would be devastated in another criminal war. Meanwhile, Shia Muslims who may never have thought about picking up arms against the United States will unleash their anger on American and Jewish targets globally.

Would you blame them? If their country is destroyed, they will bring others down with them. Iran halted and reversed Saddam Hussein's 1980s invasion by sending thousands of young men sprinting at Iraqi positions. This is how dedicated they are to their culture. They will lay siege to the small Strait of Hormuz through which 40% of the world's oil passes, driving energy costs to prohibitive levels. The world cannot afford an Iran attack.

More tragic than the potentially fatal blow to Iran will be the widening war that follows. Because of Iran's crucial geopolitical position, a very real danger exists that a conflict in Iran will spread to the Arab world with Shia minorities. Pakistan has a 20% Shia minority that will riot in response to an attack on neighboring Iran. India will watch carefully, and will likely act preemptively if they feel Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is insecure. A devastation of Pakistan will drive the survivors into India to fight back. And India is right on China's doorstep. It's a powder keg bigger than 1900s Europe.

The 20th century was the world's bloodiest, but some very powerful people are clamoring to make sure that the 21st tops it.

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