The "Control" Mentality

This article about getting Russia's help as an "answer" for a nuclear Iran by Sen. Schumer (D-NY) illustrates a number of the classical strategic mistakes commonly made by politicians. Of course, his most consistent mistake is viewing the world to fit his politics rather than fitting his politics to the world. This starts by saying that "most experts" admit that military force is not "likely to succeed," but Schumer doesn't define what "succeed" means, but a central tenant of recent Democrat politics is that military action never succeeds so perhaps definition is unnecessary. We see this tendency again when Schumer describes the "fundamental instability" of the theocratic regime without offering any evidence for this supposed instability. There has been no challenge to that regime for thirty years nor any signs of one forming. Again, we may all want believe that a theocratic regime is fundamentally unstable, but good strategic awareness is built on evidence. Taking a course of action predicated on our hopes when there is no evidence to support those hopes is foolish and dangerous. Schumer then describes the diverse nature of Iranian society and its taste for Western luxuries. He proposes that we can somehow control the Iranian mullahs by leverage these popular tastes against them. Again, he makes the mistake of thinking that because our government is based on popularity, the Iranian state rests on it as well. The sad fact is that many regimes, including Iran, rule on the basis of their control of the military not their popular support. The people of the Sudan, North Korean, or Myranmar do not willing die to support their government. They die because their government controls the guns. As much as 70% of the Iranian people don't like their government but discontent alone does not change a government. Discontent can, as Schumer suggests, foment a rebellion but it requires more than discontent alone. It requires means. Destructive regimes stay in power by controlling the "methods" part of the strategic equation. Since I assume that Schumer is not going to support a program of arming Iranian revolutionaries, his dream of toppling the "unstable" government is nothing more than a dream. On this shaky basis, Schumer constructs his solution. His suggests that all we need to create enough discontent to move the Iranian government to surrender their nuclear program is to get Russia to agree to supporting economic sanctions. He then suggests that all that we need to do to get Russian cooperation is to agree to dismantle the NATO anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe and recognizing Russia's "traditional role" in the Caspian Sea region. The most obvious problem with this course is that economic pressure has never worked in the region. This idea, again, is a political belief, not one based on the philosophy or history of the region. Middle Eastern ruling groups are quite capable of maintaining their power while their people live under crushing sanctions. We have tried this experiment just recently in Iraq and saw the effect. Amadinejad shows no signs of being more susceptible to such pressures than Saddam was. The strategic error here is the illusion of control. The idea of "sanctions" requires a control over economic transactions that no government has ever had or will ever have. Just in practical terms, such sanctions would certainly require support beyond Russia. After giving Russia such a generous bribe, what will others, such as China, require? Perhaps surrendering Taiwan? To offer such a generous bribe for a program that cannot work would just encourage more bribes. While Russia might well agree to get what Schumer offers, how does Schumer suggest we monitor their half of the agreement? As we have seen most recently with the Iraq oil-for-food program, these programs are nothing but opportunities for corruption.