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The Iran Stand-Off: What the Internet Community Can Do

This is the second in a series on Iran. The first was Iran Maneuvers: Of Missile Tests & "Salami Tactics", which discusses Iran's recent military maneuvers and the hardware tested. The third is Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.

Yesterday Seymour Hersh's article The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? came out in the The New Yorker; a more accurate subtite for the article would have been Will president Bush resort to nuclear war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?, since that it really what is at issue in the piece. I do wonder why The New Yorker used such a low-key title given the article's actual argument.

Today, Reuter's published an article, Iran accuses US of "psychological war," labelling the Hersh article as psychological warfare.

There is really a lot to be said about the Hersh piece and the situation with Iran. But for the moment, I'll address just a few points. First of all, I believe that Hersh is probably giving an accurate description of the various opinions about what ought to be done about the Iran nuclear problem. What I found especially striking about reading all the material on the Iran military maneuvers was the extent to which the Iranian military and the US necocons were off on their own little planet fixinging for a fight, and the extent to which the rest of us are really not part of the conversation. So for me the most significant paragraph in the Hersh piece was this one:

[Robert] Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,” the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians.”

It seems to me that the moment the US uses a nuclear weapon in the 21st century, it loses all moral authority for preventing other countries from having nuclear weapos, and that the discourse for this century is very likely to become how to disarm that problem country the United States.

Another key passage thaht indicates to me just how far off the rails the thinking has gone:

The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

Made it in Japan? Made it in Japan when we didn't know any better and didn't know what else to do. I don't think either of those excuses are available on the pulldown menu just now.

It seems to me that there are a few things the Internet community can do to promote peace and stability in the face of what looks to be a dangerously insane stand-off. (And wasn't that piece of deterrence theory only acting crazy? Not being crazy? Have we made the transition from acting to being?)

First of all, get current 1 meter satellite images of the entire country of Iran up on Google Earth. They're out there. It's really just a matter of money. As is obvious from the relentless theme of invisibility in the recent Iranian weapons tests, the feisty Iranian government has its head under the couch and thinks all kinds of things can't be seen. So let the world take a close look at every square inch of Iran, so a housewife in Pleasantville or Tokyo can look at and speculate about the purpose of suspicious looking ventilation shafts. Having such imagery publicly available will also slow down our own warmongers when they realize that that same housewife can do damage assessments on areas they might choose to nuke. And it would be helpful for disaster relief and therefore reduce civilian casualties in the event of an actual attack on Iran. (Good for everyone all around.)

Secondly, the Internet community should be taking on and dismantling the Iranaian censorship apparatus, because the information on the Internet needs to get to those innocent people most likely to get killed in this, and also cultural crosspollenization will reduce the chance of war.

Third, open source, free translation tools too and from Farsi and all the languages of countries on the UN Security Council needs to be easily available as quickly as possible.

While it may not be possible for the rest of us to intrude on the toxic relationship between the Iranian government and the neocons, it seems to me that these three things should be tried.

(See also Greenpeace's site Don't nuke Iran which links to a Google Earth KMZ file with casualty estimates for nuclear strikes at various locations.)

UPDATE: See my new post Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.