Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ad-hoc League of Democracies of the Willing?

Paul Richter reports that Senator McCain's idea about a "league of democracies" may already be in the process of being watered down. Now it is being described as "ad hoc coalitions of the willing" that happen to be drawn from democratic states.

This is understandable. The notion of any league as a real organization was always far-fetched. If the Senator, for instance, really believes that Russia poses a renewed threat, he'd find three major democracies--Germany, France and India--with far different views on Russia (and far different policies to match, as we've seen both at the Bucharest NATO summit and during Prime Minister Singh's visit to Moscow); and lukewarm support at best from some of the leading southern democracies like South Africa and Brazil.

But the ad hoc coalition approach, I think, would also be a failure in most areas--moving beyond either short-term approaches such as disaster relief or responding to very specific situations. Ad hoc assemblages of democracies so far have not been successful in coping with the problems the Senator said a new league would be assembled to deal with.

The ad hoc coalition of the willing approach also opens up greater possibilities for what I've termed the "league of the semi-democracies"--those states that have intermixed democratic and authoritarian features that would trade support for the U.S. in return for being given a clean bill of democratic health.

At any rate, it is interesting to see the walking-back from this idea--and before the general election, no less.

During an interview broadcast by the American ABC television network over the weekend, McCain noted the vulnerability of Iran to a blockade of its gasoline imports and suggested that such a sanction was possible if Iran does not abandon its drive for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. I would think his comments reinforce the point that as President McCain would act in much the way the Bush administration did in its first term, working in concert with allies who support US policy on an ad hoc basis.

If a gasoline embargo is a serious prospect under a McCain administration, the questions that come to mind are, first, whether the Iranian government could ride out such an embargo; second, what (insofar as Iran can retaliate by force) a wider war in the Middle East would mean to the United States; and third, whether in fact America would have the support of key allies.
Interesting. You have the Iranian VP saying the sanctions have been good for Iran because it means those companies that do go to Iran want to be there and want to succeed.

The gas embargo would produce a lot of pain, I think--but I also think that Gulf states and Europeans would want to be assured that McCain wouldn't use this as step one to lead to an eventual war.
US does not have the naval assets to blockade Iran for any length of time; this is another fantasy.

Iran has been preparing for UN sanctions on gasoline imports by gradually removing subsidies and increasing domestic production.

By a US-Iran War I imagine something like Israel - Hizbullah War of 2006, no? A case of strategic escalation to nowhere.
"US does not have the naval assets to blockade Iran for any length of time; this is another fantasy."

All the US needs are one or two submarines in the Arabian Sea. Tankers wouldn't dock in Iran if there is a risk of being torpedoed.

The problem would be securing surface oil tankers coming from the Arab side of the Gulf, and to do that a more substantial US naval presence would be necessary. But for the need to arise, Iran would have to have decided to make shipping to and from the Arab Gulf states a target. If Iran is able to survive without imported gasoline, then it would not need to escalate.

I don't think a US-Iran war would be a desultory exchange of air strikes for rocket attacks. If Iran retaliates for an embargo, the US would escalate with air strikes against the Iranian oil industry, and Iran could try to raise the level of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The situation would be very serious for both countries.
didnt us try this in 1980s with mining nicaraguan harbors?
David Billington:

I believe your scenarios are impractical.

Will US attack and sink vessels from neutral states? And there will blockade runners as has always been in history.

And then Iran has land access for re-supply of fuel - she is not totally dependent on sea lanes.

Should US attack Iranian oil facilities, Iran will have many strategic and tactical options; from harrasment of shipping in the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz to destruction of oil facilities of US friends.

You have not countered my main point - this would be a case of strategic escalation to nowhere since US will have no plauisble scenario for ending hostilities which, at the same time, realizes any political gains for her.

In fact, such a war will bring the demise of US hegemony in the Near East much closer with the attendant much much larger costs for defending Israel.
"didnt us try this in 1980s with mining nicaraguan harbors?"

This was a covert operation on a very small scale. It backfired when it became public as part of a pattern of activity intended to evade a Congressional ban on aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.

A gasoline embargo of Iran, publicly announced by a US President with the backing of Congress and enforced by US submarines, would be a very different matter unless Iran has the ability to vitiate it by doing without imported gasoline.

The question is whether McCain is serious about confronting Iran over its nuclear program, whether more stringent economic sanctions could make a difference, and if so, how Iran could respond if they did. If there are no economic sanctions that could induce Iran to abandon its nuclear work, then the option is obviously moot.
"You have not countered my main point - this would be a case of strategic escalation to nowhere since US will have no plauisble scenario for ending hostilities which, at the same time, realizes any political gains for her."

This would be true only if Iran's present government can survive a level of hostilities beyond which the United States is unwilling to go (and therefore would be foolish to initiate in the first place). My point is that, in a confrontation, a President McCain may not accept a limit to the level of hostilities. This prospect, if plausible, is a legitimate issue for Americans to debate in the coming general election.
In order for US to achieve state/government destruction of Iran she will require to kill 5 to 7 percent of the Iranian population of 70 million. This cannot be achieved but with thermonuclear weapons.

US will not do this for many reasons (none of them being US acting somehow ethically).

So let's come back to reality, no?
"So let's come back to reality, no?"

Your cynicism is surely justified if US calls to embargo imports to Iran (or take any other hostile measures that could bring war closer) are in fact just a bluff.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?