January 13, 2006

Hard Kill v Soft Kill in Iran

An old conversation cycles through my head lately. Dr. Thomas Barnett, in email wrote repeatedly that the US should go after the soft-kill in Iran. He just did it again on his blog. Connect with them and drown the mullah's madness in outside interdependence and relationships that compete with loyalty to the regime. I reject the idea, feeling that it's just not going to work, not that it couldn't in some idealized world but that the real world craziness of the mullahs would make it impossible. I fear I didn't carry my argument off very well, certainly not well enough to convince.

President Ahmadinejad seems to be fixated on carrying my argument for me. He's playing a special mullah version of 'crazy Nixon'. Nixon ran heavy bombing raids against North Vietnam during the Paris Peace Conference according to later reports in order to convince the PRC that Nixon was somewhat unhinged and that the US shouldn't be pushed too hard. President Ahmadinejad seems to be setting up a scenario specifically tailored against letting "soft kill" work. In all conflicts, the enemy gets to have a vote and the Iranian government seems to have voted to protect itself from the soft kill.

Iran doesn't fear the hard kill because it perceives that nobody who has the force levels necessary to accomplish the goal is free to act. The soft kill is the major threat so the Iranian hardliners will make themselves as repulsive as necessary to make it politically impossible to strategically coopt them by economic and social contacts with the West combined with political engagement. Iranian policy for hard liner survival must be all connectivity shall be mediated connectivity with safe implicit villains filtering out the unwanted aspects of international contact. This is a real, practical motivation behind the apocalyptic statements of President Ahmadijenad.

This takes care of western contact but what is left is the Iraqi threat. Iraq's religious scholars have a consensus belief that Khomeinism is heresy. If they are successful at establishing a superior alternative in Iraq, they are a deep threat to the regime as they have influence with the regime's strongest supporters, the ultra-conservative minority that forms the backbone of what's left of regime support (which putters around 30%). These scholars are neutralized by Iranian influence in Iraqi movements like the SCIRI and the Sadrists. Placing assassins near enough to the scholars so that they can remove anybody who writes anti-Khomeinist fatwas as an object lesson to silence the others neutralizes the threat from Najaf and Karbala.

Iran's doing a very good job at defending on both the hard kill of invasion (fomenting trouble in Iraq to keep US forces occupied) and the soft kill of connectivity. No matter how open and inviting the West resolves to be, we must maintain a level of self-respect and dignity. Ahmadinejad will ensure that we must degrade ourselves further than we can bear to avoid the soft-kill's deadly embrace of reforming connectivity.

Posted by TMLutas at January 13, 2006 02:29 PM