Without debating whether the Central Intelligence Agency has become a bastion of mush-brained liberalism, politicized to a fare-thee-well, it is instructive to consider a maxim of operational intelligence:

In the absence of knowledge of an enemy’s intent, one must plan based on his capability.

There are several points of concern about this maxim. Is Iran an enemy of the United States? Do we have knowledge, or absence thereof, of Iran’s intent? Do we have an understanding of Iran’s capabilities?

The ‘people’ of Iran not withstanding the hyperbole of its rulers, Mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seem to be decent people trapped in a overbearing, self-destructive and intolerant political system. The ongoing efforts of the reformists, the continuing saga of student political prisoners, and the jailed media representatives suggest that the ‘enemy’, if in fact it is an enemy, consists solely of the Mullahs, the government and its direct representatives [Iranian Revolutionary Guards]. Any people will, from time to time, express nationalistic pride, and one can hardly hold that against a population— the fact that Ahmadinejad stands up against the US and postures has some component of this. The fact that Ahmadinejad was directly responsible, in that he participated in the 1979 hostage situation at the American Embassy, is of more concern. As are his continual tirades against the US, comments advocating the extinction of Israel, and his participation in conferences with Hugo Chavez — participation which brings potential consequences of an alliance much closer to home. Given Ahmadinejad’s public stance, his history with the US, and the general antipathy of the Mullahs for western civilization, categorization of Iran’s ruling class as ‘enemies’ is certainly warranted. And since the ruling class is in control of its military, weapons program and a delivery means, caution is warranted.

Do we have knowledge of Iran’s intent? Iran has publically supported Hezbollah and delivered arms and ammunition to them in Gaza. Iran has publicly stated that the destruction of Israel is on the agenda. Hezbollah has initiated attacks, using Iranian provided weapons, including advanced missiles, on Israel displaying a general pattern of consistency: I say X, I do Y in support of X. This pattern is repeated in Iraq where advanced IED and self-forging projectile weapons were provided by the IRG for use against American troops. The pattern is repeated again with regard to the Persian Gulf and the capture of a British patrol boat.

Iran has repeatedly stated its intent to obtain nuclear weapons, has demonstrated before the IAEA the capability to produce weapons grade material, has increased its capacity to produce that same material, and has tested complex explosive devices and detonators whose only purpose can be to trigger a nuclear weapon. Again the consistent pattern: I say X, and I do Y in support of X.

Consequently, overt intent appears to be in place. Now consider the absence of intent. We have an bureacuracy of the United States, tasked with the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence stating that it appears that Iran has suspended (not given up) its weapons program in 2003 in the face of international pressure. If, in fact this is the case, why would Iran not make statements in an international venue designed to reduce pressure on the trade and financial restrictions already imposed. Further, given the decision was made in 2003, why maintain the hyperbole through the last several years? The CIA’s finding doesn’t state that the intent is not to obtain weapons — just to suspend the attempt to do so. The CIA’s finding in its NIE doesn’t establish absence of intent.

But even so, say that it did. The maxim states that in the absence of intent, use capability. What are Iran’s capabilities? Iran has already obtained fissionable materials. They have already obtained designs and working models of separation centrifuges. They have already designed and tested critical explosive components. The only thing that hasn’t been mentioned is any attempt to obtain tritium. [No modern weapons designer would forgo the yield improvements a boosted core would provide.] A quick Google search reveals an attempt to do just that with their ARAK heavy water facility.

Add to these specific components the general component of physics and engineering education. Iran has certainly produced its share of PhDs, some at American Universities. Iranian designers are clearly as capable as other national designers, especially augmented with information from Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan.

Finally, Iran as demonstrated the capability to deliver weapons with their 2000 km range Shahab-4 missiles. Delivery is most often neglected in the analysis of nuclear weapon systems overshadowed by the physics package of the bomb itself. Iran has tested a trans-stage bus design. This is the component that allows a (heavy) payload to be successfully launched. In short, Iran has the capability to design, manufacture, and deliver a nuclear weapon. The only thing missing is the weapons test, which would be a dead giveaway.

As such, given the maxim, the only prudent thing any administration can do is to assume based on the capability, and plan accordingly. Many political pundits and international optimists have fixated on the poorly written NIE and it’s assertion that Iran has stopped WMD fabrication and have pushed for policy to reflect that misguided belief. Our allies in the region are waiting to see how the administration will respond in policy statements (often in bewilderment as to how an administration could even allow such a document to be released). Our only reasonable reaction is to continue to assess Iran as the threat that it is. Deriding this administration, or any administration for that matter, for proceeding in accordance with a capability assessment, is policy suicide.

The greatest ideological struggle in the post-communist era is, so the media tells us, the struggle against radical Islam. Unfortunately, the media oracle feeds us conflicting messages on what the real issue is and how it can be solved. Like any issue that involves political zombies, America has two irreconcilable visions of the problem, and two radically different solutions. But, as is true with many issues in American politics: both sides are wrong. This is part two of a two-part series dealing with the problems Americans have with understanding and responding to radical Islam. You can find part one here.

I meant to post this earlier, but I was hitting the mojitos pretty hard at lunch today, and well, that has consequences.

Now for the left, which is as one might imagine, not right. Their basic response to radical Islam is that we need to recreate Islam in our own image — creating a warm, fuzzy pro-abortion, pro-gay, non-violent form of Islam that looks more or less like American Episcopalianism with the addition of The Prophet. They argue that we need to encourage Muslims to follow touchy-feely liberal types, instead of the hard-line ascetic Salafists. Ultimately, Islam cannot be saved unless it is sufficiently “Westernized” and any sort of meaningful moral authority is eviscerated.

What’s the problem with that? Well, not much, if I’m a spineless moral relativist, who believes that the role of religion is to confirm the prejudices of the current age. But if I were a devout (but not radical) Muslim, I’d be furious at the elitist snobs, who can’t be bothered to worship their own God, but condescend to tell me how to worship mine. Imagine how the secular elite would react if King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia were to say, “We need to encourage moderate atheists to abandon their old-fashioned ideologies of abortion and homosexuality and embrace ideas more compatible with Islam?” I’d wager good money they’d be furious and fill the blogosphere and new media with their ranting… and I’d have no sympathy whatsoever (what goes around comes around).

To expect that Islam will be reinvented because Uncle Sam (aka The Great Satan) says so is either unbelievable arrogant or monumentally naive. Personally, I have a fundamental problem with any government (including my own) trying to get all Caeseropapist. I don’t care whether it’s my religion or someone else’s, but I don’t want any state telling someone what the “right” version of their religion should be. To expect that the Muslim world will welcome the American vision for Islam and not brand those who share it infidel dogs who are traitors to the true faith is sheer delusion… which appears to be where the left is living these days.

“Sir, what were you thinking? The World Trade Center site is the most sensitive place in the American heart, and you must have known that visiting there would be insulting to many, many Americans,” Pelley [asked].


“Why should it be insulting?” Ahmadinejad [replied].

Interview with 60 Minutes

Many innocent people were killed there. Some of those people were American citizens obviously. We obviously are very much against any terrorist action and any killing. And also we are very much against any plots to sow the seeds of discord among nations.

Ahmadinejad later in the Interview

Pity poor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, puzzled President of Iran. He’s awfully confused about what all the fuss is about. All he wanted to do is visit Ground Zero in New York City, pay his respects to the victims of the 9/11 attack, and, just possibly, make some sort of statement about how bad terrorism is and how tragic 9/11 was. Of course, just whom he believes is responsible for 9/11 might be a question, given his penchant for odd revisionist theories about other historical events. But charity compels us to accept that he really isn’t sure why his presence there should be so disturbing. In fact, he’s sure it’s all just a misunderstanding.

And, doubtless, there could be some misunderstandings, so let’s take a moment and clear them up. Here’s a list of things Iran isn’t responsible for:

  • 9/11 – that was al Qaeda, a fanatic Sunni Muslim group not Iran, a fanatic Shia Muslim country
  • al Qaeda – that was Pakistan’s creation, in part with American funds sent to help fight the Soviets not Iran’s, which supported different vicious fanatics with other funds
  • Saddam Hussein – really, Iran did its best to get rid of this jerk in the 1980s, and sadly their best just wasn’t good enough
  • the Gulf War – Iran sat this one out, happy to see the Sunni nations beat themselves up, and even got a few fine Iraqi planes out of it

So, if anybody is mad at Mahmoud for this stuff, you should drop it, because it’s not really his fault.

On the other hand, there are a few small things that Iran is responsible for, and I’m thinking these might just have some bearing on why we just don’t like poor Mahmoud. These minor things include:

So, quite a legacy of support for terror and violence, frequently against American interests or allies. (I guess that’s why they’ve been on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism every year since 1984.) But all of this is dwarfed, of course, by the piece de resistance:

Since these insurgents are, after all, killing and maiming American soldiers (not to mention droves of Iraqi civilians), well, Mahmoud, you can pardon our suspicion that your tears for the victims of 9/11 are not exactly heartfelt. Especially when we recall your governments various working agreements with al Qaeda in years past. Call us sensitive, but we feel that if you’re actively trying to kill our soldiers, maybe you don’t have our best interests at heart. Let’s face it, there’s a term for countries like yours, and that term is: enemy nation.

And let us not forget Iran’s ongoing quest to develop the biggest bomb of all. That also makes us just a tad bit nervous, and makes us worry a bit that perhaps your stop by New York is for more than just sightseeing. A little pre-target recon, perhaps? Surely not, but you can see why we might be a little nervous, Mahmoud. Perhaps you and the nation you lead might consider actually acting like you want peace and stability instead of sowing chaos and terror in your neighbors and region.

And maybe, one day, you might consider apologizing for sacking our embassy, kidnapping its staff, blowing up a bunch of our other embassies, sponsoring hijacking and murder around the world, and taking an active interest in killing our soldiers in Iraq. In other words, before you start tooling around our cities, you might want to take some action to move your country out of its well-deserved doghouse.

The greatest ideological struggle in the post-communist era is, so the media tells us, the struggle against radical Islam. Unfortunately, the media oracle feeds us conflicting messages on what the real issue is and how it can be solved. Like any issue that involves political zombies, America has two irreconcilable visions of the problem, and two radically different solutions. But, as is true with many issues in American politics: both sides are wrong. This is part one of a two-part series dealing with the problems Americans have with understanding and responding to radical Islam.

Let us begin with the right, which frankly speaking, isn’t. From the view of extreme partisans on the right, the problem is Islam itself. The Islamaniacs , and all those who follow the False Prophet, follow a fundamentally violent religion. From this perspective, Islam is locked in an eternal jihad against the heathen world, and it is a conflict that can only be continued by force of arms: Non-Muslims must either recite the shahadah or perish: There is no room for the separation of Mosque and State in Islam. Supporters of this view of Islam feel that the solution to the conflict is to take up arms to oppose the jihad. Though most won’t say it, there are always the more candid (and extreme) voices that feel that Islam must be destroyed. Supporters of this position point to the (admittedly) violent rise of Islam in the 7th and 8th century and content that the us-versus-them mindset of the early days of Islam translate perfectly into the 21st century.

In a refreshing (albeit disturbing) alternative to the zombification of politics, fellows from the “Atheist by Faith Alone” camp of lunatic leftists (like the recent douchebag-cum-author Christopher Hitchens) agree with this view. But this odd confluence of fundamentalist Christians and irrational atheists is united in something else: being flat out wrong.

For starters, Islam is not the only religion to have a troubling relationship with the state. Christianity, for instance has had problems in all its major branches (see late medieval Western Europe for Catholicism, the late Byzantine Orthodoxy or later writings of Luther that smack of complete Caesero-Papism). Second, the violence in Arabia was par for the course at the time and that Islamic nations were significantly less violent than some of their pagan contemporaries (the Golden Horde comes to mind). Third, radical Islam is a product of the modern era: beginning in the late 19th century with Jamal al-Din al-Afghani as a response to the British occupation. Until that point, the Islamic world (at least in its Turkoman/Islamic flavor) wallowed in the peaceful, slothful decadence it had descended into since the Battle of Lepanto. Fourth, barring isolated separatist insurgencies (which are not, in general religiously motivated), Muslims in Southeast Asia, the major nexus of Islam outside of the Middle East have lived quite peacefully for a long time.

A detailed look at history and a smattering of common sense (often lacking in the American right) tell a clear story: this view of Islam is wrong, and the conclusion that it must be destroyed by force cannot be supported from that evidence. If only the other side offered a better view. As we’ll see in the next issue, things aren’t any better on the left.