18 Jan 2006

Honorary Frenchman Award

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“Never pick a fight you know you cannot win.” advises Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins.

Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid…

I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has “no right” to nuclear defence?..

Iran is the regional superstate. If ever there were a realpolitik demanding to be “hugged close” it is this one, however distasteful its leader and his centrifuges. If you cannot stop a man buying a gun, the next best bet is to make him your friend, not your enemy.

Now what do you suppose Jenkins would have said in the period of 1936 to 1939 about Nazi Germany? One can only assume that poor fellow has been living in Paris for too long.

Mr. Jenkins ought to remember that, historically, large barbarian armies have done remarkably poorly against far smaller Western forces on numerous occasions.

The Persian experience of the overwhelming superiority of Western arms in ancient times at Thermopylae and Marathon, during the Retreat of Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, and at Issus and Gaugamela will inevitably be repeated all over again today, if the Iranian regime persists in its course.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army, though repulsed in its initial invasion of Iran, was still able to fall back, stand on the defensive, and battle Iranian military forces to a draw over the final six years of an eight year war. That same Iraqi Army was twice beaten by US forces virtually effortlessly in a matter of days. The disproportion of technology, of military capabilities, is so great that an Iranian Army confronting US forces would not be much better off than the Mahdi’s dervishes were facing Kitchener’s machine guns a century ago at Omdurman.

The US invasion of Iran can only result in one of history’s classic turkey shoots, as any Iranian forces which fail to surrender or flee would be quickly and efficiently annihilated by precision-directed American firepower. The Iranian military would have about the same prospects against contemporary American military forces that the ants in my front yard have against the garden pesticide sprayer.

Nor is it likely, for that matter, that the current brutal and tyrannical regime can expect so much loyalty from its own citizens that substantial portions of its Army and civilian population will fight for it to the death. Frankly, there is every reason to suppose that Iranians in general would welcome invading Americans as liberators, and the Revolutionary Islamic Dictatorship would collapse upon receiving a single blow. Overthrowing the present Iranian regime may, in all likelihood, prove about as difficult as kicking to pieces a rotten pumpkin.

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