by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I think your reader typifies the kind of paranoia regarding Iran that seems to be driving us toward war. Iran doesn't begin to compare to Japan of the 1930s and 1940s.
The Japanese had already occupied huge chunks of China in the 1930s; the Iranians could barely hold off the semi-competent army of Sadam Hussein in a war of attrition that lasted a decade.
The Japanese had an industrial base that could build aircraft carriers and first-class fighter aircraft. With this, they built blue-water navy that was able to sail across the Pacific to decimate the U.S. Pacific fleet. They equipped and trained marines that swept the U.S. and the British out of the Pacific, and came close to conquering Australia.
I understand that the human mind loves paradigms. The experiences of the past are are used to create an idea of the way the world works, and this is highly necessary in our day-to-day lives. And although this Dissent did not use the favorite "Nazi Germany" comparison, I'm not sure the "Imperial Japan" comparison is much better. Invoking World War II to justify US military action hasn't worked well in the past.
First, the culture of Iran is very advanced and very ancient. But barbaric? In what manner is Persian culture barbaric? I doubt this individual has ever heard of the Shahnameh or has read a single line of Persian poetry (poetry is central to their culture). There is certainly nothing in Persian culture that seeks to justify aggressive expansion. Japan's Prussian-level of cultural reverence for the military, however, did seek to justify aggressive expansion.
Second, the embargo on Japan was not because they told us they weren't building something and then we found out that they were (that would be convenient for Dissent's argument comparing Japan to Iran, though, no?). The emabargo was an effort by the Dutch, French, and Americans to curtail shipments to Japan of war materials like iron, steel, and oil so that it could not continue conquering Asia and start threatening Western interests. Note also that Japan was already engaged in rampant aggressive expansion by this point.
Thirdly, Japan began a war with the Western powers because they now lacked the resources they had needed to conquer and control Asia, and UK and Dutch colonial possessions in the region contained these resources. Noting that the UK and the US were very close, Japan planned a pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor in an effort to cripple our Navy and prevent us from interfering.
Does Dissent truly see Iran as a state getting ready to begin an aggressive war of expansion - especially considering Iran has the largest or second largest energy (oil + natural gas) reserves in the world and has no economic incentive on the level of Japan to expand? This country with a modest GDP, no military projection capabilities, that hasn't started a war in 250 years? Japan took advantage of a fractured China and the fact that the Japanese military was eons more advanced than anything in the immediate neighborhood in order to gain room for their population and in order to seize economic resources that the Japanese islands lacked. There was nothing to stop them. Does Dissent see this as the case for Iran? That Iran is a war machine that will just tear through American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, on their way to conquering Saudi Arabia (whoops, more US troops) and Pakistan?
Essentially, what is to be gained from war with Iran? They haven't started a war. The words of Khamenei (listen to him, not Ahmadi, because HE actually controls everything that matters, including the military) show absolutely ZERO intent of aggression: this includes support for a 2-state solution if the Palestinians want one and a fatwa, or Islamic legal opinion, that nuclear weapons are forbidden in Islam. The actions of Iran show no intent of aggression. And as the Oxford Research Group recently concluded war with Iran would, among many other things, become a regional war, the Strait of Hormuz will become closed, and oil prices will skyrocket. Does Dissent think the world economy is bad now?
I usually love the Dissent of the Day feature, but in this one case I will use an analogy: just because Jenny McCarthy thinks that vaccines cause autism doesn't mean you should give her a platform to speak when a doctor says otherwise.
I mostly side with these readers over the dissenter, but I disagree about my second reader's last point about giving a platform to toxic ideas. Sometimes I post e-mails with obvious flaws because I'm interested in the readership's push-back. The main contention of the Dish is that debate clarifies and disinfects. You cannot counter arguments without airing them.