Peace in Our Time, But Not Quite Yet

Brett Stevens explains the Iran deal’s collapsing rationale:

“The U.S. is specifically looking at ways to expedite arms transfers to Arab states in the Persian Gulf and is accelerating plans for them to develop an integrated regional ballistic missile defense capability,” the Journal’s Carol Lee and Gordon Lubold reported Monday. The goal, they add, is to prevent the Saudis “from trying to match Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.”

Let’s follow this logic. If the Iran deal is as fail-safe as President Obama claims, why not prove it by giving the Saudis exactly the same nuclear rights that Iran is now to enjoy? Why race to prevent an ally from developing a capability we have just ceded to an enemy? What’s the point of providing the Saudis with defense capabilities they presumably don’t need?

A hypochondriac convinced he has cancer isn’t usually offered a course of chemotherapy. What we have here is ObamaCare for Arabia.

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This item from David Ottaway seems related:

While President Obama is seeking to open a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations, Saudi Arabia and Iran appear to be headed toward a showdown. The Saudis lead a coalition of nine Arab nations in a campaign to drive Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from power in Yemen–and have demonstrated their willingness to confront Tehran’s proxies with force. The Saudis need U.S. logistical and intelligence support for their air campaign in Yemen. Meanwhile, the Obama administration seeks Saudi support for its campaign to degrade Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The allies are at loggerheads over Syria, where the Saudis want to concentrate on ending the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. is focusing on ISIS. But tensions are clear over Yemen: The United States had pressed for a week-long “humanitarian pause” in fighting to allow emergency food and medical supplies into Yemen and encourage negotiations for a political settlement. It was supposed to start July 10 and last to the end of Ramadan on July 17.

The Saudis initially seemed likely to comply, but at the last moment they rejected a cease-fire, saying that the Arab coalition had not been formally asked by the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to stop the bombing. This is a flimsy pretext given that the president’s government is currently headquartered in the Saudi capital.

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PJM’s own David Goldman (aka Spengler) has argued that for peace to come to the Middle East, a whole lot of people need to get killed in war first:

Really big wars typically last for two generations. You kill the fathers in the first phase of the war, and in the second phase you will their sons. Usually there aren’t enough grandsons to continue the war. The American Civil War is a big exception: with their characteristic energy and dedication, the Americans of the mid-nineteenth century managed to accomplish in four years what took other peoples thirty.

The second is that casualty rates typically rise in inverse proportion to the probability of victory. The young men who fight great wars are not game theorists, calculating the likelihood of dying in battle against the probability of victory. On the contrary, casualty rates typically rise sharply after hope of victory has faded. What matters is to “matter.”

He goes on to note:

We are only in the first phases of a great Sunni-Shi’ite war in the Middle East, but it seems likely to produce similar results. The bulge in military-age population occasioned by the high fertility rates of twenty years ago has produced an enormous number of young men with little hope of employment or marriage who learn daily that they do not matter. As ISIS terrorists they can claim to matter, and will continue to sacrifice their lives with abandon.

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By allowing Syria to fester, Iraq to collapse, the Saudis and Israelis to think they’re on their own, and Iran to get nukes, perhaps Obama will inadvertently give the Middle East the war it “needs.”

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