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We Need a Zero Tolerance Iran Policy

February 1, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Eric and Eliot (joining from the Iberian Peninsula) discuss the Iranian strike on US soldiers located at Tower 22 in Jordan and the Administration’s options for retaliation. They consider the argument’s in Eliot’s Atlantic piece suggesting that the US needs an entirely new strategy for Iran, the nature of the regime, and the difficulty American government officials  have with ideological antagonists motivated by religious impulses. They discuss the current situation in Ukraine and the divisions between President Zelensky and Commander of the Armed Services General Zaluzhny as well as the Russo-centric assumptions of American politicians and policymakers. They discuss the potential for European states to fill the gap in material support to Ukraine created by the US political stalemate. They also consider the ICJ genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel and the scandal surrounding UNWRA workers participating in the Hamas October 7 assault and hostage taking in Israel. Finally they discuss the role of Antonio Salazar’s corporatist, authoritarian (but not Fascist) dictatorship in Portugal.
  
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2024/01/iran-problem/677282/

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2015-12-14/time-get-tough-tehran

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2020-04-13/next-iranian-revolution

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/middle-east/iran-protesters-want-regime-change

https://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Aftermath-Forging-Strategy-toward/dp/0817921540#customerReviews

https://www.amazon.com/Salazar-Dictator-Who-Refused-Die/dp/1787383881

Shield of the Republic is a Bulwark podcast co-sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:07

    Welcome to Shield of the Republic, a podcast sponsored by the Bulwark and the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and dedicated to the proposition articulated Walter Littman during World War two that a strong and balanced foreign policy was the shield of our Democratic Republic and remains the shield of our Democratic Republic. I’m Eric Edelman, Council at the Center for Strategic and budgetary assessments of Bulwark contributor and a non resident. Fellow at the Miller Center, I’m joined by my partner Elliott Cohen, the Robert EOSgood professor of Strategy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Arleigh Burke share of strategy at the center for strategic and international studies, joining us from the Iberian Peninsula about which more later. Elliott, how are you?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:54

    Life is good. You know, Sherry, tapas, and then, starting this weekend, Pastasia Denata, which those of you who’ve been to Lisbon or other parts of, Portugal will have heard of. But more of that, later, you say I’ve been doing some reading to get ready for that. And, I thought we can, we can cheer ourselves up at the end of this session by talking about Portuguese’ dictators.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:20

    Yeah. I had a, a couple of years ago. We had a lovely, wine tasting week in Portugal ended up in Porto tasting port, and it was really, it was really lovely. A lot of lot of wine was consumed. A lot of cigars got smoked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:38

    You have just written something in the Atlantic on US Iran policy with which I am in in strong agreement. Can you kind of just lay out for the listeners, your argument about US Iran policy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:54

    Sure. So it makes an argument actually to you and Reitake have made repeatedly over the last five years. It’s triggered, of course, by this, recent attack on an American base in, Jordan. Which alas killed three American servicemen wounded twenty five others. And, what it does is it steps back and looks at this in the context of US Iranian relations, which have been on the part of the Islamic Republic, violent really since the inception.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:26

    Basically, what the article says is look, American policy has failed because we’ve tried to segment the Iranian problem. We’re we we always have segmented it. So either we think we’re dealing with the hostage issue. Or we think we’re dealing with the freedom of the disease issue, or we think we’re dealing with a nuclear issue. Or, you know, we think we’re dealing with an Iraq issue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:50

    But the the fundamental fact underneath it all is we’re dealing with an Islamic Republic of Iran issue. And I make the case that the regime is implacably irrevocably hostile to the United States and malevolent, and that, our what has been our policy really across multiple administrations. I don’t think we can just blame the Biden administration for that. For this of, you know, tit for tat responses or one off kinds of things like killing Kusum Soleimani has to be replaced by a comprehensive approach, which first will have to be violent. But which really aims at undermining, the Iranian regime and assisting the Iranian people who by and large seem to oppose it, and to overthrow it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:40

    And that, you know, this is a has to be a fundamental reorientation, of American policy. It it ends, of course, with a quote from Shakespeare. In which, Shakespeare’s Henry the fourth says, are these then necessities? Let us meet them like necessities. And and I say that because I, you know, I fully sympathize with the administration’s desire not to get pulled into a Middle East war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:08

    I understand it’s a version to the use of force on a large scale, which is, of course, always unpredictable. But I think the alternative is much worse. And I and I finally, I’ll just say that I think the way that we’ve handled this has made the problem progressively worse. You know, we now facing around the controls, the regimes in Yemen and in Lebanon, and has an enormous amount of influence in Iraq in Syria, which is getting more belligerent, not less. Which is more dangerous, not less, which is actually helping to unsettle not only the Middle East, but Central Europe.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:48

    Through its support of of Russia. And the time to deal with this problem is now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:54

    Yeah. One of the points you make which I, you know, I agree with, of course, is the fact that, a lot of the dysfunction of our Iran policy, you know, goes back across several administrations, including to some degree, the Bush administration at which we served. And I think one of the reasons for that, and I’d love to hear your view of this. Is that Americans really tend to underplay the role of ideology in, international affairs and religion. So the fact that we’re dealing with a regime that is ideologically committed, implacably committed to the destruction of the United States and Israel as a fundamental tenant of its very being, a kind of constitutive element of its identity, is something that is just so beyond the, you know, experiential kind of remit of of most policy makers that they kind of gravitate towards Will Saletan deal with this one problem at a time as if it were a normal country.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:04

    So we can deal with the arms control element. We can deal with you know, if it’s a freedom of navigation issue, we could deal with one element at a time. And, you know, sometimes this is justified on the grounds that well, even at the height of the cold war, we, you know, did arms control of business with, you know, Soviet Union, which I think kind of ignores the fact that, first of all, the Soviet Union was a peer competitor that had a nuclear, you know, arsenal that could destroy the United States, but also that it had gone through some ideological evolution of zone, it actually, you know, while always willing to pursue unilateral advantage against the United States, had fundamentally accepted the notion of peaceful coexistence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:47

    Yeah. You know, it it is also a a lack of imagination. I I completely agree with that. You know, I think what you’re dealing with here is it’s a toxic combination of three things. First, there’s the core ideology, which is a a distinctive brand of shia, Islam, to be sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:06

    But what it’s also about is a kind of revolutionary order. I mean, there are many ways in which the Iranian leadership kind of departed from shia Orthodox in particular, in having the religious leader be a a secular leader. That that was and and was not approved by a lot of, senior she, religious figures. So there’s, you know, the the the very founding of the regime was based on this peculiar brand of Shia Islam, that is was completely wrapped up in anti Americanism is essential to its existence. I think secondly, there is an element of traditional Iranian imperialism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:47

    This is an imperial power. It’s kind of deep. And I think they tap that. And I think the third piece of this is the the regimes fear of its own people. And it’s fear of overthrow.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:00

    And that’s why I think, you know, some of the most shockingly naive views that I’ve heard on this going back actually to the Bush administration, which, as you say, we served, was with a very senior official. There was a point where we had some notion that we’d be able to have a consulate in Tehran. And, that this would be a wonderful thing because this would actually do the most, subvert the Iranian regime. To which my response was, well, if you can figure that out, you think the Ayatollahs can’t figure that one out? And you really think that that’s what they want.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:38

    And I I I also think, you know, Americans often don’t like to believe that there are problems which are simply insoluble. In in, and in this case, the problem of kind of malevolence and and hatred, that there isn’t some way that you can’t negotiate your way out of it, talk through it, something like that. And what you’re dealing with here is implacable malevolence. You know, you see a a a version of that too, and and those who say, well, maybe Ukraine should cut a deal with Russia. There isn’t a deal to be cut.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:14

    I mean, they they Right. The malevolence and hostility is utterly implacable. And I think, you know, at the end of the day. It means there comes a point where you have to be equally implacable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:26

    Yeah. I agree. I wanna come back to Ukraine in a minute, but, and the question of whether there’s a deal to be done and all of that because it that’s plenty for us to chew on there as well. But before we kind of, you know, leave the Iran discussion you you mentioned that, you know, RayTech and I have written a number of pieces over the last years. I mean, you’re implicated in that as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:52

    I mean, three of us together wrote a
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:53

    piece in
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:54

    in foreign affairs. Which advocated for pretty much precisely what you’ve been talking about, which is a comprehensive approach to the Iranian problem, not one that privileges one element in those days. Of course, it was the Iran, nuclear deal that was being put as a kind of load star against which all Iran policy would be conducted. And a lot of the objection that people have to what Ray and I have argued now twice in the pages of, or at least on the website of Foreign Affairs. Has been that you you need to do everything you can to support the Iranian people at regime change and on is not gonna be imposed by US military, the way it was in Iraq, which is a completely different situation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:42

    This is something where the, you know, bulk of the population clearly hates this regime and would like to be rid of it. And we’ve seen, you know, years and years of protests most recently, the protests over, the, the murder of Masa Amini, in Iran. And yet, you just get the sense that the despite democracy being at the center of the Biden administration’s policy that that, you know, nobody wants to do this because you don’t wanna upset the Apple card of trying to get back into a, quote, longer, stronger joint comprehensive plan of action despite the fact that three years of negotiations with the Iranian should have completely disabused anybody of the notion that that was possible So what is to be done as, you know, when it might have said? You know, what, what, you, you know, you’ve said it at the outset that you then, think that, that you understood, I should say, that the administration has a concern about escalation, wider war, etcetera, prudent use of military force. So in this circumstance, here’s, you know, if I were being asked for my recommendation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:56

    Here’s what I would say. I would say you need to hit immediately the source of the, you know, of the drone attack, as well as senior Iranian could force advisors in Iraq, Syria and Iran. We know where they are. And The Iranians have had a mothership, an intelligence vessel in the Gulf of Aiden, helping coordinate the houthi attacks. I think that They’re they are in essence, accomplices to piracy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:31

    And the ship ought to be seized and or sunk. All as part of one operation. That has the virtue of not hitting Iran directly yet. Although, I think it sends a signal that if this keeps up, we’re gonna go after Iran directly. That would be my recommendation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:48

    Any what’s wrong with that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:50

    It doesn’t go far enough. I I mean, I I agree with all that, but I think there are, the there several other elements. One of which is to begin now a large and sustained effort to undermine the the rule of the regime to weaken, the secret police to weaken the forces of repression And and, you know, the the I think the mistake would be to say, okay, this time, it’s gonna be a really big retaliation, and then you don’t do anything. You know, what’s needed is something that’s much more systematic than that and much longer term. And and and the other thing is, and know, this is a fault of the administration on the Russia Ukraine front as well, indeed, on just about every front.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:40

    You need to explain to the American people why this matters, why this is important, why this is the right thing to do. The, you know, I guess one other piece of it is that I I was say is, look, going forward, we have a zero tolerance policy for attacks by Iranian supported forces of any kind on our, on our forces. There have been something like a hundred and fifty attacks since October on American bases and and and so on just until now they haven’t been able to kill anybody. And going forward, it should be zero tolerance for that, zero tolerance for some of the stuff that they pull in, the Persian Gulf. And, you know, enforce that, enforce those things pretty violently.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:33

    And the reason to do that, I think, is not just You know, in in a narrow sense to deter them, it’s to also to make them look weak. I mean, that know, so much of what the Iranians do is it’s different kinds of mind games. The mind game that you wanna play with them is to make them look weak, and that’s gonna make them more vulnerable at home. But but above all, I think we just need to convey to people that you know, this time, things have changed. The rules have changed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:04

    If bad things happen, you know, I I guess I can invoke a line from the godfather, you know, we’re gonna hold them responsible. You you probably have the right quote
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:16

    If an unfortunate accident should befall my son. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:20

    Yeah. Now, the question is, do you think the administration will do this or anything remotely like that, or as is so often the case, Eric, will our good advice be disregard?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:31

    You know, look, I think that they have shown consistent tendency to look for the middling half measure that is enough to, you know, sort of keep some critics at Bay, but not enough to really have much effect. That’s been true. I think in Ukraine, it’s been true in Iran. It’s true. Across the body of work that they’ve done in foreign policy by and large.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:54

    Look, I I just three quick points, and then let’s move on to Ukraine. So one is I should have stipulated the, you know, the, regime change portion of this policy. I was just talking about the immediate military piece. Because, obviously, since Ray and I have on multiple occasions advocated precisely what you called for, you know, obviously think that ought to be part of the equation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:19

    Okay. We’ve we’ve established that you’re not going soft. That’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:23

    Yes. I’m not going soft. The the second thing is that It it’s worth noting. And you and I have some personal experience of this. The Iranians when punched in the nose, as they have been on a couple of occasions, like with the Soleimani, strike, you know, in the aftermath of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, have shown that they have attended they really pull in their horns.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:54

    They don’t actually you know, react and escalate. They they actually calibrate, not escalate. And so I think, you know, it’s pretty safe to be on the strong side of a response here, and the biggest danger is being too weak in response, not being too strong. That’s a a great, a a great point on which to turn to to Ukraine You know, there’s a lot going on. Obviously, our own domestic, you know, turmoil is taking exacting a a cost on the Ukrainians because of the slow down to a trickle of US military aid, the, incredibly cynical gamesmanship on the hill that’s going on, that’s allowing the the border issue to, you know, sort of whipsaw around the question of Ukraine aid despite fact, it’s pretty clear.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:50

    There’s a bipartisan majority in favor of it. There’s the fact that the Ukrainians are suffering from shell hunger on the front that they’re rationing you know, ammunition. And you’re beginning to see some, you know, very small incremental, but nonetheless real, Russian gains on the battlefield in places like Avtivka and, and elsewhere where, you know, you’re seeing creeping Russian Russian gains, and I worry that the debate, you know, in, in our country is being slanted in a way that is not helpful. You made the point that the president needs to articulate this. We’ve said both you and I have been saying this for two years that the president needs to explain what’s at stake to the American people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:36

    Obviously, our advice not being taken. But, you know, even in, you know, without the president’s intervention, you know, the Bulwark published an article this week, by a number of former US ambassadors and officials dealing with Ukraine. That was a response to something that appeared in foreign affairs that based basically said, oh, you, you know, Ukraine is being depicted as this heroic plucky little country, but really it’s hopelessly corrupt and really hasn’t made much progress. Since it left the Soviet Union and advancing towards democracy, which, of course, is a Kremlin talking point. And has been picked up by opponents of aid on the hill as a, you know, good heart, you know, excuse.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:17

    I mean, the author of the article was our former. Colleague in government, Tom, Tom Graham, my former colleague in the US embassy in Moscow. But what’s troubling about that is the fact that foreign affairs used to publish the rejoinder. You know, only coming from four or five people who have, you know, served as US ambassadors in in Keith and have kept up over the years have some sense of what kind of progress has or hasn’t been made. And it’s it’s a pattern because one of the co authors, David Kramer, and I have written a couple of pieces responding to other things in foreign affairs, either advocating for negotiations with Russia, which as you point out, there’s no negotiation to be had because Russia is interested in capitulation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:02

    Not negotiation. As well as other, you know, articles that have appeared in foreign affairs that have been either I would say, hostile to Ukraine or sympathetic to kind of or at least expressing understanding of, you know, certain positions that Russia has taken. What’s going on here in your in your view?
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:26

    Well, first thing I would say is that, probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if, interested listeners to shield of the Republic let the editors of foreign affairs, know that they would like to see a a range of opinions on this question. I think The larger issue is, that unfortunately is for the and this is part of a bigger problem. You know, the the weight of so called expert opinion on, Russia Ukraine has been dominated by Russianists who possibly subconsciously sort of absorbed what is the standard Russian wine on Ukraine that well, these these are sort of a backward corrupt inferior version of Russians. It’s not really a state. You know, it’s just some sort of kleptocracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:25

    And what do you expect? And, you know, the people on the other side are a bunch of kind of wild eyed, democracy promotion types, but let’s be mature and serious. And it’s, you know, the same crew who let us never forget said that Ukraine would be overrun within a week or two. Because it because of exactly the same thing, they basically bought off on a e even when they don’t particularly like Russia or oppose it in some sense, they bought off on a Russian set of assumptions about Russia’s military capacity, about Ukraine’s military capacity, but above all, about the nature of the Ukrainian people and the nature of the Ukrainian state. And, you know, in this case, it’s simply there’s a large measure of ignorance.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:13

    I think a lot of these people you know, are not particularly sensitive to all the changes that have happened to Ukraine, particularly since twenty fourteen, which are really quite remarkable. But but there’s that. And, of course, as you know, in policy debates, once people have planted a flag somewhere, They’re very reluctant to take it down and say, you know, and I that was a mistaken judgment about what Ukraine is like. And, you know, I think that that that explains I think that explains the views of people like Tom Graham. Doesn’t explain the views of, the editors of foreign affairs who I think owe you and some of the others an explanation and maybe, field of the republic can help nudge them to that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:07

    Yeah. I think, you know, the the fact that David and I, and and now the, group of ambassadors have published in the Bulwark is a tribute to the Bulwark, actually, which has publish some terrific stuff in our colleague at the Bulwark. Kathy Young has written some very good stuff, about what’s going on in Ukraine as well. It the Russell centrism is, a phenomenon that you, and I have remarked on, we had John Hurps, one of the former ambassadors who was a signatory on that article, about a year ago talking about this. It’s it’s hard to get around because, you know, if you’re interested in this part of the world, you learn Russian, you know, first and then, you know, maybe you learn Ukrainian if you bother at all.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:54

    So, you know, there’s some natural tendencies here, although you would think people might being aware of those tendencies kind of lean against them a bit to balance their own views. But, I mean, it’s also this kind of nonsense about, you know, there should be a negotiation. You know, the Ukrainians need to negotiate. I mean, there is zero, and I mean zero evidence. You know, people will point to two, you know, sources close to the Kremlin, quote, unquote, told a Bloomberg reporter that Putin is ready to negotiate, and people accept this without you know, also noting that for instance, Putin is actually in a, you know, election campaign right now for president of Russia in voting will be in March.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:43

    Of course, he’s gonna win. There’s not really any opposition. Although it’s interesting, the, you know, the candidate Nadezhdin, who is, name originates in the word Nadezhda or Hope in Russian, by the way, who who’s a former, colleague of Boris Namsoft’s is not very charismatic, He’s clearly been an approved Kremlin, you know, alternate. So he’s going to, you know, not really rock the boat, but his candidacy is meeting with enormous enthusiasm long lines of people trying to sign up to get him on the ballot, which tells you that notwithstanding all the polls and all the discussion about how popular and Putin is and the war is, russians are getting tired of this, and, you know, would like to see an end to it. And Putin probably thinks he needs to conciliate that at least to some level, which is why we get these fielders and these stories.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:43

    But whenever it’s put to the test or wherever he actually says, what it is he is willing to negotiate. It’s, as I said earlier, it’s capitulation, not negotiation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:54

    Yeah. I think I think, Sergei Nariscan, the, the head of the, their security council recently was very explicit in saying, you know, the objective of the war is to eliminate Ukrainian statehood and to change its its government. I think there’s a, you know, there’s a com com
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:13

    Former president Dimitri medvedev, who’s the deputy on the National Security Council also said that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:18

    That’s right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:19

    I mean, this is, like,
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:20

    It’s, you know, I I quote in the piece, Bernard Lewis’s, famous line that, you know, in some parts of the world, don’t pay attention to what people say in public, pay attention what they say in private in the Middle East, pay attention to what they say in public. I think something like that applies to Russia. And by the way, it applies to China as well. I think there’s a there’s a, you know, I think a broader point, in in all these. In the case of Iran, in the case of Russia, in the case of China, This is not like negotiating with Germany or with Canada or Japan or Indonesia for that matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:57

    You know, on these issues, they basically have no intention whatsoever of long term compromise. And we just have trouble wrapping our hands around that. I’m, you know, I recently read a very interesting essay and quillette. I don’t know if you if you look at it. It’s, very interesting publication coming out of Australia.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:22

    It’s, I think, entirely virtual, but it was about Hong Kong. And, you know, what was life like for the people who were democracy protesters in Hong Kong? I remember that one point, they got, like, two million people out streets. Okay. A couple hundred thousand have have successfully fled, but the remainder is still there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:42

    And it it’s a terrible picture of you know, people being ground down and no compromise being possible. And and that’s You know, that was the story with Hong Kong. That would be the story of Taiwan. If China ever took it over. It’s the story of Russia vis a vis Ukraine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:03

    It’s the story of Iran, these v us, the Israelis, and others. And I I just think we need to accept that’s the nature of the world we’re in. And, it means a kind of a grim determination, which I just don’t see yet. Continuing on Ukraine, I wanted to, I thought maybe we could talk a little bit more about some of the other developments. I think one glimmer of light is I do think this is a forcing and and, last, the prospect of a Trump administration.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:38

    Is forcing the Europeans to take the initial steps to improve their own defense industrial capability and, prepare for it. You’ve had now a number of speeches, including by the German defense minister and others. To warning of the possibility of serious conflict with Germany. You do see some measures being taken in terms of UNicians, production. That, and I I don’t think you really see a slackening of support for Ukraine there, although they’re some wearing signs with things like the, AFD and, in in Germany.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:17

    I think Secondly, it is striking how the Ukrainians have been able to maintain a certain degree of freedom of the seas and also to strike deep into Russia. I wish we were willing to support them in doing that. I mean, I think there’s just, you know, a a discuss and absurdity and the idea that we think it’s okay for Russians to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure, but it’s not okay for for the Ukrainians to strike back at at Russian infrastructure. So I think there are some signs. Now the The one last thing I was gonna drop is there have been rumors flying around.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:54

    And at the moment, they’re just rumors that there may be a shakeup in the Ukrainian High Command. We’ll see we’ll see if that if that were to actually happen. And, you know, who knows what significance that that might have? I guess the last thing I’ll just say on this is you know, I’m still hoping against hope that there’ll be some kind of deal on support for Ukraine. Know, I’ve got a feeling that Mitch McConnell would would like and, his support for Ukraine is quite sincere.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:27

    I mean, the problem is that house republicans just seem to be kinda lunatic. Or rather is an enticing minority there. Is lunatic, not not the majority, but a very Sarah Longwell, minority.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:43

    Who seemed to have control over the speaker? Look. Yeah. I so where to start. I do worry about the Zaluzhny Zelensky tensions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:56

    I mean, we have talked about that in the past. I think we talked about that with yarrow, trophy muff, a couple of weeks ago when he was on the show talking about his terrific book. There’s been tension there, I think, since the beginning, there’s just been a major corruption case, arrests in a corruption case and retrieval of money that was apparently going to be pocketed by people involved in some contracting by the Ukrainian defense ministry. So, certainly, there’s potentially, you know, pretax there for, you know, doing things. He’s already made a change, of course, in defense minister, earlier.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:38

    I my only worry about this is that it you know, the freeing of domestic unity is you know, potentially problematic, I think, for Ukraine. But putting aside the rights and wrongs of, you know, Zelensky versus illusiony and who’s got a better strategy, whatever, I think, one of the strengths of the Ukrainians has been their unity. It undermined one of the key Russian assumptions which was that there was no unity in Ukrainian society. So I I do, you know, worry about that. And although you’re right that the Europeans are stepping up and have recognized, that they have been you know, living in for too long in the, you know, land of, you know, what our when our friend Bob Cagan calls, you know, the lands of Mars and Venus.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:35

    The the reality is, though, they have a long way to go. Because their defense industrial base is in worse shape than ours. And I worry that about the sustainability of this in European politics. And when you put some of the things together, if the United States were to drop off providing aid. And god forbid Donald Trump becomes, you know, president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:02

    If the Ukrainians are divide a house divided rather than United and fighting Russia. If the Russians are beginning to make gains on the battlefield, I worry that the political support in in Europe will start to evaporate. It’ll be come to be seen as this is too hard a problem for us to handle on our own. Without the Americans and, you know, with the Russians making gains. And and I think it starts to undermine what you’re seeing now, what you rightly have pointed to, which is this sense that they’ve got to get their house in order and be prepared to, you know, do some defense work on their own without necessarily the US being there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:41

    I I just worry about the long term.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:43

    You know, I I take those points. I think I’d qualify Both of those a little bit though. You know, it seems to me on the whole Ukrainian society remains united. It’s very tired. But, you know, the intro of elite disagreements, and it’s hard to tell with this personality driven or it’s or it’s substantive, and it may well be substantive, is is dominant.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:09

    So I think there’s that. But I, you know, on the hold, the sec. You have mean, you the Ukraine has faced some very large challenges to include developing an equitable system of mobilization. For their population. And that that’s beginning to be an issue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:24

    You have you’ve had the same guys on the front line for a very long time, and they need to be rotate it out. The on the European side, you’re right on the one hand. On the other hand, one thing we could be quite sure of is the Poles, the Baltic states, the Czech, the Fins, the Norwegian, Swedes, will really be staunch. Now, will that end the Brits, I think? Now will that be enough to bring everybody else along with them?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:55

    I don’t know. But he actually, even those just those countries that I’ve itemized when you put them all together, that’s actually pretty You know, it’s economically reasonably substantial. And they have been doing the things that you need to to mobilize. It’s not enough. It, don’t, you know, don’t mistake me on that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:16

    But, but I think the, you know, that that’s where the center of gravity of political energy on this is gonna be coming from.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:23

    I think that’s fair. And, we’ve just had the first round of a Finnish presidential election, which I follow with some interest. And, you know, both of the two final candidates, you know, frankly, I think it was Barry Goldwater who said there’s not a dime’s worth of difference.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:40

    Oh, no. I guess that was George Wallace
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:41

    who said there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in nineteen sixty eight. I I think actually, you know, there’s not really a dime’s worth of difference between Piccajaveisto and and Alexander Stube. The two candidates in Finland, it’s really more personality than it is, you know, substantive.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:00

    The one thing that I I saw it in a if you picked it up or if you think this is so. But Minna Lander, who’s a a an analyst who I I follow. Said something to the effect that essentially the the fans have kind of begun transition to kind of war economy light by I guess there’s rules which allow them to essentially mobilize industry for defense purposes and they’ve begun doing that. I don’t know if that’s Yep. You know, that’s significant enough thing I would think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:30

    Yeah. She’s she’s she’s very sharp. She’s a very good, analyst at, at FIA, the Finnish Institute for international affairs. We’ll see what what happens there. I you know, we ought to move on to one other subject because we need to touch a little bit on what’s going on with Israel and Gaza as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:48

    And, of course, the, international court of justice rendered, not not a verdict, but a, decision, in connection with the k on genocide that has been brought there against Israel by South Africa, in which, Israel was enjoined essentially to do things that I believe they’re already doing, which is to take steps to try and protect the population from collateral damage in in this conflict, which has already seen, you know, the Israeli is making some pretty considerable efforts here, against Foe who, violates all the laws of armed conflict by, you know, operating in schools, hospitals, you know, taking hostages and using, civilian population as human shields to protect it from from combat. So what’s your thought on all that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:49

    Well, I, so my first thought is actually kind of a visceral anger and disgust at at the, and invoke the invocation of genocide. Against the state, which let us not forget, has a very large population still of people who survived the Holocaust That was genocide. That was really an attempt to exterminate an entire people. What whatever is going on in Gaza, no matter how terrible you think it is, This is not a war of extermination. This is not death camps.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:23

    This is not gas chambers. This is not the machine gunning of thousands of people and dumping their bodies in, in a trench. It it and it’s it’s obscene that this is coming up. And it it reflects, you know, not only an extraordinary discredit upon South Africa, which I think should be called upon at some point to to pay a penalty for this. And I I hope will.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:52

    You know, I I’m a great believer in keeping book. And I think this is one case where the United States among other countries should keep book. But it raises, haven’t gotten that off my chest. It raises for me the question of the the international criminal court the international court of justice in general. And it’s so let’s move to the, kind of, area uplands of political philosophy, if we may.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:24

    I guess the problem that I’ve always had is it seems to me justice is something that can be dispensed by states. Because there’s a common sovereign. But the most fundamental fact of international politics is there is no common sovereign. It was, you know, I’m not the first one to point this out. Thomas Hobbs pointed this out, and the Greeks were well aware of it before him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:48

    And and I I think, you know, the result is that although, yes, there’s a body of customary international law, and, you know, people can work through that. You can have tribunals and arbitration and all that. At the end of the day, A, a court of this kind is bound to be political, and political in a way that would be un utterly unacceptable in a domestic context. And that’s why I don’t like it. What about you?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:17

    Yes. I, you know, I agree. Actually, I mean, actually, the The fact that there is no, you know, agreed sovereign and international life is really the fundamental premise of an entire, you know, school of thought in international relations, you know, commonly referred to as realism. So, you know, I I’ve, you know, like you. I mean, I think it’s sort of reasonable to have South Africa of all places, you know, raising this but I think also it does tell you a little bit about the broader international community and how they see this war, and also, which I think is a problem for Israel, and for the United States.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:04

    And it also tells you a lot about, unfortunately, you know, international institutions and more broadly. And kind of the failure of our kind of hopes for them that arose in the second world war. I mean, right, our first world war and second world war. Right? It was sort of you know, Wilson’s hope that the league of nations would somehow overcome the, you know, absence of a a common sovereign and, and put an end to, you know, warring between alliances and blocks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:38

    And and then, you know, after World War II, the United Nations, it’s actually quite interesting to see how in the nineteen fifties. How much emphasis, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Foster dulles put on the United Nations and its importance. In in international affairs. And I think we’ve arrived at a point where so many of these institutions now have been so corrupted by, you know, frankly, these outlandishly high salaries for international civil servants and the, I think loss of the plot, frankly, on, you know, what what it is they’re supposed to be doing. I mean, you know, the other, of course, case in point is the revelation by Israel which I don’t think comes as a shock to too many people who’ve been following things over the years that Anra, the United Nations, refugee, welfare is a welfare or works agency, which was established in nineteen forty eight to to take care of the refugee population, in in Gaza, has become a kind of perpetual self licking ice cream cone.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:56

    I mean, it exists to perpetuate itself. And it’s also been complicit in terrorism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:02

    I I was gonna say. I mean, they the Israelis produce what looks like pretty hard evidence that at least a dozen, of Anra’s employees were actually participated in the October seventh of the tax, but that, a substantial percentage in a variety of ways were associated with it, even if they weren’t directly, participating. As you say, that’s no surprise to anybody who’s followed it. But I think there’s a larger point here, which is what Anurah has done in it’s more than half century of existence. Astounding is, you know, it’s kinda kept the Palestinians in this kind of welfare dependent state.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:46

    And and, you know, obstructed what would have been the desirable thing, which would have been, you know, to help people find their feet and then develop their own economic lives, be integrated with the places where they were living, and, you know, the way refugees from previous wars have been, and, you know, whether it’s, you know, Pied noir going to France or Iraqi Jews going to, the newly created state of Israel. And instead what what what it does is, I mean, it it’s like the most pernicious, version of something that was, you know, a a critique of the welfare state in the sixties and seventies that you create cultures of dependency, which are just terrible for everybody and do breed corruption. And and there’s a a great deal of corruption there. Now it’s interesting here. Is that a number of countries, the United States, Canada, and and there are more have now suspended payments to Unran.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:02

    Now is that a suspension? I think. Is is that a pause? Will people go back to it? Is there a substitute for it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:10

    What is that substitute? Those are all up there. But I think it does shine a light on something that everybody’s been complicit in, which is, you know, keeping keeping the Palestinians, you know, who are now, like, third generation or more from nineteen forty eight in the state of dependence, you know, feeding the myth that they will get to go back, which they will not. They absolutely will not. And so therefore, you know, creating these breeding grounds for hatred and violence and so on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:41

    And it’s it’s tragic. And it’s, you know, the people who perpetuate these institutions are not doing the Palestinians any favors. That said, you know, I have no idea what the solution is with the Palestinian population of Gaza and what the have administrative and political arrangements need to be. They need to be something. I just wanna make, if I might, since we’re on this topic, one minor point, there’s a a very good thread by John Spencer I think he’s at the modern warfare Institute at, West Point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:17

    He was an expert in urban warfare about about the, Palestinian, civilian casualty figures, which everybody takes. He says, let’s set aside the fact that these are generated by Hamas. So first, he he says, I’ve been studying urban warfare for many years. I have never heard of anybody who’s been able to give you accurate civilian casualty, figures down to the single digit. On the same day they happen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:47

    Secondly, you know, the Palestinians don’t seem to count in those numbers, numbers of a mosque combatants have been killed. We know that at least a thousand were killed by the Israelis on October seventh and, the fighting around the the attack. These really say that there’s something like nine thousand have been killed. Doesn’t talk about friendly fire. It doesn’t talk about Palestinian civilians who’ve been killed by Hamas, which has happened.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:12

    Intentionally because people, tried to flee some of their areas. And it it’s, You know, again, it’s just it’s very depressing the way people sort of accept these numbers without saying, hang on a second. Where did they? Where did they come from? What I would like to do for the wrap up is go talk about the book I’ve been reading because it’s actually relevant to this question of the UN.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:36

    I’m gonna let you go there in a second. I just wanted to say that the the Washington Institute, has also done a paper on the Hamasas’s, manipulation over a history of, you know, casualty figures in the fight with with Israel. This is not new. This has been going on. Can, you know, through all the earlier rounds of this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:58

    So that’s not new. And also John Spencer, who is terrific on, urban warfare. He’s also a very, got a lot of expertise in subterranean warfare, and he, had a very good post at the modern war institute not long ago about the tunnels that, Hamas has done, which are really quite extraordinary. I mean, turns out to be about what four hundred fifty miles of tunnels, way way bigger than the Israelis had anticipated. This isn’t an area that’s like twenty five miles long and about was it about twenty miles across?
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:33

    I mean, it’s it’s, no, not even. I mean, it’s It’s really quite extraordinary. I think it was six thousand, six thousand pounds of, so my six thousand tons, excuse me, of concrete were poured in, and and seventeen hundred tons of rebar went into this. It’s it’s really, quite astounding.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:54

    And just think about if if all that expense and all that effort and all that ingenuity had gone towards developing decent water and sewer systems, and educational systems, which taught people something other than, hey, And, you know, we’re conducive to developing an economy that could thrive and feed the people of of Gaza and offer them a somewhat better future. I mean, that’s the thing that’s poisonous about it. It is astounding to me that, you and I agree with you, you know, with what you say about sort of the the attitudes towards Israel that, I mean, almost immediately criticism of Hamas, not only for the October the massacre and all with all of his horrors. But for this kind of stuff, it just vanished. It’s just not people aren’t gonna talk about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:45

    It’s it’s all gonna be talking about the Israelis. It’s preposterous.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:49

    So, you’re going to have a a wonderful trip to to Lisbon, and I know you wanna talk about, Antonio Salazar, the, the dictator of Portugal. So, tell us all about what you’ve learned because, you know, I really wanna get the lessons ahead of time before our own election. About soft authoritarianism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:14

    Well, he by the way, it’s only on shield of the republic that the uplifting note on what you end session is talking about Portuguese dictators. So the the book is Tom Gallagher’s, Salazar, the dictator who refused to die. Salazar was a brilliant, professor in economics, but also in law at the University of Coimbra, which is a very ancient university, the oldest in Portugal. Who entered the government in the late twenties, then in nineteen thirty two, he became prime minister and effectively dictator and served their until nineteen sixty eight. So a very, very long tenure of, about thirty four years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:01

    Now, by the way, he would have despised Donald Trump. He was a brilliant man, a, extremely well read. Steeped in all the classics. He was a he was profoundly conservative to the point of being reactionary. But he was also, you know, a frugal man.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:24

    He when he died, basically, he didn’t really leave any kind of fortune behind at all. Fantastic work ethic. And, you know, even though when that regime was overthrown about six years after his death, a lot of effort went into criticize him. And a lot of the criticisms were were just I mean, they had a secret police that was could be quite nasty. And in some ways, he did hold the country back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:54

    But still, they had a it was a television series not that long ago on Great Portuguese. And they had the, you know, the people watching it, right in. Okay. Who’s the greatest Portuguese of the mall? Majority for Salazar.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:09

    I mean, his accomplishment was to stabilize Not only the economy, but the government after a prolonged period of internal turmoil, which had been, because you had been a monarchist, you had Republicans, you know, you had the church, you had, people opposed to the church, the country had been badly disrupted by the first World War in a number of ways. He stabilizes all that. And you know, produced a regime that was authoritarian, where the there was there was some freedom of the press, but it was controlled, but it was not a fascist regime. And he he very deliberately rejected that. He was not this was not like Franco Spain.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:52

    It certainly was not like Hitler’s Germany, not the slightest or mussolini’s Italy. He despised all that. He thought all that stuff was, you know, that’s bad because he He recognized the true revolutionary nature, I think, of fascist mo movements. Now he he also while he did in some ways good for the country. He also did not believe in, you know, extensive education.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:20

    So Portugal was sort of backward as that result. He was ferociously committed to maintaining the Portuguese empire. In, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Day. But he was an impressive figure, and he what’s one of the things I find I found most interesting about the book. And Gallagher, I think, is a very good biographer because he’s I mean, he doesn’t, he’s quite dispassionate, I think, about Salazar.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:48

    He he admires some things and clearly does not admire others. But what he captures is the essence of Salazar’s critique of modernity. And makes it clear that it’s one which actually has some purchase now. One of those things is he thought that, you know, the kind of you know, internationalist movements of the post World War two period, including the the what was then the EEC, the predecessor of the European Union, the United Nations. This is all folly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:25

    That the things that are real are nation states and that the idea that you can remake humanity is a folly and a delusion. You know, his his real enemy was in many ways the French revolution, which doesn’t isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. So it it’s a a a wonder absolutely fascinating, partly for what it taught you about Portugal, But as a case study of what rule by a genuinely conservative shading into reactionary figure is like, not our caricature of that, but the reality. So and again, let me just stipulate. Some parts of it are really quite ugly, so that I and I would never want to live under that kind of regime.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:11

    But it’s quite interesting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:13

    Yeah. I mean, in an era where Trumpism is being normalized by people like Patrick Denine and others who have that kind of, you know, more traditionalist conservative critique of of liberalism. It’s probably worth going back, and and looking at what, you know, what that really looks like.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:37

    Right. It doesn’t look anything up trump. You know, it’s it’s it is so much the entity. I mean, this is you know, he had profound doubts about the United States. He thought we were naive and, dangerous
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:53

    in Although he’s a founding member of NATO.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:56

    Yeah. Well, he he I mean, there was the communist who really scared him. So he profoundly anti communist He drove very hard bargains with us over the use of the Azores, by the way. During World War two, you know, he I mean, from the Portuguese point of view, he maintained Portuguese neutrality, which ended up being a tilt to the allies and keeping them out of the war. And, you know, that was not a given.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:23

    There was a point where either the Spanish or the Germans without Spanish approval, they thought would, you know, would wanna take Portugal. And you can understand why.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:40

    Well, they both stayed out of the war, and Lisbon became under Salazar a, his neutrality became a city teeming with espionage activity of all sorts by you know, but by all by all sides. Well, that sounds like an appropriately cheery note on which to end this episode of, shield of the Republic. I I hope you have, a great time in Portugal. I know we did, so I’m sure you will as well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:07

    Yeah, we’re looking forward to, Drinking port and eating pestage did not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:13

    There you go.