Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Hostage

     Israel, of course:

     Iran fired as many as 15 ballistic missiles into Iraq, targeting U.S. military and coalition forces early Wednesday, officials said, in a major retaliation by the rogue regime after the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.

     Ten missiles hit Al-Assad Air Base, one missile hit a military base in Erbil and four missiles failed to hit their targets, according to a U.S. military spokesman for Central Command, responsible for American forces in the Middle East. The attacks unfolded in two waves, each about an hour apart.

     Initial assessments showed "no U.S. casualties," a U.S. military official in Baghdad told Fox News....

     Iran’s Revolutionary Guard then warned the U.S. and its regional allies against retaliating over the missile attack in Iraq.

     The Guard issued the warning via a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency: “We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted.” The Guard in the warning also threatened Israel.

     I added the emphasis.

     The Iranian government, as mad as it is, cannot harm the United States except by firing missiles at American military bases in Iraq – and it appears that those missile attacks, while they’ve done property damage, have not reaped any lives. Whether President Trump will respond to those strikes with force remains to be seen, though the zero casualty count lessens the probability. But what the Iranian announcement tells us is at least as significant geopolitically.

     Iran might or might not have a nuclear weapon; in that regard a regime that does business with North Korea is beyond confident assessment. But it does have a large army and the ability to launch ballistic weapons it most certainly does have against Israel, America’s Middle Eastern ally and client state:

     Iran possesses missiles capable of reaching Israel’s population centers. Moreover, the states geographically between Iran and Israel would not prevent Iranian ground forces from advancing against Israel from the west. Thus Iran’s threat to strike Israel in “retaliation” for an American response is credible from a geographic standpoint. But is it likely?

     I can’t decide. On the one hand, Israel is a nuclear power that could obliterate Iran’s government and the greater part of its population, and the Iranian theocrats know it. On the other hand, the Iranian theocrats are irrationally evil (or “chaotic amoral” in gamer’s terms) and cannot be relied upon to act in the objectively best interests of Iran. On the gripping hand, Washington would surely attempt to restrain the Israeli government from “drastic” measures. So any calculation of “probable” responses to further Iranian provocations must be performed under a cloud.

     One thing seems certain: Iranian tactics that get Iran’s rulers what they want will be repeated. Hearken to Charlie Martin:

     Looking back over the last 10 years, we've seen the Obama administration ignoring Iranian provocation to get the "nuclear deal," sending them billions of dollars in cash — and releasing this same Soleimani from previous sanctions, something John Kerry tried to explain by saying it wasn't this Soleimani, but another guy of the same name (which was a lie, by the way), and then ignoring blatant violations of the agreement they were so proud of making, while Iran continued to attack the Iraqi government and kill civilians.

     When you reward a behavior, you get more of it. And we have: since the Obama deal, Iran has increased its military budget using the money the Obama deal supplied; support for terrorism has actually increased.

     Of course, this is what we'd expect: we keep rewarding the Iranian government, they keep doing what gets them rewarded.

     So far, this “should” be “obvious.” But this is less “obvious:”

     A lot of the responses, so far, have been sanctions. Sanctions sound like a great idea: sanction a country and its people suffer, and they pressure the government to mend its ways.

     Unfortunately, that doesn't help much with an authoritarian theocracy that is willing to gun down 1500 protestors. "Hey, you can make our people suffer, but we kill them! Top that!"

     As Skinner found out, negative reinforcement is not as effective as positive reinforcement. To work at all, negative reinforcement has to be negative — it has to hurt, or at least be unpleasant.

     Charlie doesn’t lean on that point hard enough, so I’ll do it for him:

Negative reinforcement must be
Than the positive reinforcement it seeks to negate.

     (Can you say “disproportionate?” I knew you could.)

     President Trump is not in the mold of other post-World War II presidents. He sincerely values the integrity and security of Israel. He’s not in thrall to his “foreign policy experts.” Moreover, he believes in simple remedies for simple diseases. There’s no simpler disease than violence between nation-states. The remedy is a response with overwhelming force: enough force so that those who can learn must draw the lesson, and those who cannot are all dead.

     This could prove to be the big test of Trump’s first term. Watch this space.



Iran's leaders are not - as you point out - thinking about Iran; they're thinking about Islam.

According to Shiite theology, the Twelfth Imam cannot return to earth UNTIL there is a world war. Global destruction and the deaths of untold millions including their own (who, having died in jihad even if unintentionally, are paradise-bound) are therefore not bugs, they're features.


An added thought.

The idea that any Muslim who dies in jihad, even if by their own side's hand, is bound for their virgins or raisins or whatever, is why THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

It's why Hamas puts kids in the way of Israeli missiles.