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Fuck it. Ferguson just ran a find-replace on his complete archive for the words "Iraq" and "Iran". Point and jeer.

Jeff Rubinoff

WTF is up with Dr Ferguson? Dude, I read Empire and though certainly not without problems it was interesting and mostly well reasoned. Is it because now right-wing Americans just hand him gobs of money he figures "Excellent, now I can just babble whatever nonsense percolates to the top of my mind and get paid ten times as much as when I had to worry about peer review?"


Err..yes. Just another number in the bulging file of "British intellectuals who go giddy with love at any sign of attention from the US and collapse in a pool of their own credibility" - see also Amis, Martin, Rushdie, Salman, Hitchens Christopher...


- Ferguson is indeed an idiot
- Air strikes don't need to take out every element of Iran's nuclear program to disrupt the weapons program
- Air strikes would also put pressure on Iran to cooperate with diplomatic proposals
- Russian fuel for Iranian reactors (and the ability to still have reactors) is a potent carrot
- Although the link you provide to Iran's military capability understates their air defenses, they're still porous at best
- Although the US is in no position to invade and occupy Iran, Iran can't invade Iraq or Afghanistan either so their ground forces are largely irrelevant
- If Iran can build nukes with impunity, why would they be afraid of supporting the Iraqi insurgency (which provides them lots of benefits)?
- As you point out, nobody doubts that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and even their friends are uncomfortable with the idea
- Russia and China suspending military trading with Iran at the same time the Security Council was discussing potential authorization for military action could have a sobering effect in Tehran
Bottom line. Yes, we're in a weaker position than we were in 2002. But there is still a role for the threat of some level of military action in our negotiations.

Brian Williams


Even if air strikes do succeed in disrupting the Iranian nuclear program, such a disruption is likely to be only temporary at best. What then? Would the reality of past US attackes on Iranian soil then increase or decrease the amount of leverage the US would have with a now nuclear-armed Iran? While our threats of military action are not exactly paper tigers, the weaknesses Kingdaddy mentions do significantly weaken the US position.

Iranian ground forces are only irrelevant to the extent that we don't try to invade them. As air power might not be effective agains the nuclear program in Iran, the only other option would be a ground offensive, which would then show exactly how relevant the Iranian forces are to the equation.


When reading certain intellectuals, it pays to remember exactly what their area of expertise is. Niall Ferguson writes a lot about imperialism and wars, but he's an economic historian whose best work was about the Rothschild banking family. Victor Davis Hanson pontificates endlessly about war and military matters, but he is primarily a classicist and amateur farmer who repeatedly injects his own personal experiences and opinions into his work (to good effect with regards to his theories on the efficacy of Greek intercity ravaging, less so on his analysis of the genesis of hoplite and thusly Western warfare). Bernard Lewis goes on about Islam and the state of the Arab world, but he is really an authority only on the later Ottoman Empire.

Nick Schwellenbach

In contrast to Ferguson, the British historian Antony Hopkins is much better. I had him when I was a student at the University of Texas-Austin during the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003. Hopkins was quite clear that though we'd easily win the war, we weren't likely to win the peace in Iraq. Also, he didn't have too many good things to say about Ferguson, whom he believed had ripped off his work without giving credit on at least one occasion.

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