Monday, January 16, 2006

From Rugs to Nukes

DD#2 has to do a report on Zoroastrianism for Religion class. At one time it was the official religion of Persia and the subject of Richard Strauss' Opus 30: Also sprach Zarathustra, which Stanley Kubrick used in the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I know the Greeks fought the Persians around 500 B.C.

I know the Persians have a tradition of beautiful, handmade rugs, made of rich colors and intricate patterns. Every model of a flying carpet is, in fact, a Persian rug.

I know the Shah of Iran was overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeni in 1979. Before then, there were a lot of students from Iran (mostly in engineering and computer sciences) in my classes. If you asked their background, they asserted they were Persian, not Iranian. And they spoke Farsi, not Arabic. Although many of them were Muslim, they weren't terribly devout. But then, few of us were, in the early 1970's.

And now Iran looms big and large and menacing on the horizon and I realize I know very little about this country, really.

The threat of Iran was one reason I did not want the U.S. to rush into war with Iraq, for how can we decide one is a threat, yet ignore the other? I see limited options for the U.S. here. I'm reminded of High Noon, where the noble Sheriff faces the bad guys alone while the rest of the townfolk are hiding in the chapel, praying.

Much of the rest of the world is hiding, although the "chapel" is the U.N. building in New York City. (Can we bribe al Quaida to bomb it? Just kidding.) The members of the Security Council seem to be quaking in their boots--but aren't most of them nuclear powers themselves? The U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China? Will the idea of "Mutually Assured Destruction" work with Islamic fanatics who seem to feel it's their way or no way? For all the brinksmanship games the U.S. played vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, the Soviets did not seem to be in a big hurry to have their citizens killed in retaliation for an attack on the U.S.

I don't get the idea that the current president of Iran cares if his people are killed, if his country is nuked.

This scares me. How do you negotiate with a madman? One who has so completely lost his moral compass, that he doesn't care what the end game is?

I wish we had the political will and the expertise to plan and execute a covert operation to blow up the Iranian nuclear facilities. I don't think we do. But I can't see another solution that doesn't involve outright war.