Saturday, September 25, 2004

Soft Power, ad hoc Coalitions, and Regime Change

Much has been made by the Liberal factions of the US about the lack of soft power and the use of ad hoc coalitions used to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Less has been made about the very successful use of these facilities in bringing down the illicit nuclear network of A.Q Khan and embargoing missile and nuclear technology from North Korea. I think the situational differences in these examples make a great starting place for the discussion of when soft power may be useful and when there is no substitute for hard power. I believe that there is no substitute for hard power when affecting regime change.

All of this is pertinent to the previous discussion of pushing regime change in Iran. As I stated yesterday, I do not believe that the US has the credibility to push regime change in Iran without the use of hard power, and we have stretched the resources of our partners to the limits. Attempts have been made to parallel Iran to the Soviet satellite states, but I don’t believe the parallel applies.

Iran will not be Poland. The fundamentalist element throws too much of a wrench in the plans. I do not believe that the US or George Bush can exert enough soft power to counter the fundamentalist problem. The best we can hope for in the next year or two, while Iraq and Afghanistan (hopefully) stabilize, is to turn Iranian activities in Iraq into money pits. The US can afford to fight proxy battles in Iraq. I doubt that the Iranians will be able to afford to keep up. If the nuclear problem comes to a head the Israelis will act, and the US will be between the Iranians and Israelis. The UN will roundly condemn the Israelis for acting unilaterally, the US will prevent a resolution against the Israelis from passing and the status quo ante continues to exist.

What soft power can change is the dynamic of Israeli/Palestinian situation. Hussein was a major source of funding for the Palestinian militants. He’s gone. Syria is pulling back in Lebanon and that will jeopardize Hizbollah’s positions in Lebanon. The security fence is being completed. Arafat clings to power, but is being marginalized.

None of this is meant to state that the Iranian mullahs will not be deposed in the next year, but the US cannot play a large role in it. We have no credible carrot nor stick to offer.