Middle Israel: Iran isn’t North Korea

American resources are marshaled against yesterday’s enemies, at the expense of confronting today’s

 (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The American sun rose over Asia 120 years before it began to set.
Sunrise came haphazardly, as a byproduct of the 1898 Spanish-American War, which ended with Spain ceding to the US not only Cuba, over which the war was fought, but also the Philippines, opposite China and Vietnam, and Guam, halfway between Indonesia and Japan.
Yes, sunset has yet to reach America’s Asian extension, but dusk is now well on its way, following Donald Trump’s pledged cancellation of military exercises with South Korea. As a harsh critic of Trump on myriad other fronts – on this one I fully back him.
The US military presence in Asia – and also in Europe – has lost its geopolitical merit after the Cold War ended. This is completely regardless of whether or not North Korea dismantles all its nuclear bombs, reactors and test sites, a prospect this writer will doubt until it will have actually happened.
Netanyahu relates Trump"s efforts to denuclearize North Korea to his efforts to denuclearize Iran at the AJC Global Forum, June 10, 2018 (GPO)
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AMERICAN MIGHT’S global deployment must be rebooted not because the world has emptied of bad guys; it hasn’t. American troops should be redeployed because they currently face yesterday’s enemies, at the expense of confronting today’s.
How can we say this, for instance, about North Korea, which has threatened to nuke the US? Well, we can, because North Korea cares only about itself and is not out to change the world.
Similarly, US troops who were stationed in Japan and Korea to thwart communist expansion no longer serve that purpose, because communism is dead.
The same goes for the American military’s European presence.
Yes, Russia’s leaders are not as nice as Holland’s; but unlike Lenin and Trotsky, they are not out to defeat capitalism. And as for Russia’s apparent tinkering with American and British elections – it was provoked by Western sanctions following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which is not about Russia preparing to conquer the world, but about a family feud between two Slavic siblings.
In any event, 65,000 US troops in Europe are useless for preventing Russian cyber attacks.
That is why the cancellation of US military exercises with South Korea should be the beginning of a broad retreat from a global deployment that has become a strategic anachronism and a fiscal distraction.
Yes, the US should keep several global bastions that will help retain the military ability to emerge quickly anywhere, but this presence should be trimmed and rearranged, so as to address the real threat the American cause now faces, a threat that is neither yesterday’s communism nor today’s North Korea, but tomorrow’s Islamism. And Islamism means first and foremost Iran.
IRAN AND North Korea are fundamentally different in three ways.
First, North Korea is atheist, while Iran is theocratic. Atheists like Kim Jong Un are only that fanatic. Their thoughts are focused not on the afterlife but on what happens here and now, and if what they face here and now is sweeping defeat – as Trump evidently made Kim suspect – they will prefer accommodation.
Second, North Korea is effectively an absolute monarchy, whereas Iran is an oligarchy.
If Kim decides to lead his country in a certain direction, it will go there. That can hardly be said of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose pragmatism has been openly challenged by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Discussion with him over Iran’s imperial adventurism is impractical; he does not control it.
And lastly, Iran is militarily imperialistic and ideologically triumphalist.
There is no North Korean equivalent to Iran’s meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and fanning of regional civil wars; there is no North Korean analogy to Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Argentina, Kenya and Thailand; and nothing North Korea ever did compares with Iran’s inspiration of the Islamism that has become civilization’s enemy No. 1.
This is not to belittle the severity of North Korea’s nuclear program, but that project is its one and only threat to the outer world. Iran’s nuclear program, by contrast, is but one detail in a broad threat affecting its neighbors, the rest of the Middle East and the entire world.
The fanaticism the ayatollahs have spawned since taking over Iran in 1979 has traveled like a plague to their Sunni adversaries. The Islamic Republic’s downfall will therefore mark the turning point after which Islamism will lose its historic momentum.
Before that day arrives, the West must invest fortunes in counter-Islamist intelligence, pursuit and education: intelligence – so as to learn what Islamist plotters are up to worldwide; pursuit – to keep them on the run wherever they organize; and education – so their target audiences shun the preachers who sow Muslim hatred and harvest infidel death.
BACK IN 1898 the American emergence in Asia sparked a heated public debate.
Fans of American expansion, like senator and Harvard-trained historian Henry Cabot Lodge, thought geopolitically, arguing that the US must “take rank as one of the greatest of world powers,” and other such fans, thinking morally, claimed “Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization,” and that “we come as ministering angels, not despots,” in the words of senator Knute Nelson.
Their adversaries, like Mark Twain in his essay “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” derided the American arrival in Asia as an imperialism no different from all others, and warned that – in the words of senator George Frisbie Hoar – it “will make us a vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and other classes must forever obey.”
That was 120 years ago.
Today it is the US, and with it the entire free world, that is threatened by vulgar imperialists who finger the US as Satan, its values as blasphemy, and its people as fair game. That is why all the resource allocation that is a relic of yesterday’s conflicts with fascism and communism should be reconfigured so as to fight Islamism.
Had he been with us, Twain would be the first to demand this. “This is not about joining imperialism,” he would argue, “it’s about defeating it.”