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Moderating Iran with China

Iran has recently become more belligerent than usual. The new head of state has told his countrymen that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth; that Iran should develop nuclear power; that it does not need the West because it could trade with the East; and that U.S. is Satan. Shall we answer in kind, or shall we find another way to reply? I have a startling solution, that will not only moderate the actions of Iran, but also make the Middle East and the East more peaceful.

Belligerence begets belligerence. Sure, Iran held many Americans hostage and supported terrorist groups against Israel. So Bush put Iran on his "axis of evil." Iran knows what that means since it sees what's happening in Iraq, another member of the "axis." It is insisting on developing nuclear power. Supposedly for energy purposes, but we suspect more sinister motives.

What should the U.S. do? Threaten military action? After exhausting our military in Iraq, we do not have the capability of mounting a military action to subdue Iran. And even if we did, how would we handle the resultant "insurgency" that would be sure to take place? Like we're handling the "insurgency" in Iraq?

We would be mad to go to war against Iran. Our people, I am sure, will not allow it.

I have an alternative approach. It is not what diplomats would normally think of. It does not respond directly to Iran, but in a roundabout way. It takes advantage of the fact that all countries on this planet are interconnected in many ways. The world is a system. An action in one country may have repercussions in many other countries.

My idea was triggered when the head of Iran said that Iran does not need to trade with Europe and the U.S. It could sell its oil to countries in the East. Who would be Iran's biggest customer for oil? China. We already hear that China and U.S. are bidding against each other for the diminishing supply of oil in the world. If the bidding continues both the U.S. and China will be paying more outrageous prices each coming month and year. Both China and U.S. have urgent reasons to prevent this economic disaster.

China and the U.S. are tied together economically. When you go Christmas shopping, just look at the labels of the gifts you buy. The chances are great that you will see "Made in China." It makes sense for U.S. and China to work together to solve the problem of disappearing oil.

Instead, the Bush administration considers China as an antagonist. Rumsfeld is ridiculous when he bawls the Chinese for buying arms. U.S. spends more on arms and the military than all the countries on Earth put together. China's spending is tiny in comparison with ours. It seems that once you get into a belligerent mood it is hard to change.

But we must change. We go to China and tell the leaders that their economic progress will falter if they depend on oil. We tell them that we in the U.S. have the same problem. The single most important economic project for us - both U.S. and China - is to develop an alternate source of energy that is sustainable and cheap. Let's sign a treaty whereby both U.S. and China work together as a strong intellectual team to develop this new source of energy in say 10 years.

This project would be like President Kennedy's project to reach the moon, with one big difference. The moon project was a competitive project: we did it to beat the Soviets. The alternate energy source project would be a cooperative project. Both Chinese and American members would participate.

Once China starts working with us on this tremendously important activity, it will not be eager to get Iranian oil at America's expense. It would start working on Iran to moderate its position. Working with us, Chinese would learn many democratic techniques and introduce them into other aspect of their life. Over time they would learn the values of democracy. America would recover its world reputation.

Iran would eventually become more agreeable. With the loss of oil, the whole Middle East would be less radicalized.

Cooperation gets you further than belligerence. Instead of constantly fighting Iran we can moderate Iran's actions by cooperating with China in a project beneficial to both America and China - and to the world.

Posted by Paul Siegel at November 14, 2005 3:51 PM