That said, I think that there are definite alternatives to a full-scale military conflict with Iran. Given the amount of hysteria that currently occupies much of the anti-war movement that now holds the reins of power in Congress concerning the prospect of any US military conflict with Iran, I'm pretty certain that the Revolutionary Guards could conduct a nationally televised disembowlment of the British sailors in question and the anti-war movement would still oppose any military option regarding the Iranian regime. This has basically been their view concerning Iraq, where they are quite content to abandon the country to an enemy that really does saw off the heads of its victims in televised broadcasts. In light of these constraints, it is not surprising that Petraeus has persuaded the administration to pursue a war of assassins in a manner that is already bearing fruit.
This isn't intended as a permanent solution to our problems with Iran (unlike the fictional noble houses of Dune, Iran is a revolutionary rather than dynastic in nature), but pursuing these types of policies internationally would help to contain the regime until such time when more robust military action becomes both politically and logistically viable. Unfortunately, that would require both strong international leadership and the ability to shift public opinion, both of which have been in exceedingly short supply of late in the Bush administration. Support for anti-regime elements could occur within this context, but I wouldn't expect them to actually overthrow the regime. The Abadgaran movement that is currently in power in Tehran basically cut its teeth by wiping out the organized reformist movement in the country as a social and political force and I don't think it's at all likely that a combination of communists and Arab, Kurdish, and Baluch separatists are likely to succeed where they failed. But as a holding action, it could work and should be contemplated as such.
Moving back into Mark Shea's latest commentary, I find it absolutely fascinating that he managed to shift the discussion over the Iranian seizure of British sailors to his preferred white whale of the Bush administration and torture. His commentary is pedantic it almost defies description:
I will also be outraged at the Administration for destroying our ability to bring the community of nations together to help these guys, since everybody will say, "So what? The Americans do it too."
Judging from his commentary on the subject since then, it seems to me that the majority of his outrage isn't directed against the Iranians. However, does he really think that the Iranians (or at least the ones with the guns) give a damn what the "community of nations" think of their activities? Thanks in no small part in our contemporary setting to individuals like himself who have adopted a functionally pacifistic position on how to deal with Iran, they are essentially free to do as they please without fear of facing any serious reprisal for their activities other than strong words. This has been the Iranian regime's MO since 1979, long before Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib came around. This is yet another example where Mark's view of torture combined with his Bush Derangement Syndrome are becoming for him what Andrew Sullivan's obsession with "Christianism" is for him. In both cases, it does violence to his position because it attempts to connect the writers' preferred white whales, however tenuously, to the situation at hand.
If Mark wants to seriously argue that any shift in US behavior would have caused the Iranians to behave in a different manner than they are right now with these British sailors, I would like to hear it. I don't think he can, because the United States is not omnipotent and there are plenty of independent actors out there who are quite capable of deciding to torture or abuse prisoners without the examples of Abu Ghraib or 24. I realize that it may strike him as amazing that some wicked thoughts on this matter do not emerge from the mind of Dick Cheney, but there you go.
I also find Mark's utter repulsion at the fact that various people, Michael Ledeen among them, find the Iranian regime's actions to be sufficiently repugnant that they might merit some sort of military reprisal simply astounding. As I said, he has for all practical purposes become a functional pacifist on the issue of Iran. If he wants to disprove me, I would pose the following challenge to him of what Iran would have to do for him to approve of some kind of military action against it. I suspect he finds this too horrible a possibility to even seriously contemplate, but there you go. In light of this functional pacifism to any serious action against Iran, I think it is fair to ask how he thinks the British sailors are going to be released if diplomacy fails. And if he believes "bringing the community of nations together" is going to result in anything other than reassuring words, I suspect that he is in for a rude surprise.
As for the controversy over Victor's remarks, I am going to choose to go with "smear" rather than "lie" here. Given Mark's apparent inability to actually read rather than "skim" our arguments here, I take it as a given that he reads the least charitable interpretation into our work, so his conflating of murder with execution is (at least for me) completely unsurprising. The issue was raised by an individual that I regard as basically a agent-in-waiting of the Democratic Party whose sole purpose in these discussions appears to me to shill for his particular side and to justify his allegiance to the DNC on the grounds that there is an equal level of dissent among Catholic Republicans. Seeing how he regularly accuses us and anyone of a contrary viewpoint of shilling for the Republican Party (including Catholic Answers), I see no reason why what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander here. Whatever else might be said for his flaws, at least he has the intellectual honesty to recognize that Jimmy Akin, Dave Armstrong, and others who have taken Mark to task his treatment of torture have a serious disagreement of opinion with him, something that Mark has never seriously acknowledged to my knowledge. At any rate, Mark is sufficiently affected by the Bush Derangement Syndrome and the torture debates combined with his love of triangulation that he now readily adopts this formulation alongside fairly nutty conspiracy theories about the inner workings of American democracy fairly reminiscient of those of Lyndon Larouche.
At the core of the matter is Victor's use of the term "execute." As any basic student of moral theology should know, just as there is a difference between murder and self-defense that results in the death of another, so too is there a difference between murder and the state exercising the power of the sword to execute individuals known to be serving members of a hostile organization such as Qods Force that are actively supporting the Iraqi insurgency. To deny that there is a distinction between murder and execution makes any kind of justice system in which capital punishment practiced complicit in murder, which, while Mark or his resident Democratic shill might believe that (though Mark does not, when last I checked), St. Paul did not. I fail to see a practical difference between what Victor is proposing and a state reinstituting the death penalty in response to a major spike crime. Making comparisons between the inhabitants of Lidice and the members of Qods Force that Victor was referring to is nothing short of insulting and repugnant.