"Asymmetrical warfare!," I hear someone shout. Yes, but that's partly my point. Why are spending so much to be so....strong and omnipresent, when subtle, quick, agile and creative is what's arrayed against us? It's like fighting mosquitoes by swinging a sledgehammer.
Let's look at some other disparities and dichotomies:
We are the world's largest economy -- right? Then, why is it that when Europe is feeling a bit peaked, we start raising hives? China throws a tantrum and we start offering them ice cream cones, while scolding at the same time. India threatens to sell oil to Iran and we kvetch and scowl. Meanwhile, Iran has had to go it alone, since the sanctions have forced them to do so. Interestingly, their banks, stock market and housing sector did not implode when ours did, because unlike the Europeans, they have relatively few ties that bind them.
Now, Iran is preparing an "internal internet" (per today's article in the Washington Post) -- why they're doing it doesn't matter so much -- political control is everyone's best guess; I'm interested in the whole idea of a country forging its own little web, controlling the spiders that weave it, and being able to decide what flies land and which don't. Can't you imagine someone at Langley or the Pentagon secretly wishing that they could have their own?
Globalization, as everyone knows, is the modern equivalent of Prometheus' gift of fire, encased in Pandora's box. It is the bearer of gifts, but many of them are Trojan horses. Of course, a Washington-based security researcher who reported on Iranet (my neologism) says, "bad actors will always think of new ways to thwart the aspirations of the public. People and organizations have to remain vigilant to the ever-changing environment in order to support those who want to fight back against isolation." So...it's the Iranians who are isolating themselves from the rest of the world?? Last time I looked, isolating them was a foreign policy goal.
In fact, lots of Iranians are very plugged-in (perhaps as many as 600,000 blogs in the Persian language, more than any except English), but am I the only one who is curious to see what the long-term impact of casting Iran "outside the walls" is going to have? If Pakistan had been more isolated, might they have developed a world-class film industry, too?
Is it a great advance, if by having billion-dollar airplanes and a thousand bases we force our antagonists to use small bombs, delivered by motorscooter? Which of us comes out ahead financially? All of our federal spending on education, housing, energy, environment, health, science, transportation and agriculture is way less than what we devote to the military. What does that say about our priorities and our values?
And, if our old strategy of providing Western movies, Lee jeans, Bell helicopters and nuclear technology eventually led to LESS influence in Iran, will the current crop of constraints and embargoes lead to MORE? We haven't a clue.
If you're waiting for the point, there isn't one. I don't have any answers to this conundrum. I just know that we've tried everything from CIA-managed coups to cyberwar and we're no closer to either winning friends or influencing people in Tehran than we were in the '50s. The definition of insanity is...trying a series of dumb ideas, just because they make us feel like we're doing something.