Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Russia's roulette

As an engineer in the world of complex technology, one learns to distinguish between technical problems and management decisions. When things fall apart and chaos reigns, problems and decisions are easily confused.

Often users of large scale systems ask engineers to provide a technical solution to what is in fact a management problem. If the root of some crisis is that the hardware guys are not talking to the network guys, then the real problem is the business structure, not a technical issue. No amount of tweaking or patching will take the place of the executive decision that is required.

After all the tears have dried after the Islamic-perpetrated massacre of Russian children last weekend, Vladimir Putin is going to have to realize that he has something far more serious than an uprising in a breakaway republic-- a "technical" problem, in a military or political sense. Rather, he has a decision to make regarding the larger historic and cultural forces at play. He can ignore or appease the Islamic fanatics for now, preferring to protect Russia's business relations with Iran, or he can join us in the global war on Islamic terrorism. Personally, I think it's a complete no-brainer. But what Putin thinks, who knows?

Why Iran? Well, with nuclear weapons, missiles and proximity to both Israel and a good part of Europe, they are the most dangerous country in the world right now, even bigger a threat than North Korea. They are sending cadres by the thousands into Iraq, doing their murderous best to prevent a democratic Iraq from emerging from Saddam Hussein's rubble. And they support al Qaeda around the globe, including in Chechnya. The black hand of the ayatollahs must be behind the children's massacre last week, at least indirectly.

Surely Putin must realize by now the ayatollahs of Iran are not his friends. Although Russia has contributed materially to Iran's nuclear program and the two countries ought otherwise to be best pals, Russia must feel threatened by Iran's unabashed support of Islamic fascism. If it was not clear before last week, the view must be crystalline today.

Russia ought to get together with George Bush immediately and join the global fight on terror. He needs to send a couple of divisions of his finest troops straight to Iraq to help fend off the Iranian threat and help seal the border. Russia needs to differentiate itself from the crass greed and corruption of France's betrayal and take a moral stance against evil.

Certainly there is risk with either decision, but the Islamic fascists will be neither appeased nor ignored. Nor is any country exempt, regardless of their foreign policy or trading partners. If you are not an Islamic fascist state, then you are the enemy of al Qaeda and are a target. Putin understands the objective of the terrorists is destabilization of the region, not just rebellion in Chechnya. So the long term risk is against Russia if it fails to act decisively and quickly.

By deciding to fight terror globally, he would not only send a clear message to the world he is solidly behind us and against the terrorists, he would also help set the stage for the next phase of this fourth world war-- regime change in Iran. As Bush said at the outset, you are on one side or the other.

As for France... screw 'em.

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