Sunday, October 2

Iran by the numbers

Pundita discovered by following a link in Spengler's China essay (see previous post) that his demographics-based analysis of Iran is the most informative to come down the pike recently about Tehran's plans. Here I am afraid the news is worse than Spengler's statistics delivered about China's problems; it is alarming.

As a regular listener to the John Batchelor show, Pundita has had it drummed into her that Iran's rulers want to take a page from Hitler's Mein Kampf. But the military based analysis supporting this view has never caused Pundita lost sleep. After all, the gang in Tehran is not the first in modern times with dreams of conquering a large swath. Indeed, that was Saddam Hussein's dream.

However, the statistics that Spengler marshals show why Iran's rulers are integrating their totalitarian government with plans for conquest. It's either that or face a total collapse of their power. The demographics combined with the looming decline in their oil revenue dictate the stark reality for Iran's rulers:
By 2050, elderly dependents will comprise nearly a third of the population of some Muslim nations, notably Iran -- converging on America's dependency ratio at mid-century. But it is one thing to face such a problem with America's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $40,000, and quite another to face it with Iran's per capita GDP of $7,000 -- especially given that Iran will stop exporting oil before the population crisis hits.

The industrial nations face the prospective failure of their pension systems. But what will happen to countries that have no pension system, where traditional society assumes the care of the aged and infirm? In these cases it is traditional society that will break down, horribly and irretrievably so. Below, I will review the relevant numbers. [...]

Muslim birth rates are collapsing as literacy rises, that is, as the modern world intrudes upon traditional society. Islamic traditional society is so fragile that it crumbles as soon as women learn to read.

But the Islamists will not wait for traditional society to unravel [...] In programs made public on August 15, [Mahmud] Ahmadinejad revealed a response worthy of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin to the inevitable unraveling of Iran's traditional society. He proposes to reduce the number of villages from 66,000 to only 10,000, relocating 30 million Iranians. That is a preemptive response to the inevitable depopulation of rural Iran, in keeping with a totalitarian program for all aspects of Iranian society. [...]

Reengineering the shape of Iran's population, the central plank of the new government's domestic program, should be understood as the flip side of Iran's nuclear coin. Aggressive relocation of Iranians and an aggressive foreign policy both constitute a response to the coming crisis.

Iran claims that it must develop nuclear power to replace diminishing oil exports. It seems clear that Iranian exports will fall sharply, perhaps to zero by 2020, according to Iranian estimates. But Iran's motives for acquiring nuclear power are not only economic but strategic. Like Hitler and Stalin, Ahmadinejad looks to imperial expansion as a solution for economic crisis at home. [...]
Call me a cockeyed optimist but Pundita finds herself in disagreement with how Spengler applies his analysis to Tehran's designs on Iraq's Shia population.

After emerging from centuries of subjugation to the Sunni majority in the Middle East, Iraq's Shiites would be fools to subjugate themselves to a clique in Iran and they know this. Or rather, they learned this the hard way. The silver lining to US stumbles in post-Saddam Iraq is that Iraq's Shiites experienced the consequences of Tehran's support of the so-called Sunni insurgency, which has claimed so many Iraqi Shia lives.

Yet Spengler's analysis does not fall short in conveying the threat Iran poses. Looking past the rap about a grand coalition of Muslims, Iran's military has practical reasons to view conquest as the only viable means to retain power. Spengler observes:
Ahmadinejad is not a throwback, as I wrote with a dismissiveness [in an earlier essay] that seems painful in hindsight. He has taken the measure of his country's crisis, and determined to meet it head-on. Washington, from what I can tell, has no idea what sort of opponent it confronts.
Support for the latter observation has come over the years from John Batchelor. Every once in a while, in the manner of Diogenes, John inquires of learned guests, "Does Washington have a plan yet for dealing with Iran?"

After hemming and hawing the guest always replies, "No."

Demographics and Iran's imperial design (By Spengler for the Asia Times, September 13.)

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