August 8, 2006

Can we contain Iran?

A reader writes:

In past pieces you have expressed the opinion that the best route in dealing with Iran would be a Cold War-style containment strategy. [In a new Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ottoman historian] Bernard Lewis seems to have grave doubts that such a strategy will work.

Well, let's look at the relative sizes of the relevant factors. The blue USA bars are set to 100 for each measure, with Iran in green:

So, what do we see?

- Iran has 23% of our population.

- At the official exchange rate, its GDP is 1.5% of ours.

- But at the probably more reasonable Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rate, its overall GDP is 4.5% of ours.

- Iran's per capita GDP PPP is one fifth of ours.

- In 2003, these death-loving conquer-the-world fanatics were spending 3.3% of their GDP on their military, compared to 4.06% for peace-loving America.

- So, their military budget in nominal terms was less than 1% of ours.

- But in purchasing power terms, Iran's military budget was more like 3% of ours.

In contrast, the Soviet Union had a larger population than America. It's GDP was greatly inflated by CIA estimates, but its % of GDP devoted to the military was several times greater than America's. The Soviet Union was an all-around vastly larger threat.

Okay, well, maybe, as Bernard Lewis argues, they really want to blow up the world to bring about the Apocalypse, unlike the US where Apocalyptic thinking plays zero role in the political arena. Oh, wait, scratch that ...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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