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Iran and the Many Forms of Envy

George Will has a refreshingly sensible column about the recent and tentative agreement with Iran over nuclear power and weapons, taking to task those neo-conservative critics who are right in pointing out the weaknesses of the agreement but entirely wrong about there being a better alternative.

Critics of the agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program are right about most things but wrong about the most important things. They understand the agreement’s manifest and manifold defects and its probable futility. Crucial components of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure remain. U.S. concessions intended to cultivate the Iranian regime’s “moderates” are another version of the fatal conceit that U.S. policy can manipulate other societies. As is the hope that easing economic sanctions would create an Iranian constituency demanding nuclear retreat in exchange for yet more economic relief. Critics are, however, wrong in thinking that any agreement could control Iran’s nuclear aspirations. And what critics consider the agreement’s three worst consequences are actually benefits.

The six-month agreement, with ongoing negotiations, makes it impossible for the United States to attack its negotiating partner. Hence the agreement constrains Israel, which lacks the military capacity to be certain of a success commensurate with the risks of attacking Iran. Therefore there is no alternative to a policy of containment of a nuclear Iran…

Some advocates of war seem gripped by Thirties Envy, a longing for the clarity of the 1930s, when appeasement failed to slake the dictators’ thirst for territorial expansion. But the incantation “Appeasement!” is not an argument. And the word “appeasement” does not usefully describe a sober decision that war is an imprudent and even ultimately ineffective response to the failure of diplomatic and economic pressures to alter a regime’s choices about policies within its borders.

I would go even further, with the full recognition that this is a bit of armchair psychology. I think they also suffer from penis envy. I’m surely not the first to point out that the love of war is often a cover for the love of asserting dominance, and surely the fact that our military culture is absolutely saturated with blustering machismo is no coincidence. George Carlin’s Prick Waving Theory of War was as insightful as it was funny in this regard.

The Bill Kristols and John Boltons of the world simply cannot conceive of a world in which they are not constantly thrusting their Tomahawk missiles into an unwilling country (and the browner the inhabitants of that country are the more easily the decision to bomb the hell out of them is casually accepted by those who always fall for the latest marketing campaign for our imperial ambitions).

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    I think they [advocates of war] also suffer from penis envy. I’m surely not the first to point out that the love of war is often a cover for the love of asserting dominance, and surely the fact that our military culture is absolutely saturated with blustering machismo is no coincidence. George Carlin’s Prick Waving Theory of War was as insightful as it was funny in this regard.
    The Bill Kristols and John Boltons of the world simply cannot conceive of a world in which they are not constantly thrusting their Tomahawk missiles into an unwilling country [1] (and the browner the inhabitants [2] of that country are the more easily the decision to bomb the hell out of them is casually accepted by those who always fall for the latest marketing campaign for our imperial ambitions).
    [Heath’s emphases]

    I’ve heard the penis envy and dominance explanations before. But it’s new territory for me that the unthinking advocacy of war could be tied to fantasies of rape [1] and suppressed homosexual urges [2]. Am I reading too much into what you wrote Ed?

  2. matty1 says

    Were the 1930’s in fact clear or is it only in retrospect that we see that those who warned war was inevitable happened to be right?
    Also if we actually want to make historical comparisons maybe we should consider more than one example, and I can certainly think of cases that are a better match for the Iranian situation. Some of them quite close by

  3. Abby Normal says

    I think you’re misusing penis envy, which is an idea of dubious value to begin with. Perhaps you mean castration anxiety? I’m not a fan of that idea either. But it at least seems consistent with the rest of the paragraph.

    Either that or I’m missing something.

  4. says

    Were the 1930′s in fact clear or is it only in retrospect that we see that those who warned war was inevitable happened to be right?

    No, they weren’t — George Will is stuck in a nostalgic fantasy where everything was simple and there was never any moral ambiguity to gum up the pure thoughts of our heroes of old. It’s the same fantasy that makes stories like “The Lord of the Rings” so popular and enduring.

    And here’s something else Will gets wrong:

    U.S. concessions intended to cultivate the Iranian regime’s “moderates” are another version of the fatal conceit that U.S. policy can manipulate other societies.

    Sometimes, US policy CAN manipualte other societies — especially policies that manage to PREVENT WARS. Few things “manipulate” a society more (and “cultivate moderates” more) than NOT WAGING WAR AGAINST IT. George Will is probably smart enough that he could understand this if he weren’t so desperate to get his obligatory digs on the librul peacepussies whining in his head.

  5. TxSkeptic says

    @ #5

    Few things “manipulate” a society more (and “cultivate moderates” more) than NOT WAGING WAR AGAINST IT.

    One thing that definitely manipulates a society more (and “cultivates conservatives” more) is WAGING WAR AGAINST IT.

    The US needs to quit running around the globe punching countries in the face when they don’t fall in line with our pillaging of their resources, or as politicians like to say, “Protecting American Interests”.

    the clarity of the 1930s, when appeasement failed to slake the dictators’ thirst for territorial expansion.

    The new dictators that resist appeasement are the monster international corporations who have bought the american political system, lock, stock and pork barrel.

  6. raven says

    Some advocates of war seem gripped by Thirties Envy, a longing for the clarity of the 1930s, when appeasement failed to slake the dictators’ thirst for territorial expansion.

    False analogy.

    Iran isn’t like Germany in the 1930’s.

    It’s more like Vietnam in 1965 or Iraq in 2001.

    Bush’s Iraq mistake made us less safe. We are now suffering from Vietnam war syndrome again. The American people are tired of expensive wars that accomplish nothing much and drag on for years.

    This makes it hard for us to project military power abroad. Usually a good thing. But not all wars are equally stupid. Someday we might have to again.

  7. colnago80 says

    Re raven @ #8

    Iran isn’t like Germany in the 1930′s.
    It’s more like Vietnam in 1965 or Iraq in 2001.

    Absolute and utter crap. Iran, when it acquires nuclear weapons, and thanks to the appeasement policy of the Osama Administration it is now inevitable, will dominate the Middle East, dictating the oil policies of the other oil producing states therein. It will eventually launch a nuclear attack on Israel, concluding, rightly, that Iran can absorb a retaliatory attack while Israel can’t absorb the initial attack. The US, under the appeasement regime of Osama will do nothing, fearing that Iran would start sinking tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.

    Somehow we fail to learn the leasons of the 1930s namely that appeasement doesn’t pay. The mad mullahs who run Iran are every bit as loony as Frankenberger was.

  8. raven says

    It will eventually launch a nuclear attack on Israel, concluding, rightly, that Iran can absorb a retaliatory attack while Israel can’t absorb the initial attack.

    Speaking of utter crap, this is another exampe of yours.

    No way could Iran absorb a nuclear strike from Israel or anyone. It isn’t that big a country. And I doubt the USA would let an Iranian first strike go by. It would mean the end of Iran for the next few centuries.

    the Middle East, dictating the oil policies of the other oil producing states therein.

    Naw. The other countries would just buy or build their own nukes. Iran is Shiite and they are Sunnis. They really genuinely hate each other. Sunnis and Shiites right now are fighting each other in Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan.

    As we’ve seen with North Korea, Israel, and Pakistan, waving nukes around really doesn’t get a country anywhere.

    I”m done here. SLC can go on about nuking Moslems longer than I can stay interested. It’s someone else’s turn.

  9. Michael Heath says

    Ed used to have a troll who called himself, mroberts. When the economy was crashing in the late-2000s and the Fed instigated expansionary monetary policy in order to buttress crashing employment numbers, mroberts used to argue that inflation was already occurring and hyperinflation was right around the block.

    Ideology can make people say and predict stupid things. At some level I think these people realize they don’t have a cogent argument and therefore disproportionately rely on rhetorical devices. Here that would be misnaming the presidential administration, which is ‘Obama’, not Osama. Osama is the guy Obama killed.

  10. eric says

    colnago:

    Iran, when it acquires nuclear weapons, and thanks to the appeasement policy of the Osama Administration it is now inevitable, will dominate the Middle East, dictating the oil policies of the other oil producing states therein.

    That didn’t happen when Israel acquired them. Nukes also didn’t help either India or Pakistan dictate economic policies in their region. For a pretty obvious reason: no neighboring states are going to believe any nuclear state will use nukes in response to unfavorable trade agreements. We don’t even think North Korea is that crazy, and Iran is a lot less crazy than North Korea.

    Gotta agree with Raven on this one; you’re shoveling your own load here.

    It will eventually launch a nuclear attack on Israel, concluding, rightly, that Iran can absorb a retaliatory attack while Israel can’t absorb the initial attack. The US, under the appeasement regime of Osama will do nothing,

    You obviously know nothing about nuclear policy and technology. If you did, you’d know just how laughably wrong those sentences are.

    First, a nuke is not a country-ending weapon. A big one will wipe out a city. Pick about a 5-mile radius circle on a map – that’s what you get to eliminate. Do the Israelis park their entire air force and government into a single 5-mile radius circle? No, they do not. So yes, they absolutely would be able to respond. I suppose the Iranians could EMP the entire country with a well-placed nuke and then try and get Syria and Egypt to invade. Aside from the political ludicrousness of that idea, the physics doesn’t really support it either. Israel is basically a line segment; any EMP that takes out the entire country is going to impact Jordan, the Sinai, and the south western part of Syria too. And if Iran gets the altitude wrong (its not like they’ve had a lot of pratice at this), they could EMP the entire region.

    Second, Obama won’t be president by the time the Iranians get nuclear weapons. They haven’t even done any underground testing yet. It will probably take them years just to get to that point.

  11. Chiroptera says

    I think the Iranians plan on buying a lot of property in Nevada, then setting off nukes in the San Andreas fault to make California sink into the sea, then selling a lot of beach-front property for mega-profits!

    That’s about as intelligent a scenario as anything the chicken hawks are coming up with.

  12. Nick Gotts says

    Even the responses to the genocidal scumbag* colnago80’s ravings@9 repeat his fundamental error; it is probable that the Iranian regime does not intend to build any nuclear weapons, although it may well intend to reach a position where it could do so, in order to use that possibility for diplomatic advantage. IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, announced in 2005 that Ayatollah Khamenei had issued a fatwa against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, and affirmed that Iran would never build them. This has been reaffirmed numerous times. Of course, one should always take such pronouncements with a degree of scepticism, but Iran refrained from using chemical weapons (which Khomeini had denounced) even though Saddam’s Iraq used them against it, and the diplomatic costs of backtracking from such a fatwa would be considerable, let alone the risk that either Israel or the USA might attack Iran if they believed it was on the point of acquiring them. There is also the extremely dubious nature of the supposed advantages of possessing them (as eric points out @12, their possession would most certainly not enable Iran to dictate oil policy to other states in the region). The genocidal scumbag’s habitual pronouncements that the Iranian leadership are “as loony as Frankenberger”** are not borne out by the facts. If they wanted to commit suicide by attacking Israel with weapons of mass destruction, they undoubtedly have the technology to launch ballistic missiles with chemical warheads at it. They have shown no sign of doing so.

    I’ll take this opportunity to remind people that the genocidal scumbag recently predicted that Iran would explode a test nuke next year. They won’t, of course, but that will make no difference at all to the slimy little shit’s pronouncements, because like all sufficiently irrational ideologues, facts and rational argument make no impression on him, and being proved wrong will simply reinforce his certainty that he’s right.

    *colnago80, under his previous nym slc1, advocated devastating Iran with 6 15-megaton thermonuclear weapons, and to the best of my knowledge, still holds this genocidal position.

    **For anyone unfamiliar with the genocidal scumbag’s stupidity, he always calls Hitler “Frankenberger”. The name derives from a completely uncorroborated story about Hitler’s possible ancestry told by Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer and the ruler of Nazi-occupied Poland, when in captivity after WWII. Even if the story was true, it would still make no sense to call Hitler by any name other than the one he bore throughout his life.

  13. says

    The US, under the appeasement regime of Osama will do nothing, fearing that Iran would start sinking tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.

    You somehow managed to put together a paragraph in which every single sentence contains a howler of deranged idiocy. I’ll just focus on this one.

    US policy since the Carter administration is that cutting off the Strait of Hormuz is an act of war, and if it comes down to it, our explicit threat is to immediately wipe out Iran’s tanker fleet and oil platforms, sending them back to the stone age. We keep a carrier task force in the Persian Gulf as a constant reminder of this (yet another reason why it’s so awesome that we’re dependent on oil), which the Iranians absolutely lack the ability to counter. The idea that the US would back down out of fear that the Iran would sink tankers is hilarious. It is a complete inversion of who’s wielding the stick and threatening to wipe out the other guy’s tankers.

  14. colnago80 says

    Re the Limey @ #14

    If they wanted to commit suicide by attacking Israel with weapons of mass destruction, they undoubtedly have the technology to launch ballistic missiles with chemical warheads at it.

    At the present time, not having nuclear weapons, the mad mullahs realize that Israel, with the 4000 Km Jericho 3 capable of carrying a nuclear weapon plus the Dolphin class submarines with launch capability for cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, currently seriously outguns them. Thus nothing would be accomplished by launching missiles of unknown accuracy with chemical warheads as Israel has well in hand the capability of coping with such weapons. However, next year when Iran, thanks to the appeasement policy of the Osama administration, acquires nuclear weapons, it’s a new ball game. They might well conclude that they can remove Israel from the map and survive the retaliatory strike from the latter, as neither the US or the other nuclear states will do fuck all.

    Back in the 1930s, the Limey’s predecessors thought that Frankenberger was all piss and wind and Chamberlain concluded that therefore appeasement was a sensible policy. How did that work out?

  15. freehand says

    A couple of comments to colnago80:

    Israel has 4000 Km Jericho 3 capable of carrying a nuclear weapon plus the Dolphin class submarines with launch capability for cruise missiles with nuclear warheads and Iran has inaccurate chemical warhead missiles, but next year they will outclass Israel? How does that work?

    There is no Osama regime, Obama had him assassinated.

    It doesn’t matter who Alois’s father was. Since his mother was unmarried, Alois was Shicklegruber until he took his stepfather’s name.

    Do you call all diplomatic negotiations “appeasement”, or just those with Muslims?

  16. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ 10. raven

    “It will eventually launch a nuclear attack on Israel, concluding, rightly, that Iran can absorb a retaliatory attack while Israel can’t absorb the initial attack.” – Colnago80.

    Speaking of utter crap, this is another exampe of yours.
    No way could Iran absorb a nuclear strike from Israel or anyone. It isn’t that big a country.

    Really? Compare the sizes of tiny Israel and relatively pretty massive Iran here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Israel_and_iran.png

    Iran is the one in green, Israel in orange.

    Or look at any accurate globe or world map yourselves.

    Israel is a very small nation indeed in size physically and its population is also much smaller.

    Israel has 8 million or so people versus Iran’s 77 million.

    So which nation is thus more vulnerable, confined and easy to destroy with one or a few nuclear blows?

    This is all the more reason why Israel should be allowed to keep all its existing territory and then some rather than being pressured into ever smaller and less defensible borders. Especially given the uses that land Israel has voluntarily handed back has been put to e.g. firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians, terrorist bases full of a culture of brain-washed morons who think homicide-suicide bombings are okay even worthy of idol worship, etc ..

    Given all of Iran’s land much of which is desert and its tectonic instability I think we need to be extra skeptical of its nuclear ambitions ad ask why if it must shift from fossil fuels its not shifting towards say solar, wind or geothermal or suchlike instead. (Do I recall reading /hearing somewhere Iran has plenty of thorium and so if it must go nuclear why not that even?)

    Also given Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of Jihadist terrorism notably its role in creating, funding and supporting Hezbollah and Hamas among others Iran should really be considered as being a de factoenemy nation at war with the rest of the world. Failure to recognise this is simply denying reality.

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Iran has really been de facto at war with the rest of the world since the Iranian revolution of the 1970’s.

    One of the greatest mistakes of history was made by the USA under Jimmy Carter when it refused to treat the sizing of the US embassy as the act of war it was. Imagine if instead of the appeasement and mere sanctions Iran got then, the US had responded with deadly military force removing the Mad Mullah’s at the very start of their evil reign of (quite literal!) terror (incl. terrorising and oppressing their own people) and restoring the Shah to keep his nation heading the right way. Which under him it had been – westernising even amercianising rather than islamising.

    How different would history be if the Iranian revolution had been nipped in the bud. No Hezbollah, probably no Hamas, no Iran-Iraq war, a stronganti-Islamist precedent deterring similar Islamist revolutions worldwide and encouraging them to move West-wards culturally too, peaceful prosperous happy Iran and world.

    If only Carter had been stronger and more willing to fight the Ayatollah’s then – how much better things might all be now.

    Sometimes when war is inevitable, postponing it till the enemy is at the strongest is the worst not best course of action surely?

    Iran (& the Jihadists they arm, fund and inspire) is at war with us because their leadership choose to be – and we do need to defend ourselves from them.

    If there is to be peace – and I hope there is – let it be a real peace where the Iranians disarm and quit the evils they’ve being doing. Not a false peace whilst the enemy reload and get stronger. Real peace requires Iran to change its culture and almost certainly leaders completely.

  18. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    D’oh. Italics fail and typos there. Sorry y’all get the gist anyhow I hope.

    One huge cultural misunderstanding here on the part of some of the pro-Iran, pro-Islam commenters here who think the Islamist side (Arab or Persian or Islamic generally)</ui. respects kindness, niceness and compromise. hence they think they can be appeased and compromised with and that if we bow and scrape to them they'll be friendly and /or merciful back to us.

    Sadly it doesn't. We respond to niceness reciprocally because that's our culture but the Islamic cultures don't because their culture doesn't. They respect strength – not weakness. They've shown that repeatedly because they've made and broken agreement s before – they see appeasement as weakness and an invitation to further bullying and bad behaviour on their part.

    Just look at how they treated Israel after it tried to swap land for peace at Oslo and then later when it handed Gaza and parts of Judea and Samaria (the correct names for the area often wrongly termed the “West Bank”)back to them. Israel handed back land in hope of peace and reconciliation – they got Hamas terrorism and rocket fire in return. Rocketfire that has considerably slowed only after Israel found a little backbone against Hamas again in the second (or was it third? Most recent anyhow) Gaza war a few years ago.

    The Muslims are a bit like the fictional Klingons – behave sycophantically and weakly and they’ll give you no respect and bully and threaten you until you’re right under their thumb and get nothing from them but derision – stand up to them strongly and you earn their respect and only then can you listen and deal with them. A strong foreign policy that is honest and firm against the Islamic nations not a soft, vacillating weak one that strives to appease them must be the go.

    Those here who advocate compromise and appeasement from the West (& Israel) thinking this will be the way to a peaceful better future where the Muslim side respects the rest of the world are showing their ignorance of Islamic culture and mindset. The way to get the Muslims to be peaceful is to earn their respect by strength and, if necessary, sometimes violence in standing up to them and showing them we’re not going to be bullied. Its a horrible, alien way of thinking to most of you , it is to me too – but that’s the simple cultural reality and won’t change anytime soon.

  19. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    NB. That Islamic cultural mindset is also another reason why Iran cannot ever be allowed to get or be trusted with the Bomb.

  20. eric says

    SteveR:

    That Islamic cultural mindset is also another reason why Iran cannot ever be allowed to get or be trusted with the Bomb.

    Pakistan is islamic and has had nukes for 15 years without a launch. Clearly “Islamic mindset” is not a good indicator of nuke use.

    In contrast to Pakistan, the US waited a whole 21 days between successful test and use on an enemy. Now that’s a dangerous mind set. Perhaps you are afraid that Iran will act like we did?

  21. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    1- SLC changed his name to Colon80 (or whatever it was)? Isn’t sockpuppetry a bannable offence, or is that just on Pharyngula? Or did he willingly volunteer the information?

    2- SteveoR (Oh joy, a thread about the Middle East with both LC and Steveo on it), this:

    One huge cultural misunderstanding here on the part of some of the pro-Iran, pro-Islam commenters here who think the Islamist side (Arab or Persian or Islamic generally) respects kindness, niceness and compromise. hence they think they can be appeased and compromised with and that if we bow and scrape to them they’ll be friendly and /or merciful back to us.

    Sadly it doesn’t. We respond to niceness reciprocally because that’s our culture but the Islamic cultures don’t because their culture doesn’t. They respect strength – not weakness.

    … may be one of the stupidest things you’ve ever said. And let’s be honest, there’s some stiff competition for that coveted spot. Saying “Islamic culture” is like saying “Christian culture”, it’s meaningless. The UK, US, Russia, Romania and Greece are all “Christian” countries, and they all have very different cultures. The same applies here. You can’t just lump the diverse cultures of all majority-Islam countries together and expect to be taken seriously.

  22. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    Those here who advocate compromise and appeasement from the West (& Israel) thinking this will be the way to a peaceful better future where the Muslim side respects the rest of the world are showing their ignorance of Islamic culture and mindset.

    Well, there goes another irony meter.

  23. colnago80 says

    Re Thumper @ #24

    As a matter of fact, when I signed up for email addresses at Gmail, I made it perfectly clear so that there would be no misunderstanding, that I had previously been using SLC under Verizon’s email system. Obviously, you missed that tidbit. No sockpuppetry involved.

    I took the screen name Colnago80 as I own a 1980 model Colnago Superissimo professional racing bicycle (it would no longer be considered such today as, from a technical point of view it is obsolete). At least have some respect for the reputable Italian company that manufactures it and spell their name correctly.

  24. colnago80 says

    Re Thumper the grenade launcher

    Well, Chamberlain advocated appeasement and compromise with Frankenberger (aka Schickelgruber, Heidler, and Hitler). How did that work out?

  25. says

    …and restoring the Shah to keep his nation heading the right way. Which under him it had been – westernising even amercianising rather than islamising.

    Americanising! You must be the world’s greatest expert on Iran! And to think that they overthrew that wonderful Shah, who was given to them by America against their will and giving them the wonderful gift of Americanism.

  26. colnago80 says

    Re Area Man @ #29

    The Shah was far from wonderful but, at least, was a secularist who supported the emancipation of women. In the Middle East, it’s all a question of degree of bad. The Shah was certainly less bad then Assad pere and file and Saddam Hussein. I would argue that, at least for the women of Iran, he was considerably less bad then the mad Mullahs who currently misrule Iran.

  27. says

    You are aware that Iran had a democratically elected government prior to a US-sponsored coup to install the tyrannical Shah, and that the Iranian Revolution was a direct result of that, no?

    The point is that if there’s one thing the Iranians really hate, it’s Western imperialism. They decided they preferred a home-grown theocracy over our installed puppet regime, and yet you geniuses are telling us how great the Shah’s “Americanising” tendencies were. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more ridiculous example of political and cultural unawareness.

  28. says

    Area Man “The point is that if there’s one thing the Iranians really hate, it’s Western imperialism. They decided they preferred a home-grown theocracy over our installed puppet regime, and yet you geniuses are telling us how great the Shah’s “Americanising” tendencies were. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more ridiculous example of political and cultural unawareness.”
    Now, look, the Shah’s predecessor enacted hit-or-miss reforms that failed to filter out to the countryside quickly enough, resulting in a large enough “left out” population that, when it came right down to it, made him easy to topple.

    That’s totally different than the Shah.

  29. says

    Now, look, the Shah’s predecessor enacted hit-or-miss reforms that failed to filter out to the countryside quickly enough, resulting in a large enough “left out” population that, when it came right down to it, made him easy to topple.

    Yeah. And he nationalized the country’s oil industry. That was clearly an anti-democratic move that required us to topple him, the Iranian people’s strong consent being somewhat irrelevant, because they didn’t know what was really in the best interests of Exxon.

    And see how awesome it all worked out? Western oil companies have free reign in Iran these days, other than not having any. It was all thanks to the Shah, the dude who “Americanised” Iran to the point where they hate all things American, and resulted in the Isalmists being thwarted with no more power than autocratic control of the country. And the Strait of Hormuz is peaceful, requiring no more than two carrier groups to keep open. Because oil.

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