February 20, 2007

Couch Potato Warmongers

I have explained elsewhere why the emptiness of other measures to stop Iran’s bomb and the terrible consequences that would ensue from a nuclear-armed Iran lead to only one conclusion: military action.

--Joshua Muravchik

Whether the US arrives at its showdown with Iran from a position of weakness or strength, willingly or unwillingly, there is no doubt that the confrontation is approaching. And the difference between initiating the confrontation and allowing Iran to initiate it with a nuclear first strike is not a trivial question. It will make a difference of millions of lives. The question of the hour is therefore whether the little time left before the war is being used wisely.

--Caroline Glick

So, according to The New York Sun (and the sources it cites): (1) financial support from groups like AIPAC is indispensable for presidential candidates; (2) the New York Jewish community of "influential" donors is a key part of the "ATM for American politicians"; (3) the issue which they care about most is Iran; and (4) they want a hawkish, hard-line position taken against Iran. And the presidential candidates -- such as Clinton and Edwards -- are embracing AIPAC's anti-Iran position in order to curry favor with that group.

--Glen Greenwald, citing the New York Sun
Meanwhile, the U.S. has placed a naval commander in overall charge of its operations in the Middle East, and is sending another carrier group to the area. Official chatter points to Iranian involvement in the placement of IEDs in Iraq (as if Iranian support for the Shi'a movements and their militias was some radical new departure). So long as we're in Iran, seizing or killing Iranian elements who are actually fighting us in Iraq, sealing the border and the like, come with the territory, but that's not the issue here.

There is substantial private agitation for an attack on Iran, official justification is being created, and the military groundwork is being laid.

If the naval movements and leaks are part of an elaborate scheme to pressure the Iranians to slow down their nuclear program, well and good. The downside would come if the U.S. actually attacked Iran. Aside from the illegality and injustice of such a move, it would be folly.

Iran has serious economic and political problems, but it's also a proud country with a Great Tradition. An attack would very likely provoke a reaction of national solidarity, and strengthen a régime that's showing signs of weakness. It would also further embroil the U.S. in a region it has shown it understands very little, and where it lacks the will for long-term military involvement. Whether the Iranians could retaliate, interfering with oil shipments and initiating worldwide terror attacks, is uncertain. Indeed, although opponents of an assault on Iran tend to emphasize the risks, the U.S. might just get away with it.

Does the possibility that Iran might acquire a nuclear capacity pose a risk to Israel? To some extent, yes, especially when first-strike capacity will at least initially outweigh second-strike capabilities, thus giving an advantage to the nuclear offense. Does it pose a risk to the United States? Not particularly.

Is the Iranian régime the moral equivalent of Saddam Hussein's tyranny? No way. It's a strange mixture of authoritarian republic and theocracy, with many repressive aspects that are repugnant to us, even disgusting. But it's no worse than dozens of dictatorships in the world today. It's peculiarly Shiite, and does not threaten to expand beyond the Gulf region and Lebanon at the improbable worst.

The U.S. alliance with Israel, whatever one may think of it, exists, but it hardly obliges us to fight an unprovoked aggressive war. The interests of the United States and those of Israel (at least as seen by its most hawkish defenders such as the bloodthirsty Ms. Glick and couch-potato warmongers such as Muravchik) diverge on this point, as on others. Israel, contrary to popular belief, is not the 51st state.

In an election season (one can no longer say "year"), that's something most candidates won't say. To point out the reason, apparently, would be antisemitic, or at least "scurrilous."

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