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April 12, 2006

Iran warmongering

And so the next great neocon folly begins... A progressive activist and organizer looks ahead to Iran:

Over the next four months the drumbeat about Iran continues until most of the country thinks they're ready to bomb us. They figure out how to silence the generals, maybe we catch an Iranian terrorist here in the U.S., a new crop of generals gets promoted and starts talking this up. Then, a month before the election, they ask Congress to vote to protect America from terrorism by authorizing the use of force against Iran. They split the Democrats. We have a civil war in the Democratic Party and a revived "Security Election" where the GOP wins.

So, what does that mean: starting now we need to get every Congress-critter on record saying that there are no good military options for Iran. etc.. We need to hunt the Republicans down on Security issues and corner them so they lose credibility.

Because if we come to that vote in October and we STOP BUSH because Democrats are united and Republicans are fractured we'll have an excited Democratic base ready to lay down on train tracks for Democrats in Congress.

And, America will be safer. Iraq was a pathetic shell of itself when we invaded. Iran is different.

Yes, the United States is seriously considering a nuclear first-strike against Iran and nobody cares.

Now, maybe this is just Republican political posturing to distract us from Abramoff, Iraq, and the crumbling conservative movement. Possibly, Bush and his cronies realize that striking Iran would be ruinous because we're already tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, as Amanda points out, Bush has little to lose. The Iraq debacle should have humbled the neocons, but like all compulsive gamblers, they're begging to go double or nothing:

I’m thinking the “nothing to lose” part is the major part of this. Having determined that he’s on the cusp of becoming a far larger failure at being President than Senior ever was, Bush probably has lost all sense of proportion. Anything less than insane action will result in him being a smaller man than Daddy, a villian in the history books. Why not make a last ditch effort at being the action hero? He’s got nothing to lose–it’s other people entirely that have to die for this.

Consider for a moment the breathtaking madness of launching a nuclear first-strike against Iran. We're not talking about a one-off surgical strike with conventional weapons. We're talking about a starting a war with an Islamic republic. According to Seymour Hersh, Iran's nuclear program is widely distributed and deeply buried. One military planner told Hersh that we'd have to knock out 400 separate sites to destroy the nuclear program. Of course, that wouldn't be enough to eliminate the threat. It's no good knocking out the nuclear sites if Iran immediately retaliates with massive conventional attacks on Gulf shipping and American positions in Iraq. So, the United States would also have to knock out the medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, sheltered airfields, and diesel submarines at the same time. Of course, we couldn't do all that with air strikes alone. America would need to send in Special Forces.

And then what? Flowers and candy?

No, according to Hersh's sources, the necons hope that a preemptive nuclear attack will embarrass the clerics right out of power:

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

Then we'll get flowers and candy--not to mention a massive Shia uprising in Iran and Iraq, and terrorist reprisals at home. Nothing like another 9/11 to set the mood for the midterm elections.

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"Yes, the United States is seriously considering a nuclear first-strike against Iran and nobody cares."

Morality, Humanity, and Civilization Nothing Remains but Memories

Arthur Silber discusses the Billmon post, and tries to show why and how much we should care. "...destruction of a kind that will make the 20th century pale in comparison."

what is wrong with the u.s.? they attack countries who "plan" to make weapons of mass destruction, and not those who already have one.

I'm just old enough to remember was it was like to be afraid of nuclear war every single day. I was like the kid in Tim O'Brien's Nuclear Age. Then the Cold War ended and I stopped lying awake at night worrying about nuclear armageddon. Now the same fears are creeping back again.

I mean, obviously, striking Iran wouldn't immediately trigger larger-scale nuclear conflict. But as Silber points out, the ultimate consequences of any preemptive nuclear strike are terrifying to contemplate.

Anybody remember that old folk song?
"Nowadays when I pick up the paper/The same old feeling comes on/We're waist-deep in the Big Muddy/The big fool says to push on."

I share the horror and disbelief at the notion that there is serious discussion at the highest levels of carrying out an unprovoked nuclear first strike against a sovereign nation and that nobody in the press or pundit class seems to care -- like Billmon and Digby (here) and Lindsay, you might say I'm outraged, or at least appalled, at the lack of outrage. However, I'm equally concerned that the "tactical nuclear bunker-buster" trial-balloon might be either a deliberate or unintentional set-up, in the sense that it makes it much easier to swallow a still-massive and still-horrifying conventional air assault -- i.e., it lays the groundwork for the loyal punditocracy to say "well, we killed 50,000 Iranians in a seven-day campaign of round-the-clock 'surgical bombing,' but it's not like we actually used nuclear weapons like we could have, so what's the big deal?"

Bob, thanks for mentioning Silber's post. I added a link to a follow-up post on Iran coverage in the blogosphere.

Packerland, I agree. It's possible the whole Iran thing is a big fakeout by the Republicans. Remember "Divine Strake" the huge conventional bunker buster bomb that's going to be tested in Nevada in June (IIRC)?

I mean, the whole preemptive-strike-on-Iran plan is so crazy that I have a hard time believing that they could possibly be serious.

Sometimes I think they've just letting the Rapture Right drive for a while.

Jesus Christ. Bush gets his panties in a bunch and begins to believe he's an Old Testament prophet. The man seriously needs to relax. Someone please, please find him a cute intern with big hair, a sweet Texas drawl, and a thong.

Iran seems like an intractable problem. Even without the multiplicity of fuckups of the last 5 years Iran would be hard to deal with. The mullahs are genuine millenarian nuts, and crappy as W is as president, they would pose a major problem no matter who was in the White House. Having some sort of strike plan in place is only common sense, as is keeping it updated. The more worrisome thing to me is talk of using nukes. Not because I think they would, but to make the coming strike seem moderate by comparison.

I'm not sure I can come up with a better alternative than a preemptive strike at this point, though I am sure that any plan for Iran has to start with "(1) Stop screwing the pooch in Iraq."

Iran is an intractable problem. However, I think it's an intractable problem that can be stalled until we get someone competent into the executive branch. I don't trust our current regime to preempt a popsicle stand.

The only way to solve this intractable problem would be regime change in Iran. But suppose that we blasted Iran's nuclear program today without changing the regime. It would just be rebuilt by an angrier Iran with more angry allies throughout the Muslim world. Or, Iran could just buy nukes from North Korea.

Nuclear knowledge has been out of the bag for decades and fissile material will be on the market for as long as we have a capitalist system (i.e., forever). We can't afford to assume that we can achieve security by bombing Iran.

My hope is that we can stall long enough to let the hard liners in Iran burn themselves out. As Juan Cole points out, they aren't even popular today. (If the US set its mind to the task, it could probably do a lot to undermine the regime in the next year or two.)

For years some of the most sensible commentators on Iran have said that our goal shouldn’t even be to get them to give up their nuclear program since they won’t do that anyway. The better goal is to give them reason to pursue it at a snail’s pace. A package of realistic carrots and realistic (non-war) sticks, would provide a modest amount of leverage. Hopefully, just enough leverage to get them to go slow.

I'm just old enough to remember was it was like to be afraid of nuclear war every single day.

Yeah, I'm getting those kinds of fears again for the first time since, like, 1985. In the eighth grade (which would have been 1980, or so, for me) we had a homework assignment where we had to conduct a survey of the people we knew. I asked everybody in my class what they thought the odds of global nuclear annihilation were. Apparently, I came off as a little weird.

One of the blackly funny things about this whole situation is the way it's apparent that these uber-nationalist neocons and equally nationalist paleocons like Cheney have absolutely no conception that people in other countries might be nationalist too, and might fucking object to being invaded, let alone nuked, by another country. And that this objection might supercede any dislike they feel for their own government. The very same people who after 9/11 insisted that Democrats should set aside their political disagreements with Bush and rally behind the president or else be considered traitors.

[T]he necons hope that a preemptive nuclear attack will embarrass the clerics right out of power.

If their staggering losses in their war from 1980-1988 with Iraq, a country one-third their size, weren't embarassing enough to rid them of the Ayatollah, then what makes these crackheads in the Defense Dept. think we'll fair any better? Sure, we'll kill more Iranians in one strike than all the people they lost in their war with Iraq, but we are the Great Satan. They could rightly expect the rest of the Muslim world to rise up in anger, right along with the rest of the world for us being so trigger-happy.

The Roman Empire took hundreds of years to unravel, but the American empire, with business-like efficiency, should manage to fall apart in a fraction of the time, maybe one or two generations tops. It ain't gonna be pretty.

I do think if we don't wake up now we're done. Hitting Iran is the line for us. If we do this, we are finished.

perhaps Bush or Solana has to ask Iran to be nicer, i'm not sure that will work but at least nobody will be hurt until zealots drop a few bombs in Israel or Europe (don't worry, Americans will nor suffer, you are too far away lucky guys)

Suppose we bombed Iran's nuclear sites. We aren't prepared to overthrow the Iranian government. So, the Iranians would just retrench and continue their nuclear program or buy nukes from North Korea. Of course, by launching an unprovoked air attack, we'd prove to the entire Muslim world exactly what Iran's hardliners want us to believe: That the US is dangerously hostile and aggressive. We'd be proving to Iran that they need nukes to protect themselves from a super-power who wants to topple their government.

Of course, if the US keeps up the rhetoric, Iran will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. That will spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and beyond.

Remind me again what the point of nuking Iran's nuclear program is supposed to be?

In the early 80's, the Israel Air Force snuck some F-15's into Iraq and bombed a nuclear reactor that the French were helping them build. This destroyed the hardware and killed people that were crucial to the continuation of that program. Interesting to consider that it was doing Iran a favor in that context, but I digress. The Iraq raid undoubtedly plays strongly into the historical perspective of the neocons as a much celebrated example of how to disrupt a nuclear program.

So the point for the current admin. could be not only acting in what they claim is in the national security interest, but entering the pantheon of heros to have thwarted the "evil plans of an Islamofacist state." Or maybe they just like to watch things explode...

i don't pretend that i know what to do, i just don't know, every scenario is bad (damn it)
all this stuff is not related to the US rhetoric: even if you Lindsay become the President of US instead of your smart Bush, nothing would change, their hate of the West would not vanish.
We are just lucky that the West is strong militarily.
BTW who cares much about the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, they will do what is in their interest with no respect to the Treaty.

PS. sorry to say this but in Europe's interest it is better that the US president isn't kind of a leftist liberal (i hate to use the word "liberal" as "leftist" since the European tradition tells me a different story). And this was the case in the period of Cold War when f*** pacifists acted in favor of Soviet Empire. the left "wing" was diminishing the threat of Soviet Union, which was so stupid.
ok i have to stop :)

Narges, thank you for your post. The one thing I want to say to you is: we don't want it to happen.

I wish that we had never gone into Iraq, and now that we have, it's making our relations with Iran much more tense. We have a lot of Iranians in California, and I've known many of them that say the same things you do. You're not alone.

We're in almost the same position you are: you are ruled by unreasonable, violent people, who don't represent your true beliefs, and don't listen to you. We are also ruled by unreasonable, violent people, and our rulers don't listen to us either. Only a few of our leaders in Congress or the Senate do listen to what we say, but usually, when we go to war, hundreds of thousands of us protest against it in the streets, but no-one listens. They do what they've planned to do anyway. We can't seem to stop them, no matter what we do.

white (non-Anglosaxon) male,

I am very happy that we helped the people of Berlin during the Cold War, with the Berlin airlift. The difference is that that was a defensive move, whereas what's being considered here is an offensive, aggressive move by us. During the Cold War, although Russia sought always to expand its girth--like a bear--it was never going to invade the United States, as some thought fifty years ago. Neither will China or Iran, today. So those diminishing the threat of the Soviet Union had a point.

It was good that we faced down Russia, since Europe was under threat. But in this case, our options are either to have a stable, nuclear Iran growing in the Middle East, or, if we bomb them, to turn Iran into a nation of terrorism-exporters (which they had been with Hezbollah in Lebanon), because we'll have burst open a hornet's nest. Pakistan, another strict, muslim country, has been nuclear for several years, and so has its sometime mortal enemy, India, and India's other sometime enemy, China. They will eventually have them. It doesn't mean they'll use them. This is a time for easing tension, not increasing paranoia.

Why all this talk about 'resolving' the Iran 'problem'? They're there. We're here. It's not our business.

It's the same as with the Iraq war. If a nuclear Iran is a threat, who better to judge than countries nearest to it. Let them judge. Let them act. They're the ones such nuclear weapons could possibly be used on. Not us.

It should only become our business if the Iranian leadership not only threaten us, but is capable of carrying out those threats. Which is to say, not now, and probably not ever.

Good advice rdastard, but unfortunately, 54 years too late.

Lindsay wrote: "I'm just old enough to remember was it was like to be afraid of nuclear war every single day. I was like the kid in Tim O'Brien's Nuclear Age. Then the Cold War ended and I stopped lying awake at night worrying about nuclear armageddon. Now the same fears are creeping back again."

That is the point: WHEN haters of the West and fanatics get nuclear weapons and missile technologies, THEN you will have to fear nuclear armageddon, and first of all countries nearest to them will have to fear. (This case is even worse than the confrontation with the Soviet Union) If one thinks that friendly smiles etc will help to avoid confrontation, that's funny

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