Monday, December 28, 2009

Everything You Read About Iran is Nonsense

This post is NOT nonsense; rather, it points out that much of what is being written and said about the seriousness of a threat from Iran adds up to a great deal of pointless warmongering:

When I started blogging last January, one of my first postswarned against believing that Obama’s election and the evident bankruptcy of the neoconservative approach to foreign policy had ended the prospect of a war with Iran. If you didn’t believe me then, the incoherent, war-mongering op-ed by Alan Kuperman in last Thursday’s New York Times should encourage you to reconsider. As Jim Lobe points out on his own blog, the fact that the Times accepted this piece in the first place is not an apolitical act, and it may herald a tilting of the public debate in a way designed to legitimate a subsequent U.S. attack.

Several features of Kuperman’s essay are worthy of note. The first is the timing: Why did the Times choose to run an unusually long (1,500-word) op-ed advocating war on the very eve of Christmas, a holiday normally associated with themes of peace, understanding, and harmony? It was also published on the last day when many people were likely to be paying much attention to mainstream news sources, which meant that prominent rebuttals would not appear or be read for several days. And that meant Kuperman’s piece could hang out there a bit longer.

The second puzzle is the dearth of new information or arguments in Kuperman’s piece. He hasn’t been to Teheran and come back with new testimony; the piece contains no scoop of leaked information or a novel piece of analysis, and as Marc Lynch points out in a compelling takedown here on his FP blog, Kuperman’s arguments in favor of war merely rehearse the same sort mixture of paranoia and over-confidence that was used to buffalo the country into attacking Iraq.

In particular, Kuperman assumes that a decision not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities will yield a series of Very Bad Results (though at least he doesn’t claim that Iran would immediately bomb Tel Aviv), yet he also assumes that our launching an attack won’t have any serious consequences. To take but one example, he discounts the possibility of Iranian retalation in Lebanon, Iraq, or Afghanistan by suggesting that Iran is already causing trouble there, conveniently ignoring the possibility that they might do a lot more if sufficiently provoked.

A third feature of Kuperman’s piece is the absence of any clear link between his proposed course of action and the U.S. national interest. He takes for granted that Iran will get nuclear weapons unless someone bombs them, and that if they do, this will have grave consequences for the United States. But even if we assume that Iran eventually gets a few bombs — which is still far from certain — thereby joining the ranks of Israel, Pakistan, and India, it is not clear why this event poses a sufficiently grave threat to the United States as to justify a preventive war.

There is no grave threat, and that’s always been the problem with any approach to dealing with Iran. Attacking Iran is to the advantage of monied interests and not the general populace. The general populace can now see through warmaking and warmongering and threaten the political power of the monied interests. Attacking Iran is more about driving Iran’s oil off of the world markets and forcing a change in its government than it is about protecting Israel. Iran can be attacked, but only because none of the monied interests will have to suffer because of it. The United States would suffer, but the money men don’t have to share the risks. So long as the supply of oil shrinks and the price goes up, no one cares about dead American soldiers.

Israel is already well protected, holding dozens of nuclear weapons that can more than wipe out any belligerent state that attacks it with any kind of lethality. Israel is not threatened with this—nation/states do not use nuclear weapons without invoking the wrath of other nation/states. Israel is threatened by terrorism, of course, but the existence of Israel is not in doubt because no nation/state can deter terrorism with nuclear weapons. The real solution is to join the rest of the world in rooting out terrorism. That solution has nothing to do with attacking Iran when simply cutting off the money and material goods Iran sends to the Middle East will do the trick. I do think Israel can defend itself by stopping the flow of weapons into Gaza and Lebanon. Attacking Iran is simply pushing that defensive posture way too far.

Israel controls its own fate, but is locked in the grip of a right-wing establishment that refuses to let go of the 1960s and 1970s. It’s as if we were still locked in a Cold War with China, with men who served as Lieutenants and Captains in the Korean War firmly in charge of all aspects of American foreign policy. Think of America with Henry Kissinger still running the State Department, in other words, but without any of that mellowing with age and with a burning desire to hit back at China, Vietnam, France and whoever else.

The real reason that the United States cannot acknowledge Israel’s nuclear stockpile is because it would put any argument about needing to subsidize and defend Israel to rest. Israel doesn’t need defending; Israel needs to learn to live with its neighbors, and its neighbors need to learn to live with Israel. So long as there is a phantom threat from Persia to Israel, so continues this needless embrace of having to revisit the idea of attacking Iran.

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