Thursday, January 12, 2012

Is war on Iran the next course?

Has anyone noticed that the U.S. seems to be drifting toward an open war on Iran? It seems that any such thing should be getting a little more public discussion than we've seen recently -- instead we have the Mitt, Newt and Ron show to distract us.

Today's news was that someone had blown up (yet another) Iranian nuclear scientist in his home city. Iran blames Israel and the United States. The U.S. State Department says the equivalent of "not us." But it's an open secret that we're involved, along with Israel, in secret hostilities, trying to force Iran's rulers to back off nuclear development.

Like the drone strikes that the Obama administration has embraced as a core tactic against Al Qaeda, the multifaceted covert campaign against Iran has appeared to offer an alternative to war. But at most it has slowed, not halted, Iran’s enrichment of uranium, a potential fuel for a nuclear weapon. And some skeptics believe that it may harden Iran’s resolve or set a dangerous precedent for a strategy that could be used against the United States and its allies.

Well, yeah -- how would we like it if a foreign government was assassinating U.S. scientists with only the most minimal pretense of denial? Somehow I think we'd scream bloody murder about "terrorism" -- and most likely retaliate.

It's seldom mentioned that our own spooks don't believe that Iran is committed to a bomb. Just last week the Secretary of Defense said as much.

In saying that the United States did not have any evidence that Iran was seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, Mr. Panetta was hewing closely to the conclusions the often fractious American intelligence agencies agreed upon in 2007 and again in 2010. Two National Intelligence Estimates, designed to reflect the consensus of the intelligence community, concluded that Iranian leaders had made no political decision yet to build an actual weapon. Instead, they described a series of steps that would take Iran right up to that line — and position it to assemble a weapon fairly quickly if a decision to do so were made.

Iran's rulers believe, realistically, that they are under permanent threat from aggressive enemies who employ terrorism against them. It shouldn't be surprising that they want the option of building a weapon that seemingly automatically makes the impoverished and dysfunctional (think North Korea and Pakistan) able to thumb their noses at real powers. Here's Tony Karon blogging for Time on what drives Iranian decisions:

For a relatively weak state (Fareed Zakaria once noted in response to the ”its 1938 and Iran is Nazi Germany” hysteria touted by some, that by measure of the global military balance of 1938 Iran would be the equivalent of Rumania) and a state ideologically at odds with far more powerful enemies, nuclear weapons … provide a gold-plated insurance policy. … [T]he fate of leaders like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi who gave up their own nuclear programs speaks for itself.

Yet our rulers slouch toward war. Republicans posture, ignoring the lessons of their last set of failed Middle Eastern adventures and trying to force the administration into an ever more bellicose posture. The administration seems to have allowed itself to be boxed in by its domestic enemies and the Israel lobby into proving, again, that it can be tough. A couple of seasoned diplomats, William H. Luers and Thomas R. Pickering, recently described what passes for "thinking" in Washington.

Military action is becoming the seemingly fail-safe solution for the United States to deal with real and imagined security problems. The uncertain and intellectually demanding ways of diplomacy are seen as “unmanly” and tedious — likely to involve compromise or even “appeasement.” President Obama made efforts to engage Iranian leaders his first year in office but, when rebuffed, turned in a different direction. …

The slow, elusive diplomatic process to achieve U.S. objectives does not provide the sound-bite satisfaction of military threats or action. Multiple, creative efforts to engage Iran’s leaders and provide a dignified exit from the corner in which the world community has placed them could achieve more durable solutions at a far lower cost. It is a lesson that those urging military action against Iran have failed to learn.

This failure of insight would be pathetic if it weren't literally murderous. Our rulers seem to believe they can play at bluster but risk no actual consequences. But do they really have that sort of control over their adversary's reactions? Do they share their "allies" objectives? (They may not entirely; see Atlantic editor Robert Wright on why Israel wants a war.)

Do the people of the U.S. get any say in all this or will our military rain destruction on another country without any meaningful input from us? Once again, will we have to pay for our rulers' misjudgements? It's time for some citizen input on war, peace and where we are going.


Damon said...

It's all so sad and seemingly inevitable. It reminds me of an old new wave song by XTC called "Generals and Majors", about a military that has their toys and really feels the need to use them on someone. Just because. And Iran is the bad guy of the moment.

janinsanfran said...

In this case it isn't even the military driving this. The generals have war-gamed the situation and consistently report they won't be able to achieve the desired goals without a major, disruptive war -- if at all. But our politicians blunder on.

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