Indeed, the third Gulf War has already begun, and all that remains is for the aerial phase of it to commence. The presence of three U.S. carriers in the Gulf is a prelude to a much larger operation, and, as if on cue, accusations of Iranian interference in Iraq have escalated, with the US military now echoing earlier assertions by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney that the Iranians stood behind the Iraqi insurgency. We are, of course, never allowed to see the "evidence" for this claim, and, in the long, anguishing reappraisal of the "intelligence" that rationalizes a strike at Tehran the real paucity of concrete facts backing up these statements will doubtless come out. In the meantime, however, we are supposed to accept the veracity of the charges on faith: foreign policy is this administration’s most successful faith-based program, at least in terms of getting politicians of both parties, the media, and the general public to willingly suspend their disbelief until well after the shooting starts.Can't disagree with that last point; that idiotic little clause saying "oh, but this doesn't justify a war" is meaningless and everybody knows it. It's a presage to a political justification for military action, and that's ALL it is. Its existence makes no sense otherwise.
The political build-up to the actual fireworks reached a crescendo of hypocritical cant in the Senate the other day, with the passage of an amendment – 97 to nada – deploring alleged Iranian perfidy in Iraq, including purported attacks on U.S. soldiers. This, while we hold their diplomats hostage in a bizarrely inverted replay of the 1970s Iranian hostage crisis that brought down Jimmy Carter. Perhaps the regime-changers in Washington are hoping the same fate awaits Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If so, they are bound to be disappointed: such provocations only enhance the authority of Iranian hard-liners, and make the prospect of conflict with the U.S. more likely. On the other hand, maybe that’s exactly the point …
The bipartisan band is striking up a war tune, as "antiwar" Senator Carl Levin co-sponsors with Joe Lieberman the Iran Amendment to the defense appropriations bill, joining with Republican Senators McCain, Kyl, and Graham in a rousing chorus of rattling sabers. The amendment accuses Iran of murdering American soldiers, and of committing other acts of war: it is, in effect, a declaration of war, and Senator Lieberman was quite clear about this on the Senate floor the other day.
To be honest? I've been expecting that there will be a war with Iran for a while now. Or, to be more precise, that the political class will do its best to have a war with Iran. See, the problem is that as much as Lieberman might want a war with Iran out of some (deeply, deeply) misguided belief that it'll aid American and Israeli security, the fact remains that you simply can't win wars in the air, and the US military has no, repeat, NO available troops for the task of pacifying a country larger and more populous than Iraq. It's almost a "what if somebody threw a war and nobody came" scenario, because as much as the chattering classes in Washington may think a war is inevitable, even cry out for war, it's simply not going to happen.
Well, actually, there's a key qualifier: "not without a draft". The US economy could probably afford producing all that war materiel. The issue is that there simply isn't the manpower to handle it. Start a draft, and you'll get your manpower. That's the OTHER problem, though: the public doesn't want a war with Iran, isn't going to accept a war with Iran, and quite possibly will punish politicians who support a war with Iran. Yet they're going on with it anyway.
Why, you may ask?
Now THAT is the important question: why they're doing it, and what it means. There's a bunch of reasons why they'd legitimately be doing this: because they see a real threat, because they stand to personally profit, because they think it will mollify AIPAC and/or the Religious Right, because they listen to the wrong people... and lots of others. That's dodging around the central problem, though, because by and large they're doing it because everybody else in Washington is doing it. We've seen that sort of D.C. groupthink pop up again and again: the treatment of Scooter Libby, Dems' weak-kneed opposition during the last Congress (as opposed to the Republicans filibustering their butts off during this one), and most especially involving everything regarding the Iraq war, from the attitudes during the run-up: "well, of course he has WMDs", to the early going: "no WMDs, but we're building a democracy and should stand behind the President", to the remorseful: "good idea, badly run", to the current "screw Bush and his war". All absolutely backed by not only the public's consensus, but the Washington consensus.
(The sleepover, for example, is just a political stunt to take advantage of an unpopular war. The time when action matters is beforehand, and that's exactly what's not going on with Iran.)
The amazing thing is that, by all accounts, these aren't poll-driven. They can't be, or else the unpopular Iran war would be much harder to sell to politicians. In fact, the polls are so very anti-war that Dems probably stand a good chance of having a REALLY tough primary fight if Iran starts.
That's how powerful this groupthink is. When something is overriding a politicians' self-preservation instinct, you know it's powerful. And the sad thing is that I expect that it's nothing more controversial than the grade-school desire to, well, fit in. Even if the voters are going to punish him, the fact remains that people in congress (senators and representatives alike) are going to be spending most of their time and energy on other people in congress, as well as other Washington figures. Do they really want to be the outsider, the crank, the guy who is embarassing the group by saying "no?" Almost certainly not. If enough of official Washington believes something, it doesn't even matter whether the elected members of your party do or not; it's going to be hard to take a stand against it.
If a war with Iran does happen, it won't be because of the polls, and it won't be because of the (massively trumped up) security threat posed by Iran. It'll be because the Senators don't want to be kid on the outside of the group, looking in. It'd be sad, if it wasn't so frightening.