Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Can You Hear the Drums?

Sometimes I hate being right.

But, yeah, I was right.

Here's me, a little less than a month ago:

For those who are unsure, this is how it's going to go down. Policy papers will come out of this, they will all ("reluctantly") justify and advocate war with Iran. Some books will follow from these same people fleshing it out and saying bad things about Iran. That will provide the scholaresque justification that the other right-wing henchthingies need to get on board with their various blogs, journals, and newspaper opinion columns.
Here's George Packer now, quoting Barnett Rubin:

If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington. Rubin can’t confirm his friend’s story; neither can I. But it’s worth a heads-up:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

True? I don’t know. Plausible? Absolutely. It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war. The President’s rhetoric on Iran has been nothing short of bellicose lately, warning of “the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” And the Iranian government’s behavior—detaining British servicemen and arresting American passport holders, pushing ahead with uranium enrichment, and, by many reliable accounts, increasing its funding and training for anti-American militias in Iraq—seems intentionally provocative. Perhaps President Ahmedinejad and the mullahs feel that they win either way: they humiliate the superpower if it doesn’t take the bait, and they shore up their deeply unpopular regime at home if it does. PreĆ«mptive war requires calculations (and, often, miscalculations) on two sides, not just one, as Saddam learned in 2003. When tensions are this high between two countries and powerful factions in both act as if hostilities are in their interest, war is likely to follow.

It’s one thing for the American Enterprise Institute, the Weekly Standard, et al to champion a war they support. It’s another to jump like circus animals at the crack of the White House whip. If the propaganda campaign predicted by Rubin’s friend is launched, less subservient news organizations should ask certain questions, and keep asking them: Does the Administration expect the Iranian regime to fall in the event of an attack? If yes, what will replace it? If no (and it will not), why would the Administration deliberately set about to strengthen the regime’s hold on power? What will the Administration do to protect highly vulnerable American lives and interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world against the Iranian reprisals that will follow? What if Iran strikes against Israel? What will be the strategy when the Iranian nuclear program, damaged but not destroyed, resumes? How will the Administration handle the international alarm and opprobrium that would be an attack’s inevitable fallout?

If this really is a return to the early fall of 2002 all over again, then I’m fairly sure that no one at the top of the Administration is worrying about the answers.

Postscript: Barnett Rubin just called me. His source spoke with a neocon think-tanker who corroborated the story of the propaganda campaign and had this to say about it: “I am a Republican. I am a conservative. But I’m not a raging lunatic. This is lunatic.”
Bolding mine, italics for quote in story.

Oh, you may not be a lunatic. But you WILL dance, boy. They'll play the war drums, and you WILL dance. You'll dance your pretty little neocon jig, and soon all of Washington will dance by your side: the right because it likes those dollah-dollah bills, and the "progressives" because they're too pants-wetting terrified to do anything else.

You'll dance, Iran will burn, Iraq will implode, and America? Well, here's a hint: fleeing to Canada doesn't work anymore, so I'd suggest somewhere a bit more tropical.

Hat tip to (heh) Drezner, whose "serious" dance will, I have no doubt, be a wonder for all to see.

Update: Oh, yeah, the drums are beating HARD:

Iran's bloody role in Iraq has yet to be widely acknowledged. But the clerical regime is killing U.S. soldiers there. Sophisticated Iranian explosive devices wielded by Shiite insurgents are producing ever-larger numbers of U.S. casualties. The brutal Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr is probably now responsible for about half of all U.S. combat deaths. Sadr, who visits Iran regularly, has developed close ties to the mullahs. And Iranian Revolutionary Guards have started training his henchmen inside Iraq. Tehran also continues to back the Shiite Badr Brigades, the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. This is increasing internecine violence in southern Iraq, where the feeble British presence has nearly collapsed. Bloody confrontations between the Mahdi and Badr gunmen are on the upswing.

As all this suggests, the widespread belief (shared by the Iraq Study Group, among many others) that Iran wants stability in Iraq is wrong. To understand Iran's true nature, remember Lebanon. During the civil war in the early 1980s, the clerics in Tehran backed a variety of Lebanese Shiites before settling on the most radical of these groups, Hizbullah. Since then, Hizbullah has partnered with Tehran in conducting terrorist operations overseas, as well as destabilizing Lebanon and threatening Israel. If Iran gains commensurate influence in Iraq now, it can be expected to have a similar effect.

Unfortunately, that's likely to happen unless the United States finds more effective ways to counter Tehran. The U.S. State Department has labeled clerical Iran a state sponsor of terrorism for years now, so targeting a specific institution—the Revolutionary Guards—merely adds an appealing note of precision...

...The Europeans remain hesitant—and the Russians, Chinese and Indians unwilling—to really coerce Tehran. America's unilateral efforts, particularly its use of the international financial system to block Iran's access to dollars and credit, have proved more successful than many thought possible. But without greater international support, they probably won't force Tehran to moderate its behavior. The Europeans, who are among Iran's largest trading partners, must agree to biting measures—something these states, which are as addicted to noncoercive diplomacy as they are to commerce, seem unlikely to do. In the meantime, the diplomatic process over Iran's nukes will crawl forward or stagnate but is unlikely to lead to war.

Washington can try to exercise soft power—through sanctions, resolutions, diplomatic isolation and rougher rhetoric. But the Islamic Republic, especially its radical president and praetorian guard, are accomplished practitioners of hard power. They are unlikely to be overwhelmed by moderate tactics. Instead, they seem set to continue killing Americans in Iraq, waiting to see if and when the United States gives up and run for the exits.
Wow. "Europeans are too weak to do what is necessary", "Muslims only respect force", "state sponsor of terrorism", "Iran is killing American soldiers"...

...oh yeah. The drums, they are POUNDING.

Update 2: I mentioned books? Guess what? Michael Ledeen, take it away:

The first salvo was the attack on the American Embassy in Tehran in the fall of 1979, leading to the seizure of American hostages, a crisis that lasted 444 days. The war continued with the assassination of American diplomats and military personnel in Europe and North Africa. The latest fronts in that war are in Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Iran arms, funds, trains, and directs a variety of terror groups, numbering tens of thousands of terrorists, regardless of their religious or ethnic makeup.

It is a mistake to believe that Iranian mullah leaders think like those of traditional nation states. They are religious zealots. They openly welcome the end of the world, which would usher in the millennium, under the sway of the long-vanished 12th Imam. They say they intend to precipitate the millennium by using atomic bombs on Israel. That is a chiliastic vision that embraces the murder of millions of us.

The Iranian Time Bomb suggests that it's time for us to hold firm. It includes a final chapter that was written close to publication.
"Hold firm". Marx wasn't kidding about the farce part, was he?

Update 3: On the other hand, this is just sad. The ADL does important and necessary work, and it's a goddamned tragedy that that work is going to be caught up in this nonsense. That they're engaged in this kind of foreign policy advocacy of the most misbegotten war since the last one is going to hurt their cause of fighting anti-semitism, not aid it.

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