September 16, 2007

Don't Give Them Cover To Bomb Iran

Good, freakin' Lords, from yesterday's NYT:

The language in Mr. Bush’s speech reflected an intense and continuing struggle between factions within his administration over how aggressively to confront Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been arguing for a continuation of a diplomatic approach, while officials in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office have advocated a much tougher view. They seek to isolate and contain Iran, and to include greater consideration of a military strike.

Mr. Bush’s language indicated that the debate, at least for now, might have tilted toward Mr. Cheney.

... But a belief has been growing in Iran, which administration officials have pointedly not tried to stem, that the Bush administration was considering military strikes against Iran. An Israeli airstrike in Syria last week kicked up speculation in the Iranian press that Israel, in alliance with the United States, was really trying to send a message to Iran that it could strike Iranian nuclear facilities if it chose to. ...

The costs of the war we're already in are going to be crushing, not that President Cheney gives a damn, he just wants his new war.

If we end up going to war with Iran, there will be no money for Medicare for all, nor for better education funding, nor for infrastructure repair, nor any of the other things progressives care about. It will be the end of the possibility of pushing this country in a progressive policy direction for a decade or longer. Probably longer.

There shouldn't be any question what the sensible public line is anymore on what to do about Iran. This is it, and it's very simple: No pre-emptive attacks.

It must be granted that Ahmedinejad is a bellicose holocaust-denier. And that I wouldn't want to live in Iran, I'd definitely fall afoul of the behavior laws if I had to spend any significant time there. I'd go on, but further points along this line can be amply filled in by the reader's exposure to any other news article ever written about Iran in the mainstream press.

Yet we're coming up on the fourth decade of hostile chill with Iran and in all that time, no shooting wars have broken out between us and them. They haven't started any wars, they haven't perpetuated any genocide against their ethnic minorities. They've been, in general, more likely to make treaties with neighboring countries than anything else. They've been a stalwart front in trying to stem the tide of heroin washing westward from Afghanistan. They took in more Afghan refugees than any other country, and both helped broker peace with the Afghan factions after the overthrow of the Taliban and worked to rebuild the country afterwards.

They're a stable nation. They have not, as Pakistan has, been found dispensing nuclear technology to other countries. Their education system is far more secular than their neighboring countries, and high quality, because their government knows it needs people who know how to build things, program computers and practice medicine. The ayatollahs are not known for having the sort of death wish it would require to start a hot war, in the knowledge that the response would probably be a nuclear calling card from America in Tehran. They make cars and rock music. Their general public isn't out for blood and they're tired of war. (And the Iranians gave us my heroine, Anousheh Ansari, the woman who bankrolled the Ansari X Prize, aka, the reason why commercial, civilian space flight finally looks like it could happen within a decade or so. Just throwing that in, there.)

And I'd hope that my fellow Democrats would get this, that they would look at how we got into this crazy ass war in Iraq and think to themselves that it'd be better not to give the lunatics in the White House any 'bipartisan' cover for starting another one. Particularly not with a country that does better than most of the Middle East on a whole host of social, political and quality of life indicators. I'd also have thought that considering how intensely most of the liberal blogosphere opposes this current war, that it would be the obvious thing to oppose another one before it gets out of the gate, and to call out Democrats who've played with the neocon warmongering fire.

Unfortunately, I'd be wrong in that. Because as it happens, we're not now allowed in some people's minds to criticize Democrats when they're running to take over open seats. That's not okay. They have to be an incumbent. And not only is it not okay, but it means that it's important to justify any stupid stand a Democrat might take, or might previously have taken, because they can win somewhere, and to not have to examine the potential consequences of those stances. Consider Lowell, of Raising Kaine:

... 3. Republicans are going to find a candidate, and Mark Warner is going to crush him whether it's Jim "No Car Tax" Gilmore, Tom "DeLay" Davis or Pat "Better in the Original German" Buchanan.

4. Mark Warner is going to be a great U.S. Senator for Virginia and for the nation, teaming up to create one of the best -- if not the best -- Senate duos in America. It's too bad that certain bloggers not only can't recognize that fact, but choose instead to piss on Mark Warner's announcement day. Classy.

... [from comments] Well, in my opinion Ahmedinejad IS (0.00 / 0)
a cartoonish villain. I'm just waiting for him to announce that he's got a new "laser" that will destroy the world, and he's going to start with Israel...bwahahahahahahaha. ...

Lowell, buy a clue.

Ahmedinejad, as anyone having passing familiarity with the power structures of the Iranian government could tell you, isn't the commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces. The Iranian presidency doesn't work that way. And he's never threatened Israel, which everyone who hasn't been mainlining that good propaganda should know.

Now, it may be that Mark Warner has changed his mind since 2006, and has realized that deciding to pick in a particular way on a country that the Bush administration has singled out as a desirable military target is unwise. A year ago, it wasn't obvious to all and sundry just how bent for war with Iran the White House was, and criticizing Iran as he did might have seemed like no big deal. He may have seen by now that Democrats don't need to help catapult the propaganda. He might have realized that all the things he said about Iran were even better descriptors of Pakistan, a country that it seems self-evident it's better to handle diplomatically. And I'm willing to allow that this may be the case because there were a lot of other policy issues on which he seemed very sensible and eminently reasonable, as I said even while criticizing him on this point. He did seem to have a good record in Virginia, so, fine.

Yet if he's going to be in a position to make national policy, and if he's going to make it part of his campaign rhetoric, I don't want that policy to go unexamined. It's dangerous. It has implications beyond winning or losing a seat. For bloggers to expect to retain any credibility with a progressive readership, I think it does us very little credit when for the sake of being hyper-partisan you can find Democratic bloggers saying things that are barely more thoughtful than the "Bomb Iran ... Soon" sign carried by one of the counterprotestors at yesterday's antiwar march in DC.

It indicates a lack of foresight. A lack of seriousness. The same kind of shortsightedness that left so many Democratic politicians regretting what they said and did before the Iraq war, making aggressive statements that sidled up to Bush's scare tactics and amplified them. That approach hasn't stood the test of time, and it's only been about five years. Might be eons in blog time, but in reality, not so much.

And did I sign up to be a shadow marketing department for particular Senate campaigns? I did not.

That means something to me because I'm decidedly a Democrat and am glad that we hold the majority leader positions in both houses of Congress. I've said that the Democratic candidate for president is getting my vote come next November, even as I've also said that I'm not fond enough of any of the frontrunners to pick one over the other. And I support Mark Warner for that VA Senate seat, he's the best alternative. Though I'd be dishonest if I pretended like he had my unquestioning agreement. Because I'm also a Dean Democrat, and when Dean originally named taking our party back as a priority on a level with taking our country back, I was cheering him on.

I don't just support Democrats, I want them to be better. I want them to be wiser and more thoughtful in their dealings with the rest of the world. I want them to live up to the legacy of FDR, and to the good and inspiring moments in the history of this party. I want them to remember that JFK managed to get Russia to back their missiles out of Cuba without firing a shot, and that LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act even though he knew the price that would have to be paid.

Not that you have to go way, way back to find Democrats acting courageously. Sen. Wellstone, rest in peace, was among the best, managing to win people over in red areas and be a principled, conscientious, progressive legislator. Sen. Feingold has an outstanding record of patriotic adherence to the spirit of the Constitution. From my home state of California, Sen. Boxer does me proud nearly every time and Leader Pelosi has gotten a lot done in a hostile environment. From my longtime state of residence, Washington, Sen. Murray, Rep. McDermott and Rep. Inslee are outstanding. (Also, yes, Sen. Cantwell has an impressive record on the environment and corporate responsibility, even if I worry about her foreign policy stances. She gets major points for thumbing her nose at Sen. Stevens before it was cool.)

I'd like Democrats to live up to their better natures and I fully believe that they're capable of it. That's why I support them. Not because they're perfect, but because they try to do the right thing. I don't know how that's supposed to happen if, when I see something they do that goes against that, as I see it, I just shut up. Can't say anything now, it's election season. Can't say anything now, there are critical votes coming up. Can't say anything now, the media will be all over it. Can't say anything now, they'll think you're some kind of goddam dirty hippie.

Over a full year out from the elections, we're already getting this. Criminy.

I think I said my peace on that kind of reasoning yesterday. If you can't take an honest look at the faults of the people you support or are close to, what good is your opinion? How are you more than yet another member of the serried ranks of sycophants that have crowded around every nexus of power in the history of humankind? Why should I put up with crap from fellow bloggers that I wouldn't put up with from politicians? I didn't sign up for that, either.

People whose foreign policy consists of trembling in fear along with the Yellow Elephants, who are proud of their cartoonish pig ignorance, aren't my friends. They aren't friends of the Democratic brand. They aren't the friends of an American public that's had it up to here with the blood and treasure pit that is already the Iraq war. And they're going to be no help whatever in getting the public to pay attention to the longterm crises that unglamorously wait in the wings to undermine and possibly destroy what prosperity we enjoy.

Lowell, you want to wet your bed over a civil engineer with no military power who presides over a country that only plays defense? Fine. You just told me that you're not going to be much use when it comes to solving the big problems, like global climate disruption or healthcare, where what's needed is people working together to thoughtfully and honestly sort through the options.

No, you won't be much help for that. You'll have been too busy singling out yet another country about which to join Thomas Friedman in a lovely chorus of "Suck on this!" Cute. Original. Bloody hell.

There's a difference between friends and enablers. Your friends want what's best for you. Enablers let you believe your shit doesn't stink. People who can't figure that out haven't yet become capable of friendship.

Posted by natasha at September 16, 2007 07:35 AM | Iran | Technorati links |

---greek elections---

Posted by: ccoaler at September 16, 2007 10:58 AM


Posted by: ccoaler at September 16, 2007 04:16 PM

Sadrists leave Shia block

Posted by: at September 16, 2007 04:36 PM

I think one also has to take a look at the geopolitical landscape from Iran's point of view.

To the east, you have Afghanistan, which is very unstable. It has a sizable Shiite minority, which Iran feels obligated to protect - thus Iran's involvement in the same sort of thing through Hezbollah in Lebanon (and thus one should expect, if one doesn't already exist, it's eventual equivalent in Afghanistan, whether NATO wants it there or not).

Further east, you have Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them by multiple means. Please keep in mind that most of Pakistan's radicals are Sunni, and one thing radical Sunnis love to do is hate Shiites. They aren't likely to be bosom buddies with Iran anytime soon, especially since India and Iran are developing closer ties.

To the west, you have Iraq. On the surface, Iran appears to be in the catbird seat over there, but that would only be if you think the CBS Evening News or its equivalent was akin to, say, the New York Review of Books or the Christian Science Monitor in their insight of international affairs. (Hint: they aren't.) The majority of the Shia factions in Iraq tend to not like how Iran interprets the relationship between the religious establishment and the government, which eventually could be a threat to the underpinnings of how Iran is run. The one faction that is most friendly to Iran is in disfavor with the rest of the Iraqi Shia, presently.

To the north you have Russia, and yes, they will sell Iran various and sundry military toys and reactor parts(and if they won't, the Ukraine will), but to the northwest is Azerbijan, and at the moment the US is feverishly trying to get an OK to use an airbase there. (And we won't talk about the border with Kurdistan and Turkey.)

Across the Arabian Gulf, you have Saudi Arabia and the lesser Gulf States, most of which have lotsa Sunnis (who usually don't like Shia much, remember?), and Shiite oil workers, who will look to Iran for aid and support if these nations evict them or abuse them to any great extent.

Add to that the various stresses and strains within Iran, and you have nothing near the geopolitical monster the Bush administration wants to make them out to be. Would I trust their government implicitly? Nope. But this is hardly the portrait of evil that Cheney would like portrayed.

Posted by: palamedes at September 17, 2007 01:41 AM