Monday, September 22, 2008

can you beat the drums of war by accident?

So Richard "I Was For The Iraq War Before It Was Cool" Holbrooke, in associtation with R. James Wololsey, Dennis B. Ross and Mark D. Wallace have offered up this Wall Street Journal piece entitled "Everyone Needs to Worry About Iran."

wow... where to begin?

I'll start with the title, which is like being slapped in the face. "Everyone needs to worry about Iran." The insinuation that some people aren't is insulting. Everyone IS worried about Iran. The question is, what to do about it? Starting off by belittling the non-existent Iran-is-not-a-problem crowd is really an attempt to undercut any kind of moderate or sensible approach to the problem. It plays right into the hands of the hawks.

Now to the article itself, which probably should not have been published since it offers nothing that hasn't been said five hundred times before. The claims include:
- Iran is defying the world and building a nuclear weapons program (probable)
- Such a program threatens world peace (very true, though no more than, say, Pakistan's)
- Such a program would launch an arms race across the Middle East (true, and this is by far the most terrifying thing about an Iranian bomb)
- Iran abuses human rights (true, but irrelevant to the argument here, except to strengthen my argument that we need to abandon country-specific human rights targeting because it has become nothing more than a prelude to wars that are in no one's interest)
- Iran wants the bomb to destroy Israel (unbelievably false. Iran wants the bomb for the same reason that everyone else wanted the bomb since the day it was first dropped: deterrence. WMD-less Iraq was invaded, nuclear North Korea is feted and given direct negotiation with the United States and all kinds of aid. Of course the Iranians are taking notice of how their fellow Axis of Evil mates are faring)
- Iran could choke the Straits of Hormuz if it wanted (true, at least for a very very short time until it was overwhelmed by American military force, but since oil forms nearly the entire basis of its economy, it would be incredibly stupid to do so)

The most unforgivable thing about this piece is that the final analysis is that if we unite the American public against Iran, this will help us stop their nuclear program. Here's what's missing: HOW? Americans are already pretty much united against the idea of an Iranian bomb. We've sanctioned Iran almost as much as we can, and we've used the Security Council to sanction Iran about as much as China and Russia will let us. Short of airstrikes, we could not take a tougher line than we are doing now. In the next few years, as the authors state, Iran will have the nuclear fuel cycle mastered and can develop a nuclear weapon whenever they want. There are only 2 ways to deal with this if we don't want an Iranian bomb:

1. Negotiate with them and give them a reason to abandon their nuclear program, or at least to put it under international supervision so it can't be perverted to weapons.
2. Invade.

If the authors are so concerned about Iran, THEY HAVE TO TAKE A STAND. By not specifically calling for the beginning of negotiations with Iran, the authors are implicitly going with Option 2. Or perhaps they're just wringing their hands.

I'll conclude by taking another potshot at the well-deserving Holbrooke, who was just starting to make sense again these last few months. This piece pretty much nails the coffin as far as I'm concerned that Holbrooke needs a new career, as do most of the so-called "Bosnia Generation" humanitarian hawks of his day. Holbrooke already buttressed the neocon cassus belli for Iraq. Now he and his fellow authors are doing the exact same thing against a far larger and more costly target of military intervention. "We do not aim to beat the drums of war," Holbrooke et al write, but without an explicit endorsement of negotiation without what Barack Obama rightly refers to as "self-defeating preconditions," and without an endorsement of the sovereignty principle for Iran, war is precisely what this essay will lead to. There are only two options. It's time to choose.

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