Sunday, February 05, 2006


Arthur writes:

Given the ease with which one can deflate the ludicrous notion that a nuclear Iran would constitute "the largest threat" facing the world, it is a cause for great concern that this view has so completely taken over rational debate on the subject. It is of even greater concern when we remember that we are only discussing a potential. But note how a central part of the propaganda campaign works: several months ago, the usual estimate for the time Iran would need to develop nuclear weapons was about ten years. Then it got reduced to five years. Now, people speak as if Iran will have nuclear weapons in the next few months. The unavoidable implication of this tactic is the obvious one, the one that Bush used so disastrously with Iraq: we need to act now. We have to do something now. There is only one word to describe this approach: it is not reasoned discourse -- it is hysteria, pure and simple.

So the question arises: what makes so many people, to be found in all parts of the political spectrum, so willing to fall for this kind of propaganda? Is there something in our general method and approach that makes us particularly susceptible to this kind of hysterical saber-rattling? Are we predisposed to find enemies -- not just your standard enemy, but "the biggest threat to the Republic" and "the largest threat" to the entire world -- when the actual enemy is significantly different in nature and magnitude from the nightmarish cartoon the propagandists offer us?

Indeed. The point is not that Iran with nukes is a good thing, or that it's not a current foreign policy issue of importance, it's just ludicrous to think it's "the biggest threat to the Republic." A few years back the frightened bedwetter crowd was freaking out about scary Iraq and now they're freaking out about scary Iran.

Anyway, this is all so ridiculously familiar. Falling into the trap by even bothering to talk about it I suppose. Shrieking "eek! a monster!" seems to be about all the Right is capable of anymore.

...just so it's clear let me explain my views: The Iran scary boogeyman rhetoric from the Right is to scare voters. Our actual Iran policy, as distinct from the Rovian politics, is a complete muddle. Our ability to conduct airstrikes on nuclear facilities, if that was a desirable and realistic thing to do in some abstract sense, is somewhat hampered by the fact that we have 130,000 troops sitting in a neighboring now-Iran-friendly Shia dominated Iraq where our goal is, in theory, to maintain the peace. We have no serious Iran policy, defined however you want to define "serious," and are unlikely to. What we will have, however, is a serious Iran politics, one timed nicely for the '06 elections. Seeing any of the Iran talk as a serious discussion of policy instead of just another trip on the scary terra train is a mistake. The ability of Serious Hawkish Pundits to encourage a serious Iran policy, whatever that would be, is zero, as we should all know by now. I know there are people who imagine that there are actual grownups in Washington who, with the right prodding, could actually influence events. Sorry, not until the Bush administration is out of office.