Saturday, October 13, 2007

Steve Clemons on why we won't bomb Iran

Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation (a centrist public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.) has an article on Salon entitled "Why Bush Won't Attack Iran" which presents a carefully reasoned argument for why it is unlikely that President Bush will decide to bomb Iran. I agree with most of what he says, but some of the arguments feel a bit thin. For example, he argues that "If the bombs were at the ready, Bush would be doing a lot more to prepare the nation and the military for a war far more consequential than the invasion of Iraq", but I would suggest that any number of people within the administration could easily convince President Bush that they believe there are plenty of limited-strike options that would be less likely to provoke a massive response and that would already be covered by the current "preparation" for tagging Iran as a threat to U.S. interests on any number of levels. In other words, I see that there are an infinite number of grays between the white of no action and the black of full-scale invasion and occupation.

Steve concludes by assuring us that:

In sum, Bush does not plan to escalate toward a direct military conflict with Iran, at least not now -- and probably not later. The costs are too high, and there are still many options to be tried before the worst of all options is put back on the table. As it stands today, he wants that "third option," even if Cheney doesn't. Bush's war-prone team failed him on Iraq, and this time he'll be more reserved, more cautious. That is why a classic buildup to war with Iran, one in which the decision to bomb has already been made, is not something we should be worried about today.

But then be goes on to warn us that:

What we should worry about, however, is the continued effort by the neocons to shore up their sagging influence. They now fear that events and arguments could intervene to keep what once seemed like a "nearly inevitable" attack from happening. They know that they must keep up the pressure on Bush and maintain a drumbeat calling for war.

They are doing exactly this during September and October in a series of meetings organized by the American Enterprise Institute on Iran and Iraq designed to reemphasize the case for hawkish, interventionist deployments in Iraq and a military, regime-change-oriented strike against Iran. And through Op-Eds and the serious political media, the "bomb Iran now" crowd believes they must undermine those in and out of government proposing alternatives to bombing and keep the president and his people saturated with pro-war mantras.

We should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An "accidental war" would escalate quickly and "end run," as Wurmser put it, the president's diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus. It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

That kind of war is much more probable and very much worth worrying about.

Great. First he convinces us not to worry and then substitutes a whole new worry. So much for truth in titles.

My view is that we shouldn't "worry" about any of these scenarios and should focus on getting our own house in order. Sure, it is very possible that the Neoconservatives might incite the "engineering" of a confrontation that results in some shooting and some bombs and some terrorist activity, but the important thing is that we have a big-deal election coming up in just over a year that has the potential to change the entire game. If the Neoconservatives want to incite actions which blow the whole Republican party and conservative movement out of the water, that will only accelerate the changing of the game.

In my view, a bigger worry should be whether Mrs. Clinton is far too cozy with the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby and is likely to take far too hard a line on Iran even if no bullets fly or bombs fall. The issue is not whether the military engages in "kinetic activity", but whether we keep the "temperature", even at a diplomatic level, dialed up way to high to inspire a moderation of extremist views and antagonism towards the U.S. and Americans. I'm hoping that she is simply talking tough to win the election, in much the same way that her husband talked tough about China during his election, but that after the election we will see a moderation of the "temperature" that is more in line with the interests of everyday Americans than the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

-- Jack Krupansky


At 2:45 PM , Blogger SCClemons said...

Jack -- just from the writer of the article, I like your post and reactions very much. We are in a fragile time -- and it's important to think as hard as you are on what is real, what is not, what is nuanced, and what is predetermined. best,

Steve Clemons
The Washington Note


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