Bromwich: Passionless Obama is letting ideologues push ‘fantasy’ of Iran war

US Politics
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David Bromwich has a devastating essay up on Huffpo, called "One More War, Please" that begins with the question, "Will the summer of 2010 be remembered as the time when we turned into a nation of sleepwalkers?" and then goes through the devastations of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, showing how they are corrupting American government and destroying the U.S. reputation in the Middle East. Bromwich describes the mainstream’s weary response to all disclosures as being: "It’s awful — we already knew — it doesn’t matter."

What of the future war, the war a significant body of Israeli and American opinion is already preparing, the war against Iran? President Obama has called Israel a "sacrosanct" ally, and even before he used language so pious, fulsome, and unsuitable to the leader of an independent republic, Iran did not entirely trust the United States. To remember why, we would have to violate President Obama’s pledge to look only at the future, and actually look at the past. But let us follow his injunction for the moment; look only at the war of the future. How, then, does Iran link up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? From the tenor of Obama’s recent words about Afghanistan, one would suppose he is doing the best he thinks possible now — namely, getting out — but at the speed his domestic opponents compel, that is, more slowly than he knows it would be right to do. With Iran, by contrast, Obama seems to be doing what he believes is wrong — namely adding momentum to the pressure for a future war — but, again as with Afghanistan, he is doing it more slowly than he knows his opponents would prefer to accomplish their result. The war party within his administration is placated but not yet happy. Possibly the result Obama is hoping for is that these two manifestations of slowness, slow on the right side in Afghanistan, slow on the wrong side with Iran, will meet somewhere in the middle, and spare us two catastrophes at once. Yet time, in politics, doesn’t work like that; a fact this president often seems unwilling to absorb…

Should we Americans also tremble for our country when we think of the wind we are sowing in Iran?

There is little disagreement about the facts. "No one believes," as Philip Giraldi put it recently, "that Iran is anything but a nation that is one small step away from becoming a complete religious dictatorship, but the country has a small economy, a tiny defense budget, and, as far as the world’s intelligence services can determine, neither nuclear weapons nor a program to develop them." Yet President Obama and his advisers, if they dare to look, can watch House Resolution 1553 gaining signatures and stealing a march on their policy. The resolution is a demagogue’s dream of bogus collective security. It declares American support, in advance, for an Israeli attack on Iran, and gives the unheard-of approval by the U.S. to a foreign power to use "all means necessary" to advance its own interests, and to follow its own definition of those interests. The resolution incidentally adopts the language of Israeli propaganda when it refers to Iran as an "immediate and existential threat."

Will Iran become our third war of the moment? Sanctions which, Benjamin Netanyahu has said, should soon become "crippling sanctions" already have us in lockstep on that path. To be satisfied with his advice, we have only to believe the Likud theory that Iran is a "suicide nation" whose rulers would gladly send their first nuclear weapon (still some years off) to destroy Israel and kill the Arabs in Israel along with the Jews; and that they would do it in the certain knowledge of bringing annihilation upon Iran itself. For Israel, unlike Iran, is known to have a large nuclear arsenal and the ability to launch a nuclear attack. It is a projection of fantasy not of policy to suppose the United States has a duty to join or support an Israeli attack on Iran. Yet not one word has thus far been spoken by anyone around the president to counteract the fantasy.

Those who pushed hardest for the Iraq war, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Liz and Dick Cheney and many others familiar and obscure are now turning up the heat for an attack on Iran. Why so much pressure so early? The reason may lie in the very improbability of the cause. Given the geographical position of the U.S. and the overwhelming strength of our offensive weapons and armed forces, the only way that we could possibly feel threatened by Iran is by taking Israel’s side early and acquiring Israel’s enemies as our enemies. Determined American hostility toward Iran is seen as the major step here. Vestigial decencies oblige the sane among the war party to admit there is no danger to Israel from Iran, just now, let alone an "existential threat" that implicates the United States. This will cease to matter if the enmity can be carved in deep enough grooves in the coming months.

To maintain the old wars and give us a new, the war party have now to argue, as they did in Iraq, that the only intelligent war is preemptive war, and that nuclear ambitions mark a special case. Besides, they can add, as they did in Iraq, and as they did in Afghanistan until a few weeks ago, an Israeli or American attack will bring the added benefit of improved democracy in Iran. There is a difference however. In Iraq, the war party successfully inducted a few native Iraqis into their cause. They called them the Iraqi National Congress, and rewarded with money and status the confidence man who led them, Ahmed Chalabi. They have not yet found a comparable party of Iranians, however minuscule, to defend the theory of the emancipationist bombing of Iran. People don’t want to be bombed, as a general thing. Also, as the electrical grid of Iraq may suggest, and as the design of "mobile mullahs" for Afghanistan may confirm, a set of conquerors who know nothing about the objects of their actions can be relied on to translate even what successes they have into disasters.

November 2010 may well turn the president’s majority into a minority party. What then becomes of our past, present, and future wars? The Likud, in both Israel and America, may prove itself ready for action sooner than President Obama would like, just as the Tea Party picked up energy faster and harder than he looked for in the spring of 2009. In that earlier contest (and the same will hold true in this), a slow response and a delayed counterstatement did not earn a credit for prudence to offset the support it squandered on the way. When your reactions fall so far behind the pace of events, your footing is altogether lost. We have a president now whose most reliable quality is to remove the sting of panic but also the prod of urgency from every political situation. That trait has turned out to be a far from an obvious asset. "It’s awful — I already knew — and we have everything under control." The temperamental posture calls for him to strike an attitude of calm indifference to violent passions. Yet nowhere does political passion so quickly exceed all measure as in the craving for a war which no one in command has unmistakably discouraged.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. Taxi
    August 8, 2010, 12:34 pm

    The bigger picture behind Iran War:

    link to prisonplanet.com

  2. Walid
    August 8, 2010, 1:05 pm

    More of the same from Truthout; looks like there’s no stopping Netanyahu:

    Obama Warned Israel May Bomb Iran
    Tuesday 03 August 2010

    by: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity | Consortium News | Op-Ed

    MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

    FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

    SUBJECT: War With Iran

    We write to alert you to the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran as early as this month. This would likely lead to a wider war.

    Israel’s leaders would calculate that once the battle is joined, it will be politically untenable for you to give anything less than unstinting support to Israel, no matter how the war started, and that U.S. troops and weaponry would flow freely. Wider war could eventually result in destruction of the state of Israel.

    This can be stopped, but only if you move quickly to pre-empt an Israeli attack by publicly condemning such a move before it happens.

    We believe that comments by senior American officials, you included, reflect misplaced trust in Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu.
    Actually, the phrasing itself can be revealing, as when CIA Director Panetta implied cavalierly that Washington leaves it up to the Israelis to decide whether and when to attack Iran, and how much “room” to give to the diplomatic effort.

    On June 27, Panetta casually told ABC’s Jake Tapper, “I think they are willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically … as opposed to changing them militarily.”

    Similarly, the tone you struck referring to Netanyahu and yourself in your July 7 interview with Israeli TV was distinctly out of tune with decades of unfortunate history with Israeli leaders.

    “Neither of us try to surprise each other,” you said, “and that approach is one that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to.” You may wish to ask Vice President Biden to remind you of the kind of surprises he has encountered in Israel.

    Blindsiding has long been an arrow in Israel’s quiver. During the emerging Middle East crisis in the spring of 1967, some of us witnessed closely a flood of Israeli surprises and deception, as Netanyahu’s predecessors feigned fear of an imminent Arab attack as justification for starting a war to seize and occupy Arab territories.

    We had long since concluded that Israel had been exaggerating the Arab “threat” — well before 1982 when former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin publicly confessed:
    “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

    Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and also mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify expansion of its borders.

    Given this record, one would be well advised to greet with appropriate skepticism any private assurances Netanyahu may have given you that Israel would not surprise you with an attack on Iran.

    Netanyahu’s Calculations
    Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, largely because of the strong support he enjoys in our Congress and our strongly pro-Israel media. He reads your reluctance even to mention in controversial bilateral issues publicly during his recent visit as affirmation that he is in the catbird seat in the relationship.

    For full article:
    link to truth-out.org

  3. Avi
    August 8, 2010, 4:49 pm

    Iran was helping the United States in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    Watch Frontline:Showdown with Iran

    When the U.S. invaded Iraq and overthrew the Saddam government, Zionist Neo-Cons moved on to their next target, Iran.

    In the late 1980s, a study conducted by the Dayan Center and Tel-Aviv University, concluded that there are three spheres of so-called threats. These threats, the study found, needed to be dealt with in succession. The first sphere included immediate neighboring entities, to include Lebanon, and the Palestinians. The second sphere was comprised of Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The third sphere included Iran, Pakistan, and Libya.

  4. Eva Smagacz
    August 8, 2010, 5:06 pm

    IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) that overwhelmed Israelis in Lebanon, Americans in Iraq and Americans and Russians in Afghanistan do not need to be confined to roads.

    I read with interest the following story:
    link to seattletimes.nwsource.com
    which directly contradicts the two principal tenets of pro-war faction:
    Primo, that the passage through the Straits of Harmuz will not be compromised by the military engagement,
    and secundo, that the fighting will not spill out of the territory of Iran, and will not inflame the region.

    Guess what. IED can be used in the sea. Third parties like Japan can suffer. and extremist Islamist groups can jump on the bandwagon, and attack the tankers.

    I thought that this attack had all the marking of the masterful chess move.

    • Psychopathic god
      August 9, 2010, 7:21 pm

      it’s not unlikely that something like an IED destroyed the S Korean ship — the destruction that is being blamed on N Korea.

      Speculation is that a US mine is responsible for the explosion. Question is whether it was deliberate or accidental (who was it that said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste?”)

    • Citizen
      August 9, 2010, 7:51 pm

      Castro recently hobbled out of retirement to predict that Israel & US would attack Iran, causing millions of deaths spilling over everywhere. He said the only one that can stop it now is Obama, but Castro doesn’t think Obama has thought about it much, although his closest advisers have thought about it a lot. Once the right incident occurs the set plans will take over; in the Middle East all are well aware what the US military chief Mullen said, that is, that the US has a plan to take out Iran. Iran now takes the US threats and name-calling very seriously, in contrast to the laid back name calling policy of the last 30 years.

  5. Shingo
    August 8, 2010, 5:13 pm

    It’s not the lack of passion, but the lack of spine of Obama.

  6. MHughes976
    August 8, 2010, 5:15 pm

    Very interesting, though I think that the case for easy war will not in any event be believed again in the armed forces, in financial circles or in public opinion. Obama may be bloodless and passionless but I don’t think he’s either bloodthirsty or a complete idiot. There’s no Tony Blair organising a chorus of approval for war either.

    • Antidote
      August 9, 2010, 7:49 pm

      Very plausible, mhughes — but what if Israel gets some rapidly expanding regional conflict going, by launching military operations against Lebanon and/or Gaza in ‘self-defense’, or as retaliation for ‘provocations’? The US security guarantee would apply. Then what?

  7. Sand
    August 8, 2010, 6:46 pm

    I think this is an important article too… Especially Rep. Berman’s Talking Points!!!

    –Why the U.S. Won’t Cut Ties with Israel, No Matter How Extreme Its Government Gets
    A thick web of military-strategic ties is at the heart of the US-Israeli relationship.
    by Phyllis Bennis 8/4/10
    link to alternet.org

  8. Les
    August 9, 2010, 5:22 pm

    Obama wants to be know as the Great Capitulator.

  9. Les
    August 9, 2010, 5:25 pm

    Here’s a prediction that if the US goes to war against Iran, there will be
    “a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.”

    Find out why at link to juancole.com

    • eljay
      August 9, 2010, 5:32 pm

      >> Here’s a prediction that if the US goes to war against Iran, there will be
      “a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.”

      I worry for the Iranians and their “level of casualties”. The Purveyors of Justice and Democracy will hit them and their country…and hit them hard. Goddammit. >:-(

      • Les
        August 9, 2010, 6:44 pm

        And you care nothing about the American service people who will be slaughtered for Israel’s sake. Perhaps you did not actually read the cited article.

      • potsherd
        August 9, 2010, 7:07 pm

        American deaths are not the only ones that matter. Let’s not t hink like Israelis.

  10. midnightschild
    August 9, 2010, 7:26 pm

    I think you have to worry about both. Unfortunately, both our Administration and Congress feel that we will have enough disposable youth
    for another war. We have the cheerleaders in place, Clinton, Gates, much of Obama’s cabinet as well as the majority of Congress, and Obama does appear spineless on the issue of fully supporting Israel no matter what. I really hope the people will remember Iraq, and the lies we were told,and compare them to the same lies we are hearing now. I hate the thoughts of the loss of lives both of our soldiers as well as the Iranian people. I hope sometime people will remember that “collateral damage”, no matter how neatly they objectify it, remains men, women, and children. I just don’t see anyone in the media willing to raise the most obvious questions. I think, no matter how much the Administration hates WikiLeaks they provided some startling insights into what was really going on, and when Obama, and others said it was just ‘OLD NEWS’, I guess the amount of deaths hasn’t satisfied them yet.

    • Citizen
      August 9, 2010, 7:58 pm

      Those pushing a war on Iran are as obvious as Krauthammer, who also pushed for the war on Iraq; nothing will stop them, and they could care less about dead Arabs or dead GIs. Meanwhile Krauthammer’s BS regarding Obama the Socialist and Islam the Evil is a big hit on the email lists of the patriotic, conservative Christians across rural, western, and midwestern USA. They will fight for Israel and not even know it.

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