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.

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