Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Iran and Iraq: Reality Check Update

The possibility of a military attack against Iran seems to be on the table again despite many experts who agree it would be a strategic blunder. After nearly five years, it is still an effort to get it into the heads of the mainstream media that Iraq itself was a strategic blunder . One could qualify that statement by saying the Iraq fiasco was a strategic blunder made worse by ineptitude. But at this late date it is sheer stubbornness to say it was only ineptitude that was the problem (and let the media please stop pretending that the war in Iraq had anything to do with the war on terror or 9/11 and acknowledge how ridiculously convoluted neocon arguments have been about Iraq for ten years).

We have a right-wing president with the classic flaws of a reactionary: stubbornness, an inflated sense of one's abilities (or intuition) and a tendency to respond to failure by blaming others and demanding more power. President Bush may also be looking at his lame duck status as an excuse to do as he pleases. A military attack on Iran would still be an uphill battle for Bush and Cheney to pull off but the seriousness of such a blunder requires once again watching Cheney and Bush closely.

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has a post on the renewed possibility of a strike against Iran. What I get out of his quick though thoughtful asssessment is a sobering view of a White House that continues to be largely clueless about the president's failed foreign policy and the dangers his policies pose to our economy and our national security. At this late date, given all that we know, why is President Bush and Vice President Cheney still taken seriously? And why are so many neocons, in general, still signing off on policies that make no sense? In industry, when people utter nonsense to the media, it's usually a sign those same people are receiving large sums of money from somewhere. Is this the problem? If so, who is the source of that money? I don't know the answer.

In another post, Clemons also talks about Ken Adelman, a neocon whose ideas have done much damage to our country but who seems to be rethinking some of his positions in retrospect and in reference to Iran; here's part of an interview Clemons quoted:
MORTMAN: Should we invade Iran?

ADELMAN: I would not use the military in Iran. I would squeeze the sanctions as hard as we can. I would go to the Saudis and the Persian Gulf countries, and have them pressure the Europeans, saying they just have to crack down. I don't think the Bush Administration has done anything with the Saudis that's worthwhile.

MORTMAN: Your thoughts on the presidential race?

ADELMAN: I've been disappointed. It seems that there are no new ideas coming out of the presidential race. 1980 we had the Reagan Doctrine, supply side economics, SDI -- all these were ideas, they were new ideas. I haven't heard anything new from either side. I'm disappointed.

MORTMAN: Your thoughts on the Bush legacy?

ADELMAN: Bush is a person who had good ideas but could not implement them. The first MBA president was the worst administrative leader, the most un-MBA-ish president. He didn't set goals, he didn't hold people accountable. He just engaged in happy talk. He thought words were all people needed, instead of a realistic approach. A failed presidency based on that.

Adelman makes a couple of useful points but he is still very much behind the curve. The notion that Bush 'had good ideas' is a bit ludicrous. Bush had little interest in foreign policy until somewhere around late 1998 when he started considering a presidential run and received tutorials from various neocons and others (if he listened to these 'experts' the way he apparently listens to other experts, it's unclear what exactly he absorbed). The agenda of the neocons was never very clear to me and I doubt they were ever really willing to explain their agenda to the American people but, neverthess, I suspect the neocons were largely used by the Bush inner circle who were even less forthright when it came to explaining their real objectives. It's unacceptable at this late date to believe that democracy was ever high on the agenda for the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove.

In the end, Bush and Cheney's foreign policy is hardly distinguishable from the kind of reactionary nonsense that was pushed by the John Birch Society back in the 50s and 60s during the Cold War. It's worth remembering that the John Birchers considered Chiang Kai Shek a 'democratic leader.' Chiang was about as democratic as Franco or Mussolini. Absent the Soviets, a vaguely defined threat from the Middle East was used by today's Republicans to justify a long series of foreign policy nonsense. It's become obvious that 9/11 was used to justify poorly considered ideas that were already in the cooker when Bush became president.

Most Democrats in Congress understand the Bush problem but it's not certain that they have the votes despite a slim majority. It would behoove Republicans and the small number of Democrats overly impressed with the Bush's foreign policy to look long and hard at the consequences of an attack on Iran. The shakiness of Wall Street in recent weeks and the fact that its shakiness may well be a function of bad Republican economic policies over the last twenty-six years, is a sign, in my view, that it's time for our country to grasp the terms of the 21st century and start moving in a different direction.

Congress must get its act together. Failing that, the American voters need to send people to Washington willing to tackle reality rather than embracing reactionary fantasies. The United States is slipping. In the end, only the voters can save this country. For the moment, the Democrats remain the best bet, if the best candidates can be found. But the future still comes down to the American people and whether they are willing to engage the future and reform a Washington clearly dominated by a right wing machine that is adept at public relations and very short on everything else.

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