Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Iran approaches. Are we ready?

I'll just shamelessly excerpt Josh Marshall's analysis:

You may have noticed the Iran boomlet over the last few days, the pitter-patter of rumors and hints that either a major military action or an Iraq-style PR/agitprop roll-out is set to start this week. Spencer Ackerman is looking into this over at TPMmuckraker.com. And his reporting suggests that the 'source' of all this chatter is an order Dick Cheney has sent out to his proxies at the right-wing thinktanks to start laying the ground work for war with Iran. In the short run, the aim is to open up a new front in his struggle with Bob Gates and the Joint Chiefs (who think two wars are enough for now). In the medium term, the goal is getting the war started well ahead of the end of Bush's term.

For the moment, however, my attention is fixed on one of those 'hints', Reuel Marc Gerecht's piece in the current Newsweek, in which he argues that war with Iran is most likely to come not because of Bush-Cheney warmongering or a breakdown in negotiations but rather "an Iranian provocation."

It is worth stepping back for a moment to savor this claim in its full flavor. Clearly, this must be the kind of 'provocation' comparatively weak states again and again through history seem to make against extremely powerful states -- just before the latter provides a thorough beating to the former. One can of course think of various examples over the decades and centuries.

As the agitprop engines start churning again, it is worth stepping back and considering an undeniable fact. Iran is not a rival power to the United States. The idea that Iran is a threat to the United States in conventional military terms is laughable. A terrorist threat? Sure. But that's a very different kind of threat.

Another point: Iranian meddling in Iraq. Some points are so obvious that to state them seems almost redundant. But what exactly are we doing? This isn't to put our efforts in Iraq and Iran's on equal terms. The mullah's regime in Iran is brutish, illiberal and thuggish (though the comparison was a bit more helpful before Dick Cheney was out poster-boy of the rule-of-law, western civilization and democratic values). Like most people I put intervention based on my ideals on a different footing with that of those whose ideals I don't agree with. But to say that Iran -- which has deep historical and religious ties to Iraq and is ... well, right there -- is meddling while we've been occupying and running the country for four years is just silly. You may say that these are just aggressive ways of phrasing the issue and these fact are all known. So what's the difference? But the slow build up of lies and misdirections, over time, affects our thinking and our ability to reason at all coherently.