Iran War Posturing
Kevin Drum has the same basic take on the steady drumbeat of the “Bush is planning for war with Iran” meme that I do, namely that it is a PSYOP to enhance our diplomatic pressure on the mullahs. Mark Danziger thinks Bush hater Sy Hersh an odd avenue for such a campaign but, as a correspondent has noted, Bill Gersh served in much the same capacity during the Clinton administration.
Citing James Fallows‘ theory of “excess demand” for military action, though, Drum worries that, “If the PR campaign is too successful, then Bush will have boxed himself in. Eventually he’ll feel obligated to bomb Iran solely because he’s now under pressure to make good on his threats and doesn’t want to look like he’s backing down.” William Arkin thinks it much worse than that: “What is happening now though is not just an administration prudently preparing for the unfortunate against an aggressive and crazed state, it is also aggressive and crazed, driven by groupthink and a closed circle of bears.” Indeed, he sees eerie similarities to the run-up to the Iraq War.
Fallows, too, cites a similarity with 2003, although he does not make that connection: “About Iran’s intention to build a bomb, there is no serious disagreement among Russia, China, France, and the United States.” Fallows contends, “The inconvenient truth of American foreign policy is that the last five years have left us with a series of choices—and all of them are bad.”
While I agree that all of the choices are bad, it seems odd to blame that fact on the Bush administration. While it’s true that the Iraq War makes a ground war with Iran slightly less attractive than would otherwise be the case, no serious analysis I have read suggests that a ground war would be a very good idea anyway. And, fatigue aside, there is an undeniable advantage to having Iraq as a staging area were ground invasion deemed tactically necessary.
Danziger, while differing with Drum on the blame issue, nonetheless agrees that, “[T]oo much bluster . . . is exactly the wrong appropach to be taking right now. I think that it weakens us internally, stirs our opponents and sends an air of unseriousness. This is a case where we should be speaking very softly, and testing the heft of our biggest sticks.” I agree.
It seems to me, though, that this is precisely the tactic the administration is using. Indeed, the president himself has dismissed the reports as “wild speculation” and has been both rhetorically and actually committed to a diplomatic solution.
“The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Bush said after being asked whether the United States would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. “I know here in Washington prevention means force; it doesn’t mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.”
Mr. Bush said the United States continued to work with Britain, Germany, France and Russia in finding diplomatic solutions that would ensure that the Iranians did not acquire even the research capacity to develop nuclear weapons. “One of the decisions I made early on was to have a multinational approach to sending messages, clear messages, to the Iranians, that if they want to be a part of the — an accepted nation in the world, that they must give up their nuclear weapons ambitions,” he said. “And we’re making pretty good progress.”
Keeping the military option on the table, including letting word out that active planning is ongoing is smart. Even Germany and France are doing it in this case. After all, as Frederick the Great noted, “Diplomacy without armaments is like music without instruments.”
Unlike Iraq, there is plenty of negative press out there to convince the public that war is not an attractive option. The pressure is on the administration to simultaneously “do something” about Iran’s nuclear programs and yet to avoid getting bogged down in a bloody war. Unfortunately, those two goals may be mutually exclusive.
- Nuking Iran, Redux
Administration Gearing Up for Regime Change in Iran?
IAEA Reports Iran to U.N. Security Council
Negroponte Warns Congress on Iran
Israeli Preparing Iran Strike?
Dealing With Iran’s Nukes: Choosing From Bad Options
The Case for Invading Iran
Iran Threatens Oil Prices if Sanctioned on Nukes
Iran Nuclear Diplomacy Fails — Again
U.S. Planning a Military Strike on Iran’s Nukes?
Iran Rejects Russian Nuke Compromise
Iranian President Calls for Annihilation of Israel
U.S. Conducting Secret Missions Inside Iran?