It’s Just Like Pearl Harbor! (A Fisking)

Glenn Reynolds has linked approvingly to this column. I read it, and when I was done, I had a complete and total “If it weren’t for my horse…” moment. I had to re-read to figure out what the author was trying to say, and even now I’m not really sure. I’m think that the author’s point is that we should invade Iran. Today. But it’s so badly written that it deserves a whole special fisking of its own. Let’s start with the first two sentences:

Why is America waiting to be attacked by Iran? Why do we sit on the sidelines while Tehran makes war on our ally Israel in order to provoke America to join the fighting, first against Syria and then against Tehran itself?

Okay… I’m not sure how these two sentences fit together. Is he asking why we haven’t let Iran provoke us into invading Iran and Syria yet? But if Iran is trying to provoke us in to fighting them, does that mean they won’t attack us unless they do? Or is he saying we should let Iran provoke us into attacking them now before they attack us? But if Iran wants us to fight them, shouldn’t we think twice about attacking them, since they clearly want us to attack them? Or do they not want us to attack them?

Clearly, this man has a dizzying intellect.

I’d like to say that the rest of the column elucidates this thesis, but actually it avoids it entirely. Let’s check out the next sentence:

Why do we listen to the European appeasers as they pretend the Lebanon front is a regional conflict, a national liberation contest, when it is demonstrably the prelude to the wider war — the Spain 1936 to the continental war of 1939?

Bear in mind that merely one sentence ago, the author stated that the intention of Iran, acting through Hezbollah, is to provoke the U.S. into a war with Syria and Iran. In other words, the author’s logic dictates that the U.S. should not attack Iran, because then we risk there being a much bigger war. However, this does not seem to be what he’s driving at.

(As an aside, it would be remiss of me not to take issue with the contention that Hezbollah’s current operations are being directed by Iran. At the present time, there is very little evidence that this is actually going on.)

Let’s continue:

What is the explanation for America’s willful fiction that the United Nations Security Council can engineer an accommodation in Lebanon, when it is vivid to every member state that this is a replay of September 1938, when Europe fed Hitler the Sudetenland as the U.N. now wants to feed the jihadists the sovereignty of Israel?

Umm… okay. So let me get this straight–an international force occupying a portion of Lebanon would give Hezbollah (or Iran or whoever) Israel’s sovereignty? Yeah, that’s just like allowing Germany to control the Sudetenland. Now granted, that analogy might carry greater weight if the U.N. was contemplating granting Hezbollah the right to control a portion of Israel, but let’s not quibble with fine details. There are Historical Analogies(tm) to be made, necessary to make sure that anyone who disapproves of ill-conceived, pre-emptive wars is a Nazi!

Moving on, the author marches bravely (though not exactly coherently) back to his thesis. Sort of.

The most threatening answer is that America waits to be bloodied because it has lost its will to defend itself after five years of chasing rogue-state-sponsored gangsters and after three years of occupation in failed-state Iraq against Tehran- and Damascus-backed agents. A grave possibility is that America is now drained, bowed, ready to surrender to the tyrants of Tehran.

See, now I’m confused again. Wouldn’t being “ready to surrender to the tyrants of Tehran” mean doing their will? And wouldn’t doing their will be allowing ourselves to be provoked into attacking them (which apparently they want)? If that’s not his point, then is the author claiming that the War in Iraq has stretched U.S. military resources and political will to the point where now we can’t actually deal with the growing threat of Iran? Because I agree with that, but I don’t think that’s what he intends to mean. Let’s keep going.

Then again, perhaps America has been here before, and it is part of America’s destiny as the New Jerusalem that we rarely start wars but that we are unusually good at finishing them.

Now see, if you’re going to throw around historical analogy, saying that America is the “New Jerusalem” because it’s good at “finishing” wars is not very good. Jerusalem has been conquered dozens of times and even been destroyed on occasion–hardly an inspiring track record when it comes to military conflict. If the Old Jerusalem was lousy at war, I don’t see how it’s the “destiny” of the “New Jerusalem” to be good at it.

There is a strange parallel right now to the first days of December 1941, before the Japanese sneak attack.

Yup, it’s just like 1941, except that in this case, American troops have been fighting in the relevant part of the world for almost five years. Other than that it’s pretty much the same.

America was still not in the war in Asia and Europe, but it was busy getting ready for a momentous calamity and was filled with the presentiment of doom.

The article then goes on for a couple of paragraphs describing how Americans were pretty much mentally preparing themselves for the fact that we were going to be going to war in the Pacific or in Europe sooner or later. I will spare you the detail, as I presume you know that the American people at the time weren’t morons.

After all that, he writes:

What this all means to me today is that America was expectant of the crisis that fell on December 7, 1941; and yet America remained reluctant to say out loud that war was unavoidable, inevitable, already under way — the nation holding back as if the obvious war plans in Berlin and Tokyo were going to vanish like a lightning storm. When the Japanese fleet did maul our Pacific fleet, the Roosevelt administration was rattled and the public was grim. It will be the same for us when this premonitory waiting lifts and the main action begins, both frightful and logical.

Or, in other words, Iran is going to attack America. How does he know? Because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, that’s how! (At this point, the author completely seems to have forgotten his earlier point–namely, that Iran, through Hezbollah, kidnapped two Israeli soliders in an apparent bid to get America to invade Syria and Iraq–which would logically mean that Iran isn’t planning on attacking America. At least, not unless we attack them first).

Finally, he concludes:

The Lebanese Front, the Iraqi Front, the Afghan and Kashmir Fronts, or the Haifa blitz will no more solve themselves than did the China-Burma Front, the North African Front, the Atlantic Front, the London blitz of 65 years ago.

See, now this doesn’t make any sense at all. The North African Front and Atlantic Fronts took place after Pearl Harbor. They were, in fact, part of the war against Germany. The man can’t even get his spurious historical analogies straight! Ugh.

At this point you might be wondering why I’m wasting my time with tripe like this. Well, I’ll tell you why. First of all, because it’s getting some approving play on Technorati, which will likely only increase as a result of a link from Instapundit. That bothers me because this article is not only filled with bad history, incoherent writing, and virtually no analysis, but it is being taken seriously by people despite these qualities.

Please note that nowhere does this article make any argument, or provide any evidence, that Iran actually plans to launch an attack on the United States. The concern on the author’s part is pure speculation, based on some lousy historical analogies. And yet the comments around the blogsophere so far seem to be of the “yeah, let’s get ’em!” mentality, without any serious thought or consideration.

Look, it’s clear that Iran poses some threats to U.S. interests. But there is very little indication that Iran, either by itself or through proxies, actually has any immediate plans to directly threaten the United States. As such, immediately moving the debate to “Invade Iran!” is not only irresponsible, but enough clamor like that might make Iran an even bigger threat. At the present time, settling our issues with Iran simply does not require the use of military force, and the use of such force at this time would only be disastrous.

FILED UNDER: Media, Middle East, National Security, World Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Cernig says:

    Alex,

    Your commentary here today may well be the best I’ve read on OTB. Thanks.

    Regards, Cernig

  2. Herb says:

    Alan:

    “little evidence that Iran is directing the events in Lebanon”

    Sometimes, it takes a hit in the head from a brick for some people to wake up.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Herb:

    “little evidence that Iran is directing the events in Lebanon”

    Sometimes, it takes a hit in the head from a brick for some people to wake up.

    You’re right–why on earth should I base my opinions about Iran’s involvement on something as silly as the word of U.S. Intelligence officials?

  4. DC Loser says:

    Who needs US intelligence officials? Herb has his own personal intelligence agency.

  5. ATS says:

    When, with a war in Iraq looming, the lessons of Vietnam went largely unheeded, I attributed it to the passage of time. Now, however, with a war in Iraq actually still going on, live and in color, what do we make of the drumbeat to attack neighboring Iran?
    One can only conclude that portions of the American public have the collective memory of a mayfly.
    Will we soon be seeing Ken Adelman telling Wolf Blitzer what a cakewalk an invasion of Iran would be? And later, when it fails disasterously, will Kristol be telling us we didn’t commit enough troop and resources?
    Quoting Santayan here would be trite but alltogether apt.

  6. Anderson says:

    when it is demonstrably the prelude to the wider war

    Um, could I see that demonstration, please?

  7. legion says:

    I love this moron’s comparisons to WWII. Does he mena Hezbollah is going to annex Saudi Arabia next, and then invade Turkey? And his attempts ad mind-reading are a riot – Iran wants us to invade… so we can’t invade! But then they’ll attack our Pacific fleet and force us to invade! But that’ll just be giving them what they want! No! Yes!

    Herb has his own personal intelligence agency

    Oh, and DCL? You misspelled “pharmacy”.

  8. LJD says:

    Now, however, with a war in Iraq actually still going on, live and in color, what do we make of the drumbeat to attack neighboring Iran?

    Perhaps because, contrary to the ‘let’s hug and sing cumbaya’ crowd, There may actually BE a threat?

  9. legion says:

    Perhaps because, contrary to the ‘let’s hug and sing cumbaya’ crowd, There may actually BE a threat?

    …and it might show up in the form of a mushroom cloud. The irony is palpable.

  10. LJD says:

    My point, on the ‘drumbeat for war’.

    Yours?

  11. legion says:

    My point is that crying ‘wolf’ (or in this case ‘terrorist’) every few months doesn’t make us safer.

    Without the intellectual interest (or capacity, IMHO) at the top levels of gov’t to actually understand the threats we face, we wind up pointing our resources in every possible direction _except_ those that will actually protect us. Case in point – these guys in the UK appear to be real terrorists. Did the invasion of Iraq help us nab them? No – this was apparently handled by law enforcement, not the military.
    Does ‘cowboy diplomacy’ and the flypaper theory of engagement make us safer? No – fighting them ‘over there’ instead of ‘here’ ain’t working.
    Does profiling stop terrorism? No – all current suspects are British citizens.
    Is a ‘drumbeat for war’, as you put it, a sane response to terrorism? No – we are limiting (if not actively surrendering) our civil rights; reducing our freedom to travel, congregate, express our beliefs, and expect a transparent, representational government.

    We have already lost the war on terror – they’ve convinced us to completely re-wire our society, and sacrifice our international image & influence. Thanks, GW. You’re doing a heckuva job.

  12. LJD says:

    Who is crying wolf? Our DHS, police, and military personnel are working feverishly to save American lives. They struggle with the decision to issue an alert or not, where doing it may save lives, and not doing may cost them. Nothing to take very lightly. You, with your omnipotence, or hindsight or whatever, casts judgement on THEM because of your feeling s for the administration. Or, is it your conspiracy thoery? My how those false alerts have helped public opinion!

    Another slap in the faces of those protecting you: As if the ‘interest’ of the administration in any way prevents them from doing their job! What makes you think they are not authorized to do anything and everything required to uncover these plots, without the direct intervention of the administration?

    I think you’re attributing too much credit to these guys in London. They don’t represent a widespread capability for Al Qaeda. The facts you choose to ignore are that the wider GWOT HAS had an impact ont heir ability to attacks. And to reiterate, we have not been attacked. SO it seems like you’re just making up complaints about a system that in practice is working.

    Profiling? Well, they are brits, but I understand, also Pakistani, and Muslim. I wouldn’t give automatic pass to a member of any nation with that ‘profile’.

    Is a ‘drumbeat for war’, as you put it, a sane response to terrorism?

    Perhaps not directly. But certainly a rational response to a direct threat from a rogue nation. The President, wisely I believe, put all nation sponsors of terror on notice. Is this wrong? Should we just sit back and let people train to kill innocents because of their religion?

    No – we are limiting (if not actively surrendering) our civil rights; reducing our freedom to travel, congregate, express our beliefs, and expect a transparent, representational government.

    Actually, that sounds like what the extremists want for us. It certainly seems like you’re free to say what you want about the adminstration, gather with your buddies and burn flags, vote, whatever.

    I would say that ‘transparent government’ is a relative term. Many Americans could not handle the information; could not understand it, know what to do with it, be trusted with it. That’s why you elect people you trust, and have checks and balances to keep them honest (aint it great!).

    Honestly, I think you;re freaking out a bit about your liberties. This paranoia is totally unfounded, unless you can show me one lliberty, you personally have lost.

  13. legion says:

    Who is crying wolf?

    Well, I could do some digging on the various arrests US authorities have made & trumpeted as great strides against terror, only to be revealed as at-best wishful thinking. But I’ll just point out Tom Ridge’s all-but-admission that previous terror alerts were uncalled for and quite probably staged for political image.

    It certainly seems like you’re free to say what you want about the adminstration, gather with your buddies and burn flags, vote, whatever.

    Ummm, not if the GOP got its way on new laws preventing people from doing just those things. And try “saying what you want about the administration” within 5 miles of a “public” appearance by Bush or Cheney. Remeber “free-speech zones”?

    I would say that ‘transparent government’ is a relative term. Many Americans could not handle the information; could not understand it, know what to do with it, be trusted with it.

    Thomas Jefferson just threw up in his mouth.

    That’s why you elect people you trust, and have checks and balances to keep them honest (aint it great!).

    And that’s why Bush’s signing statements are utterly unconstitutional, since they completely violate any definition of checks & balances.

    This paranoia is totally unfounded, unless you can show me one lliberty, you personally have lost.

    Well, there’s the free-speech issue above. Then there’s our rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable search & seizure – a twofer thanks to Bush’s insistence that only cops (who can have any info they want), but not judges (who are supposed to review & verify those annoying & pointless warrants) can be trusted. Your communications – voice, print, or e-mail – can be intercepted at any time, with no independent oversight. Not to mention there’s a lawsuit moving to the SCOTUS right now about the “law” requiring people to show ID before getting on an airplane. Now, that by itself isn’t unreasonable, but the “law” saying you have to is apparently secret.

    Your move.

  14. LJD says:

    Maybe some difficulty with reading comprehension…

    Aside from your ACLU newsletter, ONE LIBERTY YOU PERSONALLY HAVE LOST.

    I’m not buying the free speech thing. Your running off at the mouth seems perfectly functional.