Monday, March 12, 2012

Deja Vous all over again

In their pandering to sway the voting public to their side and opposing granting another four more years to President Obama, the Republican candidates are campaigning on a dangerous position of "saber-rattling" with regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As I mentioned in my previous post regarding how Conservatives rely mainly on fear as a motivation, they are attempting to position themselves as (macho) brash enough to stand up to Iran’s nuclear ambitions versus Obama’s more (wimpy) calculating and realistic stance. Well after all, as Obama has orchestrated the removal of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the country needs a new Boogieman to rally and the frighten the gullible voter.

To further this objection, Iran is being presented as an irrational rogue state, crazed with idealism and poised to strike Israel before the paint is even dry the moment their new nukes roll off the assembly line. Whoa, now just hold on a moment says, Joint Chief of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey who recently came under fire from Congressman Tom Price (R- Georgia) when the general said “Iran is a rational actor… the alternative is that we attribute to them [that] their actions are so irrational they have no basis of planning. The key is to understand how they act and not trivialize their actions by attributing to them some irrationality, that’s a very dangerous thing for us to do.” In other words, the General was warning the Conservatives that Iran is not acting in a manner which indicates that they are completely oblivious to the consequences of their ambitions, policies and actions. The Conservatives, of course, are not happy the general is not doing a War Dance and want him fired. Video Here.

I recently listened again to a decade old broadcast of NPR’s This American Life, “Why We Fight”, specifically Act III of the broadcast titled "Realism 101" which was an analysis of the reasons behind our ramp-up to go to war against Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein. My friends, listening to this broadcast was “deja vous all over again”originally broadcast back in December 2002, I was overwhelmed how closely history may be poised to repeat itself.

The main impetus for whipping up public frenzy for going to war against Iraq was we needed to stop Saddam Hussein BEFORE he got his hands on nuclear weapons. Sound familiar? The incessant drumbeat was that Hussein was an irrational unpredictable megalomaniac who would do anything without regard for the consequences. Actually Hussein cooperated with UN inspectors allowing them into his country and made any number of concessions apparently fully fearing he would be invaded by the US. Actually I think is cooperation pissed the Bush Administration off even more... the result, as we say, is history.

Interviewed in the This American Life segment, Kenneth Pollack, author of the book “The Threatening Storm: the Case for Invading Iraq” spells out in greater depth the (real) reasons for the Bush Administration's eagerness in invading Iraq, among them:
  1. Taking Iraq was doable, his army was no match for the might of the U.S. military.
  2. The belief that Arab cultures respect the show of force and doing so would change the political climate in the Middle East.
  3. Taking Iraq would allow the U.S. to establish bases in Iraq and thereby allowing us to close the Prince Sultan Air Base inside Saudi Arabia. (which did close in 2003).
  4. Establishing a friendly government in the region (Iraq) would then appear to promote other U.S. interests in the area including:
    a.) Reduce the dependence on obtaining oil from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    b.) Imply tacit support to pro-Democracy movements in Iran, Egypt and cause the government of Syria to fall.
    c.) Place additional pressure on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to crack down on Islamic extremism.
I remind you, this interview was conducted in 2002 before we attacked Iraq. Applying 20/20 hindsight, how many of these predictions have come true?

Fast-forward again to today where John McCain just recently grilled Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding the Administration’s reluctance to take an aggressive military position regarding the “threat” posed by Iran and involve ourselves in the conflict in Syria. McCain, in criticizing Panetta’s admonition that we proceed cautiously before committing American lives, said “... let me tell you what’s wrong with your statement... you don’t mention American leadership”.

Of ALL people, Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war McCain should know better. Idealistic posturing regarding idealism and our nation’s honor can, as it has in the past, been paid for with the lives, the limbs and the blood of real people.

As for the GOP candidate's disgusting posturing regarding this extremely serious topic, they can well afford their nonchalant rhetoric… none of those Bozos are the Commander In Chief – yet!
I highly recommend you listen to the short 19-minute segment of link posted here. I think you might agree that we are poised on the brink of having history repeat itself.

Audio Link:
This American Life, Why We Fight, Act III: Realism 101.
Runtime: 19 min
After composing this entry, Meir Dagan, former chief of Israel's Mossad, was interviewed on last night on CBS 60 Minutes. For the last 30 years Dagan has been specifically charged with counteracting Iran's nuclear weapon development. Dagan stated that Iran is capable of acting rationally and fully understands the consequences of any potential actions they may consider. Dagan emphasized in the strongest terms that military action against Iran is ill advised at this time. View the CBS interview here.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure where I heard it, but recently listened to a person reviewing the positions of politicians in the US, Israel, and other players in this whole mess. The point being made, is that every country is facing elections in the not too distant future. Essentially, all of the saber-rattling goes directly to attempts to be elected by those not currently in power, by trying to denigrate the "passiveness" of those now in power.
We just never learn.

Kay Dennison said...

Thank you for a rational point of view -- as always.

Jono said...

Isn't repeating the same task over and over, expecting different results, a sign of insanity? We seem to be in a constant state of war in which we can ill afford the cost.

Robert the Skeptic said...

BackRow Indeed, then the pressure is on the newly elected to make good on their promises.

Kay You're welcome, though sometimes the rational position is rather unsettling.

Jono There are some who believe that being in a constant state of war exerts strong domestic controls. Take the Patriot Act (an oxymoron) for example. This has resulted in increased domestic surveillance, erosion of civil liberties and outright violations of our constitutional rights.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis. Jon Stewart did a clip (last week I believe) and pointed out that very fact -- that the white hot rhetoric about Iran is being fueled by various elections and the candidates' well-known strategy of fear-mongering to snag votes. It's all about political ambition, power grabbing, and manipulating the little people (only because they value our money, not us).

They all disgust me. The fact that politicians and their power-mongers would gleefully send innocent kids to die or otherwise be traumatized, not to mention the innocent civilian casualties that will hardly be reported -- and all for their personal political gain -- makes them less than slime in my estimation.

I don't know what other hidden political or financial interests are involved (and I'm just cynical enough to be sure there are such hidden interests), but I, for one, am sick of the political manipulators and their meaningless, empty talking points.

billy pilgrim said...

i'm more worried about pakistan having nuclear weapons than iran beginning the enrichment process.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dissenter I share your disgust. The hidden financial interests are in the companies that profit from a war economy, Haliburton, Locheed-Martin... the whole military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago.

Billy Quite so, while being distracted by Iran there is still, as you say, Pakistan, North Korea and China, just to name a few.

Secret Agent Woman said...

It's distressing, to be sure. So much greed and power-grabbing driving the decisions made.

Murr Brewster said...

I remember that TAL show distinctly. And I don't like to come off sounding like a pointy-headed intellectual, but those saber-rattlers should get their nuts drilled. Too intellectual?

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent Troubling to me is the smallest amount of consideration appears to be for the powerless in uniform who will be the ones paying dearly for these aloof politicians. (BTW, can't get to your new blog, e-mail bouncing back )

Murr The most important qualification for running the most powerful country in the world seems to be a folksy kind-a gent you'd share a beer with an' don't go to no NASCAR race wearin' a suit nor tie, dag nabbit.

Paul said...

I oppose a war with Iran. That being said they do pose a significant threat to Israel, among others, in their region. They foment and support terrorism -probably to suit their purposes. How Israel may choose to deal with Iran is another matter. That's the wild card in this drama. I respect Dagan's opinion, but what do other former Mossad heads say about it ? Better to have the council of many in this situation. By the way I read Dagan;s comments in Haaretz.

Fear has been used by both sides in our political history Robert. Republicans don't have a monopoly on it.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul Recent public polls seem to agree with both yours and my feelings about not wanting to go to war with Iran. Dagan, Panetta and Dempsey don't dispute that Iran is a threat, only that we (or Israel) should not jump to conclusion (or actions) on the mistaken assumption that they are not capable of rational decisions; these guys and others say Iran is rational... Now maybe not be OUR sensibilities regarding what WE would consider rational. And the concerns you point out are certainly rational concerns from ours/Israel's viewpoint.

What I take this discussion to mean is that when Ahmadinejad makes inflammatory statements that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth or that the Holocaust never happened, we need to step back and ask: 1) does he 'really' believe that, or is that just political hubris (like many politicians do) AND 2) is he rational enough to understand the consequences he and his country could face if he acted on these statements? The players say, yeah the words are inflammatory alright but let's not go off half-cocked here.

Regarding fear tactics, You are also quite correct, fear tactics are not the entire domain of Conservatives, the case could be made that the Liberals make use of the same fear tactics. We get all kinds of scary e-mails from Democratic party sources warning of the horrible things Republicans will do (and requests for contributions thrown in). What the difference I probably did not make clear is that scientific psychological studies show that people who identify themselves as Conservative seem to be more responsive or more motivated by fearful messages/images than those who identify as Liberals. Actually my next post was to be about this psychological difference but I interjected this Iran post as it was topical. Stay tuned, more on this to come.