Monday, October 22, 2012

The Much Needed Threat

So the last Presidential debate is tonight.  The topic is foreign policy.  Since the Truman Administration, Republican politicians have tried to paint Democrats as weak-kneed defeatists who hate the American military and can't wait to turn the country over to whatever evil power exists outside our borders, whether it's the Soviet Union or Islam.  One of the most militant anti-Communist American officials, Dean Acheson, was called a traitor by Joe McCarthy.  For some reason, both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, for all they dragged us ass-backwards in to war in Southeast Asia, were considered weak.  Don't even get me started on Jimmy Carter.

Pres. Obama's record on foreign policy is, by and large, fair to partly cloudy.  Waging a quiet war using special operations troops and UAVs in distant places, while simultaneously going on the offensive in Afghanistan in a more conventional ground war (without any actual strategy or way of determining victory), Obama has also made clear our continued, and wrong-headed, support for Israel in the Middle East, a kind of multigenerational myopia that actually hurts us in the Middle East.  We have stood aloof, by and large, as Europe's "crisis" has dragged on for a couple years (here's a hint; if an event last longer than a few weeks, it isn't a crisis), while switching our larger strategic attention to "the Pacific Rim", which, really isn't much of a change.  For a hundred years, Administrations of both parties have insisted the future of American foreign policy lies in Asia.

Of course, there's the death of Osama bin Laden.  There was the raid, early in his term, on a group of Somali pirates holding Americans hostage.  The two of these events demonstrated Obama's commitment to a couple things.  First, he is quite willing to use American force to protect American lives and interests.  Second, he is committed to doing so in a way that's quiet, yet deadly to whomever the American military machine is pointing.

This hasn't deterred the fantasists among some on the political right to continue the drumbeat, year after year, of claims that Obama is soft on terrorism (which is little different than the claim that previous Democratic Administrations were soft on communism).  There are claims he goes around the world "apologizing for our values", yet I have never heard or seen any actual evidence of this.  There's the ludicrous, and more than slightly unhinged, claim that "the Muslim Brotherhood" has "infiltrated" the State Department because a high-ranking official is . . . a Muslim woman.

Individually, each of the above is hysterically funny.  Taken as a whole, it makes me wonder how people who insist these things are true do simple things like stand erect, or get food from their plate to their mouths.

Just to make clear how long people in positions of power and authority in the United States have been claiming we exist with the imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, just waiting for the opportune moment to strike, I typed "iran" in the search box at the top of my blog.  The results you can scroll through by clicking here.  I first wrote about the "Iranian threat" in February, 2007.  That's over five years ago.  In all that time, the rhetoric has been the same: At any moment, Iran will have a nuclear weapon they can use against Israel or some other country, and we have to stop them.

At some point, you'd think people would realize that the wolf really isn't there.

Look, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I'm no fan of the Iranian regime.  That doesn't mean we should base our relations with them on the bloody fantasies created by people who have been demonstrably wrong about pretty much everything.  Just because we in the US don't support the form of government in Iran doesn't mean we have either the duty or the right to attack them, kill their people (which we've been doing, by the way, quite well over the past few years), attack their electronic infrastructure (that Stuxnet attack on Iranian computers wasn't carried out by the Mongolians), and threaten invasion and massive bombardment.  Whether we like it or not, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Iran isn't doing anything that France, Britain, Israel, India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Argentina haven't done: they are researching atomic energy and possibly the ways to build thermonuclear weapons.  Of the countries listed previously, only Brazil and Argentina haven't gone all the way.  I for one am far more frightened by the existence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and India than I am by a nuclear-armed Iran.  Even if it were to happen tomorrow, there would be no real danger to Israel posed by a nuclear armed Iran.

The real danger are the war-mongers who create the thing they think we Americans need in order to have coherence in our foreign policy - a threat.  I neither know nor care whether all the people screeching about the horrors a nuclear-armed Iran believe the things they say.  If they do believe them, they're a whole lot less smart than anyone gives them credit for.  If they don't really believe them, which is far more likely, they are drumming up this threat . . . because they can?  I really don't know the reason.

For all I'm no fan of the Obama Administration's foreign policy, I am such for the exact opposite reason of his most vocal critics in the Republican Party: bellicose, too willing to use deadly force, too blase about the restraints allegedly imposed by the Constitution and International Law, and continuing the never-ending dream of America somehow magically a force in eastern Asia.  The ongoing nonsense about Iran is one of those things, in a slightly better world, that would just vanish like smoke.  Too many people with too loud voices, however, seem to have invested far too much in creating a threat where none exists.

That Romney has signed on to this fantasy should worry people who are paying attention.

Virtual Tin Cup

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