Saturday, 7 January 2012

Adult intervention, please

Bipeds are a sorry race, but theistic bipeds are more trouble than a bag of cats. Put GOP Bible-thumpers on one side and Iranian mullahs on the other, and—no, better yet, don’t put them anywhere near each other.

With the chattering classes all agog about the Republican nutbag de jour, we are in serious danger of being blindsided by a new war that few really want but that nobody is capable of stopping.

Belligerent rhetoric about Iran and its nuclear capabilities has ratcheted up in recent weeks and is now reaching dangerous levels, boosted by the irresponsible threats from the candidates and the crazy excess influence of the Israeli lobby on our political machinery.

It’s clear Israel wants to pull the United States into an attack on Iran, and that’s an understandable short-term goal, albeit suicidal in the long run. But what is truly astonishing is that after the somewhat less than glorious chapter of the Iraq war—also heavily boosted by Israel— is scarcely concluded, the politico-military establishment can think another war in Asia is a good idea for our country.

The Iranians, not known for prudent moderation, have been pumping up the counter-threats and have succeeded in driving up the price of oil through generating nervousness about what might happen if their country is attacked. Although we can read optimistic accounts
of how well the West is prepared to deal with an interruption of crude from the Gulf, our creaky economic recovery is in no condition to sustain a sudden spike in the price of gas.

An outbreak of hostilities in Iran would almost certainly drive up prices at the pump at least temporarily, slamming consumer pocketbooks just as the presidential election fight begins in earnest. That alone might make Obama cautious about green-lighting Israeli adventurism, but our current president has not distinguished himself by his resistance to the escalating demands of the Israeli ‘ally’.

The trouble with beating the war drums is that the situation can suddenly escape the control even of those in charge. The biped masses can be stirred up, but they can’t always be calmed down quite so easily.

There is a fascinating tale, by way of example, from the Falklands/Malvinas war where the Argentine generals suddenly realized that they could not retreat in their confrontation with the British colonists and had backed themselves into a corner requiring the ill-fated invasion of the islands. This was a vicious military dictatorship that casually picked up dissidents and tossed them out of helicopters, but even they were powerless in the face of the aroused populace baying for blood.

This time, Obama has a moral duty to exercise statesmanship and refuse to let his country be dragged into a war that is counter to its long-term interests. He may be making electoral calculations and looking for a way to keep everyone happy, but war is not something upon which it is possible to split the difference. There is no middle ground between war and not-war; you either do it, or you don’t.

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