Most rational people view the idea of the US going to war with Iran as downright insane. To create another horrific situation for the people in Iran similar to what the Iraqi people are currently undergoing would seem to be unthinkable to any humane person. But even for those lacking in such humanitarian impulses and who only think in terms of political calculations (especially when the suffering is borne by others), it still would not seem to make any sense. Here we have the US military bogged down and stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US government isolated internationally. Why would Bush take on Iran as well, knowing that it would, at the very least, alienate large segments of the Shia community in Iraq when it desperately depends on that group to prevent the anti-US insurgency initiated by largely by the minority Sunni groups to become a full-scale and widespread revolt which the US would be unlikely to withstand?
For these reasons, some suggest that the war of words against Iran is just that, talk, and that it is meant to find a scapegoat for the lack of progress in Iraq as well as keeping Iran on the defensive about its plans for developing its nuclear technology. That is the most optimistic explanation.
But we should not forget that the neoconservative forces that pushed for an invasion of Iraq have also been pushing for an actual attack on Iran. While a ground invasion of Iran is unlikely simply because the US does not have troops even for its missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, let along open a new front in Iran, these forces are advocating air strikes with the goal of destroying Iran’s nuclear power plants or even hoping to cause the overthrow of the Iranian government.
Gary Leupp, professor of history at Tufts University, examines how the rhetoric for an attack on Iran is being ratcheted up. Leupp quotes Gen. Oded Tira, chief artillery officer of the Israeli Defense Forces, as saying: “An American strike on Iran is essential for our existence,” so “we must help [Bush] pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party (which is conducting itself foolishly) and US newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue into a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure.” Tira urges the [Israel] Lobby to turn to “potential presidential candidates. . . so that they support immediate action by Bush against Iran.”
Neoconservatives like Michael Ledeen make the extraordinary charge that Iran has been at war with the US since 1979 when the US Embassy people were taken hostage and that thus an attack on Iran would merely be part of an ongoing war, nothing to be alarmed about. Of course, they avoid addressing the embarrassing question that if Iran and the US have been at war since 1979, then almost the entire administration of former President Reagan, including the father of the current president, is guilty of treason because they covertly supplied arms to Iran in the 1980s to fund their support for the Contras in Nicaragua.
The irony is that these are not the only groups trying to provoke a US attack on Iran. Adam Elkus argues that a 20-year plan published by al Qaeda theoretician Ayman al Zawahiri also gleefully seeks such an escalation by the US in the Middle East. The reason is that apparently Zawahiri is a great admirer of Paul Kennedy’s book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in which Kennedy says “Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter.” So the goal of al Qaeda is to lure the US into an even wider and deeper involvement in the Middle East, with the aim of bleeding it and weakening it.
By committing the US to shift to more and more military spending, Zawahiri sees the eventual destruction of the US from the inside and by itself, just the way the Soviet Union was undermined by its military adventures in Afghanistan and by trying to maintain military parity with the US during the Cold War.
Next: How the improving relationship with Iran was sabotaged.
POST SCRIPT: Cleveland Orchestra
On Sunday, thanks to getting tickets from a friend, I went to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform. The program consisted of Tchaikovsky’s overture to Romeo and Juliet and his first piano concerto, along with another selection from a composer I had not heard of.
The concert was magnificent and made me appreciate the fact that Cleveland has such a wonderful orchestra that performs in this beautiful Severance Hall right across the street from my office.
For those not familiar with this piano concerto, you can listen to the first movement here, performed by soloist Lang Lang, accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle.
Or, you can watch Monty Python doing just the famous opening bit in its usual silly manner: