Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to deal with Iran

By Rick Morris

Rumors have run rampant for years now that the Bush administration plans an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities before it leaves office in January 2009. Certainly, the move by the mullahs to acquire nuclear weapons is a frightening one that should be focusing our energies on how best to protect our interests in the Persian Gulf.

But military intervention is not the only avenue open to us in the area. My longtime friend Scott Pullins has announced that his Pullins Report is part of a wide coalition dedicated to pursuing other means of addressing our very real issues with the regime in Tehran.

Ironically, while I'm a bit unsure as to the utility of free and unfettered talks with Iran right now, I support Scott's general efforts 100%. As with his stance on the treatment of detainees, I may differ with him here and there, but I think his general focus is exactly right.

He and I have traveled down parallel political paths, which helps me to understand and to support his present direction a bit better. We were both of college age at the end of the Cold War and we were both very hawkish given the realities of the day. Essentially, while shooting in that war was rare and generally confined to proxies (i.e. Vietnam, Afghanistan), it really WAS a war and we needed to be on a war footing when dealing with a grim enemy which hungered for nothing less than world domination. Ronald Reagan's method of confronting the Soviets directly, which was totally unprecedented, was appropriate and it worked -- and Scott and I supported him.

But we are now in a different time. The conservative movement long ago fractured into the (completely dominant) neoconservative wing and my paleocon wing. The neocons never moved from the "war footing" mentality and seemed well before 9/11 to be searching for any excuse to project American military might upon the world. For all the talk about how Eeee-Vil Republicans tried to destroy the Clintons with the impeachment saga, the neocons stood behind Bubba steadfastly as he wagged the dog with a completely unnecessary war in the Balkans in 1999.

George W. Bush, about whom I can honestly say I was skeptical from the very beginning given my aversion to Republican Establishment figures, came to office promising a humble, respectful foreign policy. But, as the cliche goes, "9/11 changed everything."

The foreign policy "realists" that Scott and I scorned in our youth were wrong then -- I will always believe that. But, given today's circumstances, they are right in this climate.

I have said on The FDH Lounge program that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each accomplished the same dubious action -- by opposite means. Clinton destroyed American deterrence in the '90s by turning a blind eye to each successive attack by bin Laden and establishing us as a paper tiger. Bush destroyed American deterrence by getting us bogged down in Iraq from the end of the first phase of the war in April '03 until he FINALLY delivered the surge in 2007 -- thus reestablishing us as a paper tiger after restoring our global prestige by winning swiftly in Afghanistan in late 2001. Imperial overreach and pacifism both lead to disaster and to America's enemies licking their chops.

The neocons are right in the very narrow sense about staying on the offensive against Al Qaeda worldwide and this is a job that our special forces should continue to be pursuing in every nook and cranny of the globe regardless of who gets elected president in November (although I'm admittedly scared that Barack Obama will not agree with this basic common-sense point). But starting full-on conflagrations against other governments without fully thinking through the consequences -- haven't we been here before? Every Deskbound Rambo who proclaimed in 2002-2003 that Iraq would be a cakewalk should be permanently prohibited from being taken seriously.

George W. Bush and Karl Rove, who openly dreamed of creating another longstanding Republican dynasty in the mold of William McKinley, have seen their dreams die in the sands of the Middle East much in the same way that Jimmah Carter's aspirations did. To the extent that their militaristic brand of neoconservatism is left to define the Republican party and the broader American Right, then the party and the movement will never recover. That's why, in addition to personal friendship, I support Scott's efforts as strongly as I do. The school of thought about what's best for this country, as well as the country itself, is too important to be left to the rotting corpse known as GOP leadership. Whether you support every individual thread of anti-neocon policy, it's time to get with the program and work for the clear best interests of this country. If opposition to rampant militarism is ceded to the peaceniks and pinkos, we all lose.


hass said...

Iran has suggested a perfectly reasonable solution to the standoff which is also widely endorsed by US and international experts: open Iran's nuclear program to foreign investment and participation so it can't even theoretically be secretly used to make nukes. However, the Bushists and the US media insist on ignoring this option and presenting us with a FALSE DILEMMA according to which we either must attack/sanction Iran or else Iranian nukes will come raining down on us. Why? Because the whole nuclear issue, like WMDs in Iraq, is merely a pretext for anothr policy entirely.

Rick Morris said...

Hass, given their track record, their own penchant for militarism and the statements from their crackpot president, I'm wary of just how transparent the Iranian efforts can or will ever be. I think it's safe to say that you have more faith in those areas than I do, although I do agree that non-military means to settle the situation have to be absolutely exhausted. By the way, let me point out that we are not keeping our hands clean militarily if Israel ends up starting a war, because it should be clear to anyone that they won't be acting without our encouragement and covert assistance. Using an independently-motivated proxy to get the job done will fool nobody.