War, the great American pastime.
Forget baseball; forget apple pie. Our country is no longer one that bonds over a shared language, religion, ethnicity, or tradition. No, what brings Americans together more than mass consumerism is a foreign hobgoblin that threatens our way of life.
How great is it then for the national spirit that many political figures in Washington are agitating for war with Iran? And how ironic is it that many of the bellicose voices are self-styled conservatives? I say ironic because the drumming for war is based not a direct threat but what Philip K. Dick called “precrime.” And the right-wingers imposing their precrime verdict of guilt on Iran are giving in to liberal ideology. If they continue, conservatives will only fuel the ambitious progressive agenda of eliminating free choice in everything from gun rights to health care. Oh, and they will lead us down the warpath in the Middle East again. Because we totally need another costly quagmire in the land where people can’t stop blowing each other up.
Let’s review. In the wake of a prospective deal with Iran over its nuclear program, Republicans are foaming at the mouth decrying the bargain. President Obama, they say, is unwittingly becoming the new Neville Chamberlain (there must be some variant of Godwin’s Law that that applies to Chamberlain references). They also allege Iran is a state run by full-fledged fanatics who want to commit suicide by threatening Israel and the West.
Most importantly, Republican critics of Obama’s approach to Iran are frightened that the country could launch nuclear strikes on our allies. Years back, Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz called for the immediate bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities to stop it from triggering “a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East.” Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and possible 2016 presidential candidate John Bolton echoed the threats recently in the New York Times. The logic of Iran setting off a race to build nukes in the turbulent region is, Bolton wrote, “straightforward.” Virtually every conservative publication, from National Review to Breitbart, say the current deal is bad, that Iran cannot get a bomb under any circumstances, and that Obama is ushering in a new dark age of humanity.
The problem with this logic is that it resembles the same rationale liberals use to confiscate guns and big gulps. Conservatives are up in arms over the Iran deal because they think it’s not strong enough to ensure the mullahs never get a nuclear bomb. Liberals don’t want people owning guns because they are worried they’ll be used to commit mass shootings. It’s a difference with little distinction. And this is especially true considering Iran is not as irrational or insane as conservatives think.
As for the pending deal, I’ll make some concessions. Currently, the agreement has Iran stopping the enrichment of uranium and accepting international inspectors into the country in return for a lifting of sanctions. But let’s accept the fact that Obama is by and large an effete leader. He’s no Ronald Reagan or John Kennedy. His negotiating style is self-obsessed; convinced of its superiority in the face of opponents. Will Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei take him seriously? Or will he pursue a bomb clandestinely, even after signing on to an internationally-binding deal?
Let’s assume he continues the quest for a nuclear weapon to balance out the power structure in the Middle East. Conservatives, including a fair number of presidential aspirants, worry that the mullahs will use nukes to antagonize Israel and other nations. This, I concede, is a legitimate worry considering past comments made by Iranian leaders. The regime isn’t funding militant proxies in the region for fun.
But does the hypothetical threat of a nuclear Iran justify so much aggression? Iran commits many deplorable actions, but then so does the United States government. Both states want to increase the sphere of their influence. That’s bad, but such is the nature of governments.
To fret over an armed Iran, and to constantly proclaim it will send western civilization into a nuclear winter, is little more than liberal scaremongering. The threat being trumpeted is also highly overblown. The very second Iran makes a play at attacking Israel, it will be bombed back into Genesis. Pat Buchanan is right when he says former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in power for eight years. Through all his blusterous talk about annihilating Israel (some of which was mistranslated), he ended up doing nothing. Perspective on rhetoric and action matters when it comes to war.
In an interview with Sean Hannity, Buchanan pulled no punches in the hysteria Republicans are perpetuating when it comes to Iran. “I’m not scared of Iran for God’s sake,” he told the host. “[Israel’s Prime Minister] is sitting on 200 atom bombs and he is fretting over Iran, which hasn’t even produced weapons-grade uranium?” Buchanan finished by asking “the United States could finish off Iran in an afternoon. What are you frightened of Sean?”
What is the U.S. seriously frightened of when it comes to Iran? The country is nearly three times the size of Iraq. But it wouldn’t take much effort to blow the thing into smithereens. Why are we spending so much damn money on the biggest military in the world if we have to always threaten ground invasion to get anything done?
Frankly, I don’t know what the solution is to Iran and the bomb. Military invasion is too costly for a country with a $18 trillion debt. A bombing campaign would inevitably result in the death of innocent civilians. Sanctions typically hurt the lower and middle class, rather than deter officials in power. Iran has been living under tough sanctions for years, and has continued to pursue a nuclear weapon. I’m skeptical that more economic hardship will be effective.
Above all, I don’t want to see Iran with a nuke. Similar to President Reagan and the Catholic church, I believe nuclear arms are a crime against humanity and God. The idea of one nuclear-armed state compelling another to not obtain its own nuclear weapon is disconcerting. Even so, if the deal hatched by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry works, then happy day.
Like Brutus wanting to kill Caesar to save Rome from a potential tyrant, conservatives are treading down the same path when it comes to Iran. They are rightfully worried about what another nuclear-armed state will do in the Middle East. But the timorous, desperate manner that they are using to intimidate Iran is on par with hysterical liberalism. A dangerous precedent is being set.
The most heinous crime – a nuclear strike that kills scores of innocents – is nowhere on the radar for Iran. We’re arguing about things that have not yet come, and might not come. The last time that happened, Saddam Hussein’s government was felled, and a power vacuum took its place. Our reward is the Islamic State conquering vast swaths of Iraq. So thanks for that, Republicans.
Right now, the Iranian military is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS. The country is struggling to maintain its influence in a part of the world that is legion with extremists who have their own radical agendas. Add to the mix the fact that Washington excels at mucking things up, the prospect of deterring Iran seems nigh impossible without direct military confrontation. Maybe conservatives should take that lesson to heart before suggesting we have yet another ground war in the Middle East.