THIS BLOG HAS MOVED AND HAS A NEW HOME PAGE.

July 19, 2006

The warmongers

(See part 1 and part 2 of this series.)

Most people are rightly appalled at the rapid escalation of war in the Middle East region, knowing that it will worsen an already bad situation. But not everyone is dismayed. Some people are actually pleased that this crisis has arisen.

It has to be recalled that it has long been the aim of the neoconservatives in the US to overthrow the governments of Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and replace them with regimes that are friendly to the US. This would give the US unparalleled control of the huge Middle East oil reserves, and strategic and military control of the entire region. For these people, the invasion of Iraq was seen as just phase one in this grand plan, to be rapidly followed by invasions of the other two countries.

Of course, that plan ganged agley in a major way in Iraq, with the Iraqis refusing to follow the script and play their designated role of being grateful for the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, throwing flowers at the US troops, and then allowing their country to be the staging ground for the attack on Iran. Iran, sandwiched between US forces controlling Iraq and Afghanistan, would supposedly fall like a ripe fruit.

As a result of this delay in advancing their agenda, these people have been chafing, even resorting to criticizing their former hero George W. Bush for delaying and essentially wimping out in the implementation of their grand plan. Neoconservative William Kristol, writing in the The Weekly Standard which he edits, says that as a result of not already taking military action against Syria and Iran "We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak."

Such people see the current conflagration in Gaza and Lebanon as providing a golden opportunity to get their grand scheme back on the fast track by widening the war. Already allegations are being made that Iran and Syria are behind the Hezbollah and Hamas forces and directly instigating them, and it is clear that the groundwork is being laid to justify attacking those countries, just like the fake allegations of Iraqi WMDs and Iraq-al Qaeda links were used to stampede the American public into supporting an ill-conceived, illegal, and immoral attack on Iraq. For these warmongers, creating a sense of crisis and urgency is important because when people get frightened, they don't think clearly and tend to turn towards authoritarian figures to 'save' and 'protect' them. The current state of hostilities in Gaza and Lebanon provides them with those conditions and they are quickly moving to take advantage of it. They know that advocates of negotiations and peace, both in Israel and elsewhere, have started to mobilize, and they want to quickly start these new wars soon before, god forbid, those groups start to have an effect and peace breaks out.

Glenn Greenwald describes the rhetoric used by warmongers such as William Kristol. He quotes Kristol saying:

The right response is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?

The eagerness of these people to go to war is palpable. Of course, the US military is already stretched thin, bogged down in Iraq, limited largely to its bases there, while a civil war takes the lives of numerous civilians. So even a person who supports widening the war might reasonably ask where Bush is going to get the troops to engage in two new battlefronts. After all, even if the US military able to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran by mostly using aerial bombardment, the most probable outcome are two more protracted insurgency and guerilla wars like the current one in Iraq. In fact, it is likely that the opposition in Iran will be even stronger than that faced in Iraq since the Iranian government is an elected government with considerable popular support, unlike the case of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The Iranian people have long memories and know that in 1953 the US overthrew its popularly elected government of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh and replaced him with the deeply hated Shah Reza Pahlavi. They are not likely to welcome a rerun.

Kristol dismisses this possibility with the breezy "Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement." And what form might these things that that he coyly refers to as "repercussions" take? He does not elaborate but developments in Iraq mean that we can easily guess. Perhaps another decade of fighting in Syria and Iran? Another hundred thousand civilian deaths and injured in each those countries? Destruction of the economies and infrastructure of two more countries, setting their development back a generation and leading to widespread impoverishment and anger? Tens of thousands more US troops dead and injured? Another trillion dollars used for the purposes of destruction or to enrich the military industry and its civilian hangers-on? But, for Kristol, all that would be worth it because we would be projecting to the world that the US is "strong." Is there no limit to this disastrous macho posturing, especially when it is others who are paying the price, never the speakers? Even George Will finds Kristol to be over the top, describing his comments as "so untethered from reality as to defy caricature." And yet, Kristol and other warmongers are always invited back by the mainstream media to propagate this kind of dangerous nonsense.

The answer to this puzzle of whether the US should expand the war to three fronts when it is already bogged down on the first one is quite simple. Another protracted war against Iran and Syria is not something that can be sustained and would not be the choice of any rational policy maker or military leader. This becomes especially so when the other, forgotten, front in Afghanistan, that supposedly 'successful' war which was supposedly 'won' in 2001, has opened up again with a resurgent Taliban becoming more aggressive and regaining control of territory it had once lost.

What worries me is that the neoconservatives might try to escalate the current crisis in order to drag the US into it despite such an action going against its own interests. One has to suspect that they hope that the use of nuclear weapons would be envisaged as a possible option to provide a quick end, as Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine.

As Greenwald says:

The mindless casualness with which such people blithely advocate starting a new war -- like it's no different that deciding what one will eat for dinner tomorrow -- is breathtaking. There is an influential and determined minority out there craving U.S. intervention in this war. They are searching for any means to expand the war in Iraq to additional countries, all as part of our Epic War of Civilizations, and given their past success in inducing the U.S. to invade Iraq, I think it's a mistake to assume that what they are advocating is too extreme and self-evidently disastrous to become a reality.

Stephen Colbert provides a quick compilation of pundits discussing how we are now in World War III. What is remarkable is how casually pleased they seem to be at this state of affairs. Their only point of disagreement seems to be whether we are at number III or IV. The reason they are so eager to hype this 'world war' label is that it frightens people, making them think that we are in apocalyptic conflict in which 'our' side must win or it would be disaster for humanity, when in actuality what we have is a regional conflict for which there can be political solutions. (James Wolcott skewers this overblown rhetoric in his inimitable style. Read his piece to get a laugh from an otherwise grim situation.)

While many people will be appalled at the idea of widening the conflict, there is one other particular group that is positively salivating at the prospect, and deliriously awaiting increased chaos and bloodshed. These are our old friends, those people who believe in the 'rapture' and think that the Armageddon that signals the second coming of Jesus should arrive any day now.

The signs of impending Armageddon are increased turmoil in the world, and so these people are ecstatic at the current turn of events. The Rapture Ready website had a forum titled "Is it time to get excited?" in which the people who posted were almost giddy with anticipation at the thought that the current round of bloodshed in the Middle East was the fulfillment of the rapture prophecy. That particular forum seems to have disappeared, perhaps because of the unwelcome attention it received from people making fun of it, but some of the discussion was captured and can be read here. Here's a sample: "I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!!" The commenter is also pleased that the Boston tunnel collapsed killing a religious woman, and is delighted at the terrifying storms that hit nearby areas. All these events, which others would regard as tragedies, are for rapture lovers good things, because they signal that Jesus is coming. "But, yes. . .it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited."

While it is tempting to dismiss and ignore such people as misguided crackpots, we must not forget that they represent a large fraction of the American people (with some estimates ranging as high as 44%) and provide mass support for the more cynical calculations of the neoconservatives. The neoconservatives and these Christian extremists may make an unlikely couple but they do represent a potent alliance that is a powerful driver for the madness of widening the conflict, and a significant obstacle to finding a peaceful resolution.

The drive for wider war in some quarters seems to have resulted in the complete abandonment of logic, such as can be seen in The New Republic magazine, which was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq and now seems to be equally enthusiastic in urging wider war. One does not know whether to laugh or cry at the subheading of an article by Michael B. Oren in the July 17, 2006 online edition that says "To prevent a regional conflagration, Israel should attack Syria" (That subhead has since disappeared but Brad DeLong caught it.)

It seems like we have actually fulfilled Orwell's 1984 prediction of someone seriously saying "War is Peace." The real test will be in seeing how many people believe it.

Next: The seductive illusion of power

POST SCRIPT: First hand account from Beirut

Cleveland Peace Action has published an email from Michael Provence, a Cleveland native who is a historian at UC San Diego and is spending a year at the American University in Beirut. He describes what is currently happening in Beirut, and his efforts to leave with his family. It is an eye-opening first-hand account, giving the kind of details that you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

In the course of his email, he says: "There is some talk that the Embassy may be sending an aircraft carrier 
from the Red Sea to evacuate us to Cyprus. The email notice they have sent out states that citizens will be required to sign a financial 
release and apparently pay for the helicopter ride to the ship." (my italics)

Apparently getting people to pay for their rescue is the law, irrespective of the level of danger and even whether the evacuee is alive or dead. The government, so profligate when it comes to spending money waging war on remote threats, and so cavalier about obeying the law in other areas, turns surprisingly frugal and law abiding when it comes to saving the lives of its own citizens from actual and imminent danger.

Trackbacks

Trackback URL for this entry is: http://blog.case.edu/singham/mt-tb.cgi/8867

Comments

Thanks for this post. I read late last night that Congress was putting pressure on the State Department not to charge US citizens for leaving Lebanon, so that may not happen.

Also last night, I found a blog posted by a Columbia University student at AUB:

http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/specialguests/2006/jul/18/blogging_from_beirut

One thing that seems to be forgotten in all of this talk of democratization is that the dominant political and religious forces in most of these countries are Shiite. The US needs to recognize that democratically elected governments in those places may well be antagonistic to western culture and governments, so while it would be nice to think of multiple parties, freedom of the press, and rights for women and minorities, it's really a case of "Be careful what you wish for."

Posted by Ross on July 19, 2006 09:35 AM

Of course! It's the neo-cons.

Coming up next blog post. How the neo-cons are responsible for Darfur.

Posted by dave on July 19, 2006 10:11 AM

George Will has apparently joined your head in the Middle Eastern sand entourage. Iranian nukes don’t matter, what scares you are neoconservatives and “Christian extremists.” Glad you’ve discovered the enemy. Will writes, "...if Assad's regime does not fall after The Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?"

Will surfaces amidst the same intellectual flotsam that circulates around liberal hot tubs. Any U.S. strike on Iraq, Afghanistan, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria or Iran would not represent "another war" but rather an attempt to clean up the same cesspool. To follow Will's line of logic, after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. should have refrained from fighting Germany or Italy because they represented different wars or an overextension of American resources. Will also suggests a containment strategy that allegedly worked against "Stalin and his successors." Containment led to the extermination of tens of millions souls and the enslavement of hundreds of millions more. Flawed from the outset, containment became a strategy of expediency after the Soviets and Chinese acquired the bomb. That is, until Reagan moved beyond containment. If the U.S. waits until Iran acquires nukes, containment may be our only option. Teheran's fanatics, however, may not be interested in a balance of terror, only wars of annihilation. A containment strategy would surrender the initiative to an intractable enemy and would only serve to convince the Islamic fanatics that we lack the will to defeat them. If we follow Will's defeatism, they may be right. Instead, Iran, by unleashing her cats paw, Hezbollah, has provided Israel and the U.S. with justification to scourge this threat from Beirut to Damascus to Teheran. The U.S. has the means, the question remains does she have the will and resolution to act? A ceasefire that leaves the Iranian/terrorist threat from Beirut to Teheran intact, will present only an illusion of peace. We will still get war, only later and with any enemy much bolder and stronger than today.

Posted by RPB on July 19, 2006 10:37 AM

Okay. First off, Iranian nukes aren't an existential threat to the United States. They simply do not have the capability to build enough to threaten a country the size of ours - nor are they ever liable to. Even if they do 'wish a war of annihilation', they'll have ten to twenty nuclear weapons of roughly 50kT yield each versus our what, four THOUSAND? That is so asymmetrical as to defy comprehension - we are an existential threat to the continued existence of Iran, but they are not nor are they even liable to be an existential threat to the United States.

Iranian nuclear weapons, however, are an existential threat to Israel. Even at lower yields and possessing their own nuclear deterrent, a successful nuclear attack on the state of Israel would be apocalyptic - there's simply nothing to hit BUT important targets.

What the worry is among Western policymakers is that Iran will use any possible nuclear threat to close the Straits of Hormuz to all traffic. With the balance of payments crisis that the United States is beginning to undergo, such a move would be highly damaging to the Western economy. Also, a nuclear weapon makes any state immune from American conventional preponderance - witness North Korea.

The last total war that America fought was against the Empire of Japan. I seriously doubt that anybody that remembers the major lessons of that conflict will ever accuse America of lacking the political will or even the ability to conduct such wars again. We don't need to prove it every time somebody shows up with policies we don't like. Just ask any elderly Japanese national for evidence.

Posted by Rian on July 19, 2006 11:19 AM

No existential threat to the U.S.? Only to Israel and the global economy. How comforting! Just a little global economic chaos and another Jewish holocaust. Wow! Iranian nukes means nukes in the hands of terrorists. How many well-placed detonations in major American, Canadian or European cities will it take to bring the house down? Meanwhile, the left will be calling for restraint and dialogue or citing the lack of evidence that Teheran was behind it. The left won’t even agree to defend American borders, let alone support a counterstrike. I agree that there are many Americans willing to deliver a deathblow should Iran strike, but they sure don’t reside on the political left. Nevertheless, why even give Iran the opportunity? Why mislead our adversaries as to our resolve. We did this with the Japanese. Are you waiting for another Pearl Harbor? Apparently so, since 9/11 didn’t convince you of the threat. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we think Americans possess the will to act. It’s clear the Islamic fanatics don’t think we do and if they are reading your blog, there’s nothing there to change their minds.

Posted by RPB on July 19, 2006 01:41 PM

First of all, we do a terrible job doing occupation duties. Giving an example of Japan after WWII is the past. Such things that were done to their civilian population cannot be done in the same way for our Iraqi friends, and especially for Syria and Iran.

Implementing US-style democracies in the Middle East will not work at all and in any case, it would require a permanent US presence just to keep the current government in power. They certainly do not want Israeli troops in Damascus or Tehran keeping the peace.

How would suggest the US go ahead with this diabolical plan? Hundreds of thousands of troops will be needed, should we drain every state's National Guard for such an operation? We may have to maintain at least 3 aircraft carriers in the Strait of Hormuz. How would North Korea react to the US concentrating all their forces in the Middle East? Do you really think Russia and China will do nothing if the US starts taking over the region?

The US has lost with their foreign policy. Bush should have gone there and told Israel to stand down, pushed for a strong reaction force to disarm Hezbollah instead of a weak UN monitoring force. Our superpower status is no longer considered to be "powerful" today. We squandered all of our goodwill that we have attained after 9/11.

Posted by James on July 21, 2006 01:44 PM

Okay. First off, Iranian nukes aren't an existential threat to the United States. They simply do not have the capability to build enough to threaten a country the size of ours - nor are they ever liable to. Even if they do 'wish a war of annihilation', they'll have ten to twenty nuclear weapons of roughly 50kT yield each versus our what, four THOUSAND? That is so asymmetrical as to defy comprehension - we are an existential threat to the continued existence of Iran, but they are not nor are they even liable to be an existential threat to the United States.

Iranian nuclear weapons, however, are an existential threat to Israel. Even at lower yields and possessing their own nuclear deterrent, a successful nuclear attack on the state of Israel would be apocalyptic - there's simply nothing to hit BUT important targets.

Posted by emlak on October 11, 2010 09:05 AM

Salim. First off, Iranian nukes aren't an existential threat to the United States. They simply do not have the capability to build enough to threaten a country the size of ours - nor are they ever liable to. Even if they do 'wish a war of annihilation', they'll have ten to twenty nuclear weapons of roughly 50kT yield each versus our what, four THOUSAND? That is so asymmetrical as to defy comprehension - we are an existential threat to the continued existence of Iran, but they are not nor are they even liable to be an existential threat to the United States.

Iranian nuclear weapons, however, are an existential threat to Israel. Even at lower yields and possessing their own nuclear deterrent, a successful nuclear attack on the state of Israel would be apocalyptic - there's simply nothing to hit BUT important targets.

Posted by oto emlak on February 25, 2011 02:23 AM