Thursday, February 01, 2007

Memo: global catastrophe imminent 

I suppose this is a memo to myself as much as anyone else. I suppose this is what it must have been like for the entranced spectators of government in the summer of 1914, when, as Hannah Arendt said, the bourgeois citizens of the world waltzed, glassy-eyed, into the inferno.

I'll quote what Josh Marshall says about all of this, not because Marshall is the best analyst of the situation, but because he is a reasonably smart, always careful and circumspect, and usually conventional liberal who runs a successful mainstream media operation which cannot afford to be inflammatory. His rhetoric of "national interest" and "America being able to survive the Iraq-disaster" are not the way I would put it. But that's why I'm quoting him: he's essentially a liberal establishment, pro-Israel type who is incredibly well-connected. If he is saying what he says below, it's because he has heard very bad things.


From the AP ...

Citing Iranian involvement with Iraqi militias and Tehran's nuclear ambitions,
the Bush administration has shifted to offense in its confrontation with Iran — building up the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf and promising more aggressive moves against Iranian operatives in Iraq and Lebanon.

The behind-the-scenes struggle between the two nations could explode into open warfare over a single misstep, analysts and U.S. military officials warn.

This is the preeminent, really the only question in American politics today: Do we want to go to war with Iran or not? With the escalating chaos in Iraq and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, is it in our interests or not to get into a shooting war with Iran? The debate over the 'surge' of US troops into Baghdad is significant in its own way, but it pales in comparison to this one.

I've always viewed the fears that the White House would try expand the war into Iran with a mix of deep skepticism, fascination and latent foreboding. Logically, it makes no sense on any number of counts. But the last half dozen years has taught us all that that's simply not a significant obstacle. There are any number of ridiculous gambits I was sure these guys wouldn't try before they did try them.

Again, the 'sensible' interpretation of what's happening right now is that the administration is trying to regain control of the situation in Iraq. And to further that aim they're rattling their sabres at Iran to get them to back off and stop making trouble. That's the sensible explanation. But we're not dealing with sensible people. And much more important, the folks who are running this show are simply too stupid to be trusted to execute such a delicate and perilous feint.

I don't mean they're dumb people. I'm sure they have high IQs. Most went to prestigious universities. They have lists of accomplishments. But the record of the last six years shows so many mistakes, such a record of incapability and incompetence, so many misjudgements, screw-ups and boners that there's no other suitable word.

Through plan or imbecility (and most likely, given who were talking about, both) they're drifting toward war with Iran.

As I wrote last night, I think the new campaign of anonymous leaks suggesting Iranian involvement in the Najaf raid has rather less than no credibility. But even if you assumed, for the sake of discussion, that it were tied to, say, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and that (as the narrative goes) the attack was retaliation for the Erbil raid on the Iranian consulate, that still would not change the question we face: is it in our national interest to go to war with Iran or not?

Everything flows from the answer to that question. Tits for tats or who started what fade into the background. If the answers no, we should be calibrating our actions to avoid such an outcome, not taking actions likely to provoke it. We need a regional plan to walk this mess back from the brink rather than simply yanking every thread on this already frayed fabric and watching it disintegrate in front of us.

We've heard a few squawks and warnings from members of Congress. But now is the time for members of the House and the Senate to get serious about asserting some control over this rapid descent.

I've said this before. But perhaps it seems like hyperbole. So I'll say it again. The president's interests are now radically disjoined from the country's. We can handle a setback like Iraq. It really is a big disaster. But America will certainly surive it. President Bush -- in the sense of his legacy and historical record -- won't. It's all Iraq for him. And Iraq is all disaster. So, from his perspective (that is to say, through the prism of his interests rather than the country's -- which he probably can't separate) reckless gambits aimed at breaking out of this ever-tightening box make sense.

Think of it like this. He's a death row prisoner concocting a thousand-to-one plan to break out of prison. For him, those are good odds. The rest of us are doing three months for disorderly conduct. And he's trying to rope us into his harebrained scheme. Like I said, his interests are very different from ours.

Speak up. We're on the edge of the abyss.


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