Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TIME says Iranian War absurd, but likely

In case anyone still doubts Bush's plans in this regard, consider the following, from this week's TIME Magazine (subscription required):
On its face, of course, the notion of a war with Iran seems absurd. By any rational measure, the last thing the U.S. can afford is another war. Two unfinished wars--one on Iran's eastern border, the other on its western flank--are daily depleting America's treasury and overworked armed forces. Most of Washington's allies in those adventures have made it clear they will not join another gamble overseas. What's more, the Bush team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has done more diplomatic spadework on Iran than on any other project in its 51/2 years in office. For more than 18 months, Rice has kept the Administration's hard-line faction at bay while leading a coalition that includes four other members of the U.N. Security Council and is trying to force Tehran to halt its suspicious nuclear ambitions. Even Iran's former President, Mohammed Khatami, was in Washington this month calling for a "dialogue" between the two nations.

But superpowers don't always get to choose their enemies or the timing of their confrontations. The fact that all sides would risk losing so much in armed conflict doesn't mean they won't stumble into one anyway. And for all the good arguments against any war now, much less this one, there are just as many indications that a genuine, eyeball-to-eyeball crisis between the U.S. and Iran may be looming, and sooner than many realize. "At the moment," says Ali Ansari, a top Iran authority at London's Chatham House, a foreign-policy think tank, "we are headed for conflict."

Earlier in the piece, Time talked about orders that give the notion of imminent war substance:
The first message was routine enough: a "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1. But inside the Navy those messages generated more buzz than usual last week when a second request, from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), asked for fresh eyes on long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf. The CNO had asked for a rundown on how a blockade of those strategic targets might work. When he didn't like the analysis he received, he ordered his troops to work the lash up once again.

What's going on? The two orders offered tantalizing clues. There are only a few places in the world where minesweepers top the list of U.S. naval requirements. And every sailor, petroleum engineer and hedge-fund manager knows the name of the most important: the Strait of Hormuz, the 20-mile-wide bottleneck in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 40% of the world's oil needs to pass each day. Coupled with the CNO's request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.

No one knows whether--let alone when--a military confrontation with Tehran will come to pass. The fact that admirals are reviewing plans for blockades is hardly proof of their intentions. The U.S. military routinely makes plans for scores of scenarios, the vast majority of which will never be put into practice. "Planners always plan," says a Pentagon official. Asked about the orders, a second official said only that the Navy is stepping up its "listening and learning" in the Persian Gulf but nothing more--a prudent step, he added, after Iran tested surface-to-ship missiles there in August during a two-week military exercise. And yet from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran--over its suspected quest for nuclear weapons, its threats against Israel and its bid for dominance of the world's richest oil region--may be impossible to avoid. The chief of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), General John Abizaid, has called a commanders conference for later this month in the Persian Gulf--sessions he holds at least quarterly--and Iran is on the agenda.

Norman Solomon notes some media parallels in his piece on this today:
When the USA's biggest newsweekly devotes five pages to scoping out a U.S. air war against Iran, as Time did in the same issue, it's yet another sign that the wheels of our nation's war-spin machine are turning faster toward yet another unprovoked attack on another country.

...Now, warning signs are profuse: The Bush administration has Iran in the Pentagon's sights. And the drive toward war, fueled by double standards about nuclear development and human rights, is getting a big boost from U.S. media coverage that portrays the president as reluctant to launch an attack on Iran.

Time magazine reports that "from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran ... may be impossible to avoid."

The same kind of media spin -- assuming a sincere Bush desire to avoid war -- was profuse in the months before the invasion of Iraq. The more that news outlets tell such fairy tales, the more they become part of the war machinery.

The growing concern about an imminent war with Iran isn't limited to the left. In his column today, Pat Buchanan sounds an alarm of his own:
One school contends that the White House has stared down the gun barrel at the prospect of war with Iran and backed away. The costs and potential consequences ... are too high a price to pay for setting back the Iranian nuclear program a decade.

Another school argues thus: If Tehran survives the Bush era without dismantling its nuclear program, Bush will be a failed president. He declared in his 2002 State of the Union Address that no axis-of-evil nation would be allowed to acquire the world's worst weapons. Iran and North Korea will have both defied the Bush Doctrine. His legacy would then be one of impotency in Iran and North Korea, and two failed wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan - which will be in their sixth and eighth years.

Those who know him best say that George Bush is not a man to leave office with such a legacy. He will go to war first, even if no one goes along.

Buchanan offers a sharp reminder that Congress, not the President, should be the one to declare, or decline, war:
Today, President Bush does not have the constitutional authority to launch pre-emptive war. Congress should remind him of that, and demand that he come to them to make the case and get a declaration of war, before he undertakes yet another war - on Iran.

Before any air strikes are launched on Iran's nuclear facilities, every American leader should be made to take a public stand for or against war. No more of these "If-only-I-had-known" and "We-were-misled" copouts.

I hate to agree with Buchanan on anything, but when he's right, he's right. And I'm with him on wanting no more feigned ignorance from the hill. If they're more ignorant than us bloggers, they shouldn't be sitting on the hill, period.


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