Category Archives: analysis

Bush’s Future Iran War Speech: Three Charges in the Case for War

Sometime this spring or summer, barring an unexpected turnaround by Tehran, President Bush is likely to go on national television and announce that he has ordered American ships and aircraft to strike at military targets inside Iran. We must still sit through several months of soap opera at the United Nations in New York and assorted foreign capitals before this comes to pass, and it is always possible that a diplomatic breakthrough will occur – let it be so! – but I am convinced that Bush has already decided an attack is his only option and the rest is a charade he must go through to satisfy his European allies. The proof of this, I believe, lies half-hidden in recent public statements of his, which, if pieced together, provide a casus belli, or formal list of justifications, for going to war.

Three of his statements, in particular, contained the essence of this justification: his January 10 televised speech on his plan for a troop “surge” in Iraq, his State of the Union Address of January 23, and his first televised press conference of the year on February 14. None of these was primarily focused on Iran, but the President used each of them to warn of the extraordinary dangers that country poses to the United States and to hint at severe U.S. reprisals if the Iranians did not desist from “harming U.S. troops.” In each, moreover, he laid out various parts of the overall argument he will certainly use to justify an attack on Iran. String these together in one place and you can almost anticipate what Bush’s speechwriters will concoct before he addresses the American people from the Oval Office sometime later this year. Think of them as talking points for the next war.


GOP Views Clinton As Virtually Unbeatable

What many conservatives regard as the nightmare scenario — President Hillary Rodham Clinton — is increasingly seen by veteran Republican politicians and strategists as a virtual inevitability.

In GOP circles, the Democratic front-runner is seen as so strong, and the political climate for Republicans so hostile, that many influential voices — including current and former lawmakers, and veterans of President Bush’s campaigns — have grown despairing. These partisans describe a political equivalent of the stages of grief, starting with denial, then resentment and ending with acceptance…

The flagging conservative morale about beating Clinton comes at the same time many Democrats regard the New York senator as newly vulnerable because of the competition she faces from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and skepticism she faces from activists opposed to the Iraq war. On the Republican side, there is a disconnect between grass-roots, red-state Republicans and the mostly Washington-based operatives who surround Bush. While conservative publishers and organizers have made a fortune off the loathing for Clinton among workaday Republicans, people around the president have always expressed a grudging respect for her wiles and willpower and have long warned that she would be a formidable national candidate.

Several top Republicans said the fears that Clinton could be a prohibitive favorite have contributed to overall blahs that activists feel about the GOP field. One presidential adviser said that Clinton dread was actually helping Republican leaders stomach candidates who might otherwise be unacceptable. “People are willing to sacrifice some of their ideological principles to win,” the adviser said.


Christianists on the March

After two years reporting on the movement for his new book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School and worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, warns that the Christian Right is the most dangerous mass movement in American history:

Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told his students that when we were his age – he was then close to 80 – we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

The warning, given 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and television evangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts toward taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global Christian empire. This call for fundamentalists and evangelicals to take political power was a radical and ominous mutation of traditional Christianity. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.



Related [from Harper's Magazine]:

The Oil-Addicted Ayatollahs

There may be only one thing dumber than getting addicted to consuming oil as a country — and that is getting addicted to selling it. Because getting addicted to selling oil can make your country really stupid, and if the price of oil suddenly drops, it can make your people really revolutionary. That’s the real story of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union — it overdosed on oil — and it could end up being the real story of Iran, if we’re smart.

…The shah used Iran’s oil windfall after 1973 to push major modernization onto a still traditional Iranian society. The social backlash produced the ayatollahs of 1979. The ayatollahs used Iran’s oil windfall to lock themselves into power.

In 2005, reported, Iran’s government earned $44.6 billion from oil and spent $25 billion on subsidies — for housing, jobs, food and 34-cents-a-gallon gasoline — to buy off interest groups. Iran’s current populist president has further increased the goods and services being subsidized.

So if oil prices fall sharply again, Iran’s regime will have to take away many benefits from many Iranians, as the Soviets had to do. For a regime already unpopular with many of its people, that could cause all kinds of problems and give rise to an Ayatollah Gorbachev. We know how that ends. “Just look at the history of the Soviet Union,” Professor Mau said.

In short, the best tool we have for curbing Iran’s influence is not containment or engagement, but getting the price of oil down in the long term with conservation and an alternative-energy strategy. Let’s exploit Iran’s oil addiction by ending ours.

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WashPo columnists sound off on the Libby case

Cheney’s Fingerprint?

The revelation yesterday that Scooter Libby acknowledged in November 2003 that he and Vice President Cheney may have talked in July about whether to tell reporters that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA further bolsters the theory that Cheney may be the prime force behind this whole sordid tale.  According to multiple reports, Cheney was talking about how to discredit Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, who was making trouble with his suggestion that the administration manipulated intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq.

A Failed Coverup

Why was the White House so nervous in the summer of 2003 about the CIA’s reporting on alleged Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger to build a nuclear bomb? The trial record suggests a simple answer: The White House was worried that the CIA would reveal that it had been pressured in 2002 and early 2003 to support administration claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and that in the Niger case, the CIA had tried hard to resist this pressure. The machinations of Cheney, Libby and others were an attempt to weave an alternative narrative that blamed the CIA.

Democracy-building is failing in Iraq, but it could work in Iran…

In his book The Persian Puzzle, Kenneth Pollack aptly frames the problem of Iran as a “race between two clocks.” One clock counts down the time until Iran enriches enough uranium to build a nuclear weapon. The other ticks off the hours remaining for its corrupt and dysfunctional clerical regime. The danger confronting the United States, Israel, and the world is that the alarm on the first clock seems set to go off before the alarm on the second.

A sensible way to think about policy toward Iran might be to consider ways to reverse the order—to stretch out the nuclear timetable while accelerating the demise of an Iranian government bent on proliferation. ..

At the moment, the Bush administration’s policy seems to be taken straight from the self-sabotage playbook—quite a thick volume when it comes to America’s relations with Iran. Were our goal to persuade the Iranian regime to hasten its nuclear race while binding it more closely to a weary and discontented populace, it’s hard to see how we could be advancing it more effectively.


The Man Who Hijacked The Straight-Talk Express: Why Chuck Hagel is the new John McCain


The old straight-talking, damn-the-talking-points John McCain, it is now clear, ceased to exist in the summer of 2004, when he put an emphatic end to four years of well-grounded chatter that he’d abandon the Republican Party and mount a Teddy Roosevelt–style Presidential bid as an independent.

Instead, Mr. McCain threw himself headlong into an effort to re-elect President George W. Bush—the same man he once charged with “twisting the truth like Clinton.” (And this was before the President had ever uttered a word about W.M.D. or uranium enrichment.) Public courtships of Jerry Falwell and creationism enthusiasts soon followed.

Mr. Hagel, meanwhile, has taken up where Mr. McCain left off, scorning his party’s high priests and relieving himself in their sacred temples. Now, the 60-year-old Nebraskan—like Mr. McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran—is edging toward parlaying that appealing independence into a Presidential bid.


Related: The Anti-War Republican Presidential Candidate? (politricks.mnp)

More Campaign ’08 News:

Today’s Iran News

Tom Friedman lays out the case for engaging Iran in today’s NYTimes. The piece suffers from his usual oversimplifications, but it raises some good points:

Country A actively helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and replace it with a pro-U.S. elected alliance of moderate Muslims. Country A regularly holds sort-of-free elections. Country A’s women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students and are fully integrated into the work force.

On 9/11, residents of Country A were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations. Country A’s radical president recently held a conference about why the Holocaust never happened — to try to gain popularity. A month later, Country A held nationwide elections for local councils, and that same president saw his candidates get wiped out by voters who preferred more moderate conservatives. Country A has a strategic interest in the success of the pro-U.S., Shiite-led, elected Iraqi government. Although it’s a Muslim country right next to Iraq, Country A has never sent any suicide bombers to Iraq, and has long protected its Christians and Jews. Country A has more bloggers per capita than any country in the Muslim Middle East.

Former neo-con Francis Fukuyama: The neocons have learned nothing from five years of catastrophe:

The US is hardly in a position to invade and occupy yet another country, especially one three times larger than Iraq. An attack would have to be conducted from the air, and it would not result in regime change, which is the only long-term means of stopping the WMD programme. It is hard to have much confidence that US intelligence on Iranian facilities is any better than it was in the case of Iraq. An air campaign is much more likely to build support for the regime than to topple it, and will stimulate terrorism and attacks on American facilities and friends around the globe. The US would be even more isolated in such a war than during the Iraqi campaign, with only Israel as a certain ally.

None of these considerations, nor the debacle in Iraq, has prevented certain neoconservatives from advocating military action against Iran. Some insist that Iran poses an even greater threat than Iraq, avoiding the fact that their zealous advocacy of the Iraq invasion is what has destroyed America’s credibility and undercut its ability to take strong measures against Iran.

Report: Iran schools feed pupils “war curriculum”

BRUSSELS, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Iran’s schools are nurturing a siege mentality in children with textbooks showing preparations for war and depicting Israel and the West as the enemy, an Israel-based think tank said on Tuesday.

One textbook gave 13-year-olds a basic overview of light arms while one early reader book depicted the murder of a Palestinian toddler by an Israeli soldier, a survey by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) found.

A New Castro?

An interesting article by David Rieff:

Policy analysts and pundits have been predicting for some time that the so-called unipolar moment, in which the United States stands unchallenged as the sole superpower, will soon come to an end. The debacle in Iraq has hastened this reckoning and sharpened the anxieties about America’s role in the world — perhaps especially among those who believe that the United States is a benign hegemon and that the real choice is between a Pax Americana and anarchy. But it is the recent conduct of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s firebrand president, that offers the starkest evidence yet of the changed circumstances that American policy makers are starting to confront around the world.


Update: Venezuela Poised to Hand Chávez Wide-Ranging Powers