As the war in Iraq metastasizes into what General William E. Odom calls "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history," and the cost in lives and treasure continues to escalate, we are already being set up for Act II of the neocons‘ Middle East war scenario with the Democrats taking up where the Republicans left off.
The Bush administration, for all its bellicose rhetoric, has shown little stomach for directly confronting Tehran, and this has prompted Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to take on the Bushies for supposedly ignoring the alleged threat from Iran. Speaking at Princeton University on the occasion of the Wilson School’s 75th anniversary celebration, Clinton aligned herself with such Republican hawks as Sen. John McCain and the editorial board of the Weekly Standard, calling for sanctions and implicitly threatening war:
"I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don’t believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines. But let’s be clear about the threat we face now: A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses. U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot and should not must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In order to prevent that from occurring, we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations. And we cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons."
Never mind that Iran is 10 years away from actually producing a usable nuclear weapon, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate:
"Until recently, Iran was judged, according to February testimony by Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to be within five years of the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Since 1995, U.S. officials have continually estimated Iran to be ‘within five years’ from reaching that same capability. So far, it has not.
"The new estimate extends the timeline, judging that Iran will be unlikely to produce a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient for an atomic weapon, before ‘early to mid-next decade,’ according to four sources familiar with that finding. The sources said the shift, based on a better understanding of Iran’s technical limitations, puts the timeline closer to 2015 and in line with recently revised British and Israeli figures. The estimate is for acquisition of fissile material, but there is no firm view expressed on whether Iran would be ready by then with an implosion device, sources said."
This administration’s increasingly hysterical statements on the alleged "crisis," supposedly sparked by Iran’s resumption of its nuclear energy program, are as in the case of Iraq at variance with the judgment of the mainstream intelligence community. Once again, the Bamboozle Brigade a bunch of freelancing "experts," shadowy exile groups, foreign lobbyists, and a bipartisan collection of pandering politicians is mobilizing to gin up a war. These war propagandists, including Clinton, make only the most tenuous connection between American interests and the Iranians’ alleged forced march to acquire nukes. Instead, they make the argument in favor of ratcheting up the conflict with Iran in terms of the necessity of protecting Israel. Clinton’s speech is infused with this militant Israeli patriotism:
"The security and freedom of Israel must be decisive and remain at the core of any American approach to the Middle East. This has been a hallmark of American foreign policy for more than 50 years and we must not dare not waver from this commitment."
While Israel is an American ally, so are Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And don’t forget the newly installed "democratic" and supposedly pro-American government of Iraq. Israel "at the core" of U.S. policy in the Middle East? I don’t think so. Such an Israelicentric viewpoint, while not out of place in an Israeli politician, seems just a mite strange coming from an American even if she is a senator from New York. It ought to go without saying that the foundations of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East or anywhere else have to be predicated on purely American interests, and that the "core" of that policy has to be our own economic well-being, which is inextricably linked to the stability of the region.
Do we really want to see the price of oil skyrocket to over $100 a barrel? Is it really in our interests or the interests of the Europeans, for that matter for Iranian oil assets to be tied to the Euro and other currencies, rather than the dollar? The economic consequences of either eventuality are potentially disastrous for the United States, and yet that is what the reckless Clintonian policy of confrontation with Iran would entail. Unfortunately, however, the grip of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. is so firmly locked around the necks of certain politicians that any rational discussion of what serves our interests not Israel’s is next to impossible.
It is the task of Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. to convince the American public, and especially to prevail upon their elected representatives, that Israel’s interests and our own always coincide. The propaganda campaign launched to convince us that Iran’s president is the next Saddam and Tehran is deserving of a little regime-change assumes this, and the Clinton speech is a prime example: "A nuclear Iran," she avers, "is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond" an interesting order of priorities, to say the least. She doesn’t bother making any explicit connection between the pursuit of American interests and this relentless campaign to demonize the Iranians: it is enough that Tehran poses a potential threat to Israel. For Clinton, that alone is reason enough to go to war.
There is a disturbing quality to Clinton’s several reiterations of fealty to Israel: it isn’t only the numbing repetition and the brazen pandering, it’s also the matter-of-fact yet still hectoring tone, the assumption that only one position is possible:
"One cannot look at the Middle East today and not believe that there has been progress against great odds. Former sworn enemies of Israel are recognizing its existence, are even talking about ways of increasing trade, commerce, and diplomatic relations."
Surely there are more meaningful measures of progress in the Middle East than diplomatic and economic benefits accrued to Israel such as, for example, the growing movement in favor of democracy in the Arab world. But oh no, that wouldn’t do unless, of course, any such development is explained in terms of how Israel will gain. A narrower, more sectarian view of the Middle East would be hard to imagine.
Another of the War Party’s talking points on the Iran question is the argument that a conflict with Tehran is inevitable, a tack taken by the Clinton-Lieberman wing of the party in seeking to outflank the Republicans on the Right while placing the blame squarely on Bush’s shoulders: "Part of the problem," says Clinton, is Iran’s "involvement in and influence over Iraq." Yet she has never voiced regret for her vote in favor of the resolution authorizing the invasion that brought the pro-Iranian Shi’ite coalition government to power far from it. For her to decry Iranian influence in "liberated" Iraq, on the one hand, and to continue voicing opposition to the John Murtha out-pretty-soon-if-not-now position, on the other, is typical of her mealy-mouthed, passive-aggressive style of warmongering. Yet her position is nonetheless clear. Instead of getting out, she wants to use Iraq as a base from which to threaten Iran:
"I do not believe that we should allow this to be an open-ended commitment without limits or end, nor do I believe that we can or should pull out of Iraq immediately. If last December’s elections lead to a successful Iraqi government, that should allow us to start drawing down our troops during this year while leaving behind a smaller contingent in safe areas with greater intelligence and quick-strike capabilities. This will help us stabilize that new Iraqi government. It will send a message to Iran that they do not have a free hand in Iraq despite their considerable influence and personal and religious connections there. It will also send a message to Israel and our other allies, like Jordan, that we will continue to do what we can to provide the stability necessary to prevent the terrorists from getting any further foothold than they currently have."
A "quick strike" against whom? And what could these "safe areas" be other than permanent military bases? Clinton is the first American politician to come out squarely in favor of building what amounts to launching pads for further aggression in the region. This is something even the Bush administration has been canny about, never acknowledging their clear plans to lay the groundwork for such bases. Not Hillary, however: she isn’t the least bit shy about her vision of consolidating and projecting American power all the way to Tehran and beyond.
She’s intent on out-neoconning the neocons a risky proposition, given the proclivities of her Democratic base, but one that she embraces, it seems, as a matter of high principle. If she’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, she should logically in the name of opportunism tilt left, i.e., toward the antiwar camp. Yet she is tilting rightward, or, at least, in a distinctly neoconnish direction: an indication that, in her own mind, she’s already the nominee.
Surely such arrogance deserves punishment.
Right now, the main political obstacle to the peace movement isn’t George W. Bush and the Republicans: they are plummeting in the polls, in part due to voter dissatisfaction with the way the Iraq war is going, and will be lucky if they can retain control of both houses of Congress in the next election. The main danger isn’t the GOP, it’s the DLC the Democratic Leadership Council, one of the main engines of the War Party’s influence over the Democratic elite. It is the DLC that has so far prevented the anti-interventionist wing of the Democratic Party from asserting itself at the national level. As the Clintonites, the Kerryites, the Kos-folk, and the growing antiwar caucus draw battle lines in the struggle for the soul of the party, the scene is being set for a new manufactured "crisis" over yet another "rogue nation" supposedly building "weapons of mass destruction." One of the first signs of this internecine fight is an effort by antiwar Democrats to challenge and oust Sen. Joseph Lieberman the most visible and vocal Democratic supporter of the Iraq war, and a longtime advocate of going after Iran in the upcoming party primary. One wonders, however, how these "Kossacks" will react to the increasing likelihood of Hillary as our commander in chief: although I would love to be proven wrong, my big fear is that, despite her Amazonian aggressiveness when it comes to foreign policy, these supposedly "antiwar" Democrats will find her Xena-like persona irresistible.