Friday, July 25, 2008

We're not going to war with Iran

Something people have been saying for a looong time is that we're going to go to war with Iran under George W. Bush. For almost as long, I've been writing on other blogs and probably on my own blogs as well that we're probably not. It turns out, I've been right, and as time passes, no matter how many rumors surface that are supposed to indicate that the war is imminent, we haven't attacked Iran. It seems like there have been at least five different happenings (but many more articles and blog posts analyzing them, mind you) over the course of Bush's presidency that were supposed to indicate that war was imminent.

To some extent, it's kind of common-sense that we weren't going to go to war with them. Our military is already over-stretched, and doing the kind of stuff people thought the neocons wanted to do with Iran (regime change) sounds like a bigger job than just a handful of bomber and fighter jets can handle on their own. Iran is not a match for us militarily, but it's an organized state with a modern standing army-- a lot bigger deal than the Taliban in Afghanistan were. And of course, if the kind of occupation we are doing in Iraq was necessary in Iran, we don't have the people to do that without pulling out of Iraq, Iran being a similarly-sized country to Iraq and the number of potential trouble-makers in Iran (elite military personnel and so forth) probably large.

But how far does this point go? Clearly (it seems to me, anyway) the neocons and the conservatives want to attack Iran. It's just that attacking Iran is not a costless move we can do without worry whenever we want, in light of what we're already committed to in Iraq.

Here's my deeper analysis: the conservatives want to attack Iran, but they feel like they can't / shouldn't do it until the Iranians make a "first move"-- something bigger than just supporting terrorism in Iraq (if that's really going on). And all those stories we've been hearing in the media, all those rumors? Simply saber-rattling, fabricated, leaked and promoted by the conservatives to catch the Iranians' attention. I think this could be a two-fold game: this administration really wants part of their legacy to be taming Iran. So, if Iran gets scared, on the one hand maybe they'll make a lot of concessions to Washington, which for the neocons and Bush isn't bad. On the other hand, maybe they'll get so scared that they'll pull off some kind of an unprovoked attack to try to intimidate us, or just out of frustration, which for the conservatives is probably the preferred outcome-- they get to "prove" to the American public that all the stuff they've been saying since 9/11 really is true, and that our country faces a rogue's gallery full of super-villains who can't help trying to attack us and our interests at every bend in the road. The public (not perceiving that Washington worked diligently to provoke the attack on whatever innocent victims unfortunately get hit) will cheer the Republicans as they swoop in to drop some bombs on the Iranians, and vote for more of the same in upcoming elections. Maybe the cost in innocent lives after a "regime change" and Iraq-like turmoil won't be less than whatever oppression Iran would have done on its own if we hadn't messed with them, but the Republican strategy is not about what's best for people in the long-run-- it's about immediate, short-term boosts to Republican popularity that will infuse their party organizations with cash and hand them victories in immediately upcoming American elections.

This reminds me of another big saber-rattling thing we got ourselves involved in. During the Cold War, the conservatives talked a lot about the evils of communism. But they never really meant the oppression (at least, the conservatives' leaders didn't) which the conservatives think is totally alright, as long as they're the ones who are guiding the policy. They meant rich corporations and businessmen being robbed of their property. So, when the nations of eastern Europe got gobbled up bit by bit by the Soviets after WWII, we stood by and let it happen even though our military was superior, and even though back in those days the Soviets probably couldn't count on doing a lot to us with their atomic or nuclear weapons (and even if you read in books that the Soviets had plans to use their weapons in a war, that doesn't mean that they were really going to do it-- for one thing, it could mean that they wanted to have a plan to use their weapons just in case they decided to use them, and for another, it could mean that they wanted their plans to include use of the weapons, even if they thought they weren't worth it to use, just so it would make Western leaders more intimidated, and thereby deterred from starting a war, if they intercepted the plans through espionage). It didn't matter that all those people were going to be subjected to East Germany-style and Soviet-style oppression.

The people of almost all those countries hated Soviet rule-- Poland, East Germany, Hungary. But despite America's being a bunch of super-heroes, we stood by and let most of it happen for decades.

Then, when the war was over communism in Vietnam, and a lot of the people there wanted communism, and were willing to fight very hard and determinedly for it, we stepped in and fought because we knew the Russians and the Chinese weren't going to bother to get deeply involved! And when we pulled out, the conservatives got upset because they called it a "psychological" victory for the Soviet communists. Some "psychological" victory-- we made ourselves look bad and untrustworthy the world over by insisting on that war, and we were willing to fight when the fight was for oppression in Vietnam. When the fight was against oppression in eastern Europe, we mostly cooled our heels in America and the most we did were intelligence operations based from Germany- which may seem cool or impressive to some people, but if you look at the big picture, it was chump-change.

This isn't to say that things didn't turn out for the best because we avoided open conflict in Europe. I'm not convinced one way or the other about it. After a few decades, authoritarian communism fell in a lot of countries, and we didn't fight a potentially hugely hazardous open war over it. On the other hand, maybe if we'd shown a little more spine, we could have kicked them out of some of those countries sooner. But the real point is that despite our rhetoric, when the oppression is real it doesn't spur us to fight-- there are rich people's, politicians' and crazy ideologues' concerns that determine whether we get involved or not. And you can see the effect of it in how we go to war today, too-- that Iraq war was never planned or executed with the best interest of the people there in mind, to insure that they were safe and that their country got rebuilt and secured in the safest and most expeditious way for them. Hell, a lot of consideration for the safety of our own troops didn't even go into it. Instead the conservative civilian leaders acted as if they thought going to war in Iraq was a decision to make in a board game.