I have to apologize for being so intermittent regarding InstaHoglets lately, but my excuse is that I’ve spent the last week being highly exercised over the issue of Iran—writing furiously only to have to revise on-the-fly as time and events have unfolded.
What prompted my funk was an article published last week that Cernig concisely addressed (even as I was reading it) but did not expand-upon—he is, as we all know, a multi-tasker of the highest order with many issues demanding his attention.
I wanted to address the subject of the “Iran issue” more comprehensively in a single post. However my efforts to address how misguided I think “Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran” is, soon blossomed to twelve pages as research piled on top of new information faster than I could edit. So I’ve been forced (thankfully, actually) to split it up for my own sanity as well as the prospective reader’s.
Contrary to the assertions of the above-mentioned article's author that has inspired this post, in my estimation Bush has many more “reasons” to start a war with Iran than to avoid one—based on his history, his psychology and that of his closest advisors.
But I didn’t want to make my case as Clemons makes his—with suppositions and 'conventional wisdom'. And though I know the regular Newshogger readership is very well-informed and smart, I didn’t want to assume a friendly sympathetic attitude on their part and just fling statements of opinion around as Clemons does and expect them to be accepted as fact—to do so would be just an exercise in prejudiced argument, not a substantive debate on a very serious subject.
So with all this in mind I've had to "serialize" what was supposed to be a single post but which was turning out to be unweildly.
So Part 1 is the preamble, in which I demonstrate that Clemons’ arguments that Bush won’t attack Iran are demonstrably weak—by evidence he provides himself. no-less!.
In Parts II and III I will present further evidence that not only challenges Clemons’ “reasoning” but largely reverses his conclusions (hence the title of this serialized opus which actually conforms to its content, unlike Clemons’ confused essay and title).
I’d much rather that my estimation of Bush’s capabilities and intent were wrong and that Clemons’ were right. But I’m pretty sure that Cernig and I are closer to the mark of truth and probability than this expert and his coterie of Very Serious People. In my opinion we are as close to a war as we were in 2002/2003 and I think I’ve found many more arguments to support that view than Clemons and his ilk have to refute it.
My arguments and analysis start here:
Why Bush Can/Will Attack Iran—Part 1: The Preamble
Last week Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at New America Foundation and publisher of The Washington Note wrote an article for Salon.com titled “Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran”
“…his entire argument is based on the supposition that Bush is still listening to Rice, Gates and the realist foreign policy community more than to Cheney and the neocons. But he doesn't really address why he thinks that in his article, which leaves a gaping hole in his optimism” […] “I think Steve and the VSP's are flat out wrong to imagine Bush is listening to them.”That was my impression too (I think anyone whose been paying attention would agree with that). Cernig then concludes:
Cernig is right—his accumulated knowledge tells him so. The amazing thing about Clemons’ “analysis” is that he includes information that plainly refutes his rosy assertions and then completely ignores them! Just as bad, he makes sweeping statements that ignore well-known recent history and the public record, and finally he fails to include a host of other obvious factors that bear on this issue.
“Bush,being a bad poker player, is preparing to go all the way on a busted flush. The Cheneyite's constant Wormtongue advice, which extends all the way to computer models which "prove" America can win against Iran and still not hurt the economy, will prevent him realising he's got a losing set of cards. Eventually, the card-hand he slams down on the table will be that "last option".
Yet he’s apparently gained a good deal of acceptance of his opinion and arguments from such luminaries as Katrina van den Heuvel, Juan Cole, Christy Hardin-Smith, Joe Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan…
I respect many of these people but in this case they are all idiots. If Clemons is an example of “realism” in the foreign-policy world then we are all doomed. Cernig doesn’t always have the time to address such subjects as deeply as he’d like (and is well-qualified to do) so I’ve taken this one on. I cannot let this nonsense go unchallenged—it’s too damn important.
“…and writers at Newsweek, the Guardian, the New York Times, Raw Story, and Time Magazine, and a couple hundred other media commentators and bloggers have either generally agreed with my piece that Bush was not yet predisposed to bomb Iran or at least chewed on the notion”
Consider the title of Clemons’ analysis: “Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran.”
“In a telephone conversation with RAW STORY Wednesday, Clemons emphasized that he wasn't arguing that there wouldn't be an American conflict with Iran. Rather, he believes that Bush has opted not to strike Iran in a first-strike scenario.”So Bush will attack Iran if given an excuse! That’s not the same as “Bush Won’t Attack Iran”, is it? At the very least Clemons’ should have put “probably” in the title—that is the essence of his article after all, because as he “clarifies” Bush might still find a reason to attack Iran anyway.
This hardly smacks of the type of intellectual discipline one would like to see from a foreign policy expert discussing matters of war, does it? And it doesn’t say much for those luminaries he lists who apparently find him logical and rational either (unless he's lying--I haven't read their verbatim comments yet).
Furthermore whether Bush intends to directly initiate war or go to war based on some circumstantial opportunity is hardly the goddamn point, is it? Besides, Clemons (in a rare moment of rationality and with appropriate acknowledgement of history) still fears and warns that such an opportunity might be contrived—yet still claims “Bush Won’t Attack Iran”?!!
Yet all this passes as intelligent analysis amongst the cognoscenti, apparently — and I haven’t yet addressed the “arguments” he lays out in the body of his article.
What’s important about this is the influence of such opinions that are taken as gospel without proper examination. What Clemons is doing here is promoting (false) complacency about a hugely important subject based not on rational argument and disciplined research, but on some bizarre mix of romance, self-importance and intellectual prejudice. He’s dumbing-down the debate and he’s being intellectually dishonest and irresponsible about the biggest single issue since Iraq.
If the professional “smart” people say everything’s okay, what do we ordinary folk then have to worry about? Well that’s what got us into Iraq and all that has transpired since then. The scales have fallen from many eyes now but not apparently from the likes of the advisors and opinion makers who live in worlds that they shape according to whim and then present to the rest of us as reality, and brook no contrarian view. Well, screw that!
Instead of relying on paper credentials and the authority they supposedly impart to Clemons’ fatuous suppositions, I’m going to present logical arguments and concrete references to make my case.
This is not a matter of ego and being contrary to score points, it is a matter of great importance. If this sounds like a personal attack on Clemons, well it is—because he represents himself as an expert and an intellect and is apparently accepted as such in his circles, but by his own words and arguments is no such thing, in my opinion. I say that his analysis is self-indulgent opinion posing as considered experience. In an ordinary social setting such a disagreement has no great meaning, but with his connections and his pulpit it matters a great deal.
As far as I can see, he’s claiming that the man and administration that has initiated one war (Iraq) and two military occupations (Iraq and Afghanistan) in the space of two years will not then initiate another war, because rationally-speaking it would be just a bit too-much. He’s claiming that the man who calls himself “The Decider” and whose decisions have always been quickly-reached and aggressive, is now circumspect. He’s claiming that influences on Bush have shifted from action to contemplation.
All these claims require Clemons to set-aside contrary evidence and references that he himself provides, to dismiss much of the public record and to ignore perhaps more obscure but highly relevant information within his purview (yet still easily available)—which is why his assessment is so confused and so open to challenge, and why it must be challenged rather than blithely accepted.
Oh, and in the grand tradition of the irresponsible dirty f**king hippie bloggers I’ll be providing quite a few identifiable and reasonably reliable sources (links) to substantiate my opinions and analyses (unlike the VSP’s who are their own sources for relevant and valid information).
Part II gets into Clemons’ claims and arguments in more detail and how shallow they are. Part III gets into nitty-gritty relevant military issues and their geo-political influences that Clemons egregiously ignores. Part IV… will have to be a summation.
I owe an overdue InstaHoglets roundup. That is now my priority, but I plan to get the other parts of this post up over the weekend when hopefully you will all have time to read it through (if you want to ruin your weekend, that is!)