Monday, April 10, 2006

Wagging the Nuclear Dog

Paul Krugman writes about the story in The New Yorker about the administration’s plans for invading Iran:

Yes, he would.

Given the combination of recklessness and dishonesty Mr. Bush displayed in launching the Iraq war, why should we assume that he wouldn’t do it again?

Sabre-rattling is usually done when you want to convince the other guy that you will do something to them if they don’t comply with your demands. Anyone who watches “The Sopranos” knows that.

But it also means that you have to be ready to accept the fact that they will call your bluff and you are willing to do whatever it is you threatened to do. If this president is really willing to go to war with Iran, then we are in deep shit.

The Pentagon should always have contingency plans to defend this country against any invader. We know, for example, that they have, in the past, drawn up plans in case we need to invade Canada. (No kidding.) And given the circumstances of the world today, it might not be a bad idea to have some thought about what to do if Iran goes nuclear. But as so many people have pointed out, the pattern of this administration is achingly familiar:

As Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently pointed out, the administration seems to be following exactly the same script on Iran that it used on Iraq: “The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells Congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops.”

It is one thing to be prepared to defend the nation against our enemies. It is entirely something else to provoke them into a war.

As to why, Mr. Krugman offers this:

Why might Mr. Bush want another war? For one thing, Mr. Bush, whose presidency is increasingly defined by the quagmire in Iraq, may believe that he can redeem himself with a new Mission Accomplished moment.

And it’s not just Mr. Bush’s legacy that’s at risk. Current polls suggest that the Democrats could take one or both houses of Congress this November, acquiring the ability to launch investigations backed by subpoena power. This could blow the lid off multiple Bush administration scandals. Political analysts openly suggest that an attack on Iran offers Mr. Bush a way to head off this danger, that an appropriately timed military strike could change the domestic political dynamics.

Anyone who lived through the real cold war; not the detente of Nixon and Brehznev or Gorbachev’s glasnost, but the real “duck and cover” fall-out shelter “Fail-Safe” and “Dr. Strangelove” years, knows that the only thing that kept us from attacking each other was MAD — mutually assured destruction — and no one in their right mind either here or in the Soviet Union could accept the consequences. That lesson seems to have been lost for the sake of political dynamics, and the people who are running Iran have no such fear of the consequences.

When Bill Clinton was in deep shit over the Monica affair in 1998, he was accused by the Republicans of wagging the dog — attacking alleged al-Qaeda sites in the Sudan — to divert attention from his problems. Is George W. Bush wagging the nuclear dog for the same reason?