M.J. Rosenberg has an article on TPM Café chastising certain (unnamed) Democrats for refusing to take war with Iran off the table. As an individual, scholar, writer, and voter I am adamantly anti-war. However, this in no way should imply that I am anti-conflict. It remains to be seen whether this conflict with Iran must turn violent. Yet I am willing to concede that inaction could prove far more costly – especially when such passivity stems not from measured and meritorious arguments, but in significant part from hatred and distrust of the executive branch.
A couple of months ago, I was trapped in a small waiting room while the great city of Dublin judged the roadworthiness of my latest clunker. A small television set babbled away in the corner and, like any good American automaton, I was powerless to avert my eyes. In a cruel twist of providence, this turned out to be one of those unfortunate rare occasions where our president had escaped his cage and was seen wandering loose in the White House press room.
The big news item that week was the administration’s claims to have tied Iranian arms to IED’s in Iraq. One reporter was challenging the evidence that the Iranian government had anything to do with the items showing up in the neighboring country. I remember chuckling to myself that this seemed like a far more disturbing alternative – the only thing worse that an erratic government is an unstable government. And at that very moment, the sky opened, the seas turned to blood, and a torrent of frogs rained down – while Bush verbalized (albeit in choppy, semi-articulate idiom) the very essence of what I had just been thinking.
At this point I blacked out for a moment and only vaguely remember switching seats while the janitorial staff got to work cleaning my brains off the wall. Yet it was certainly a moment of clarity for me to realize that, while I firmly oppose the administration’s march to war, this had little to do with my feelings about Ahmadinejad’s government. George W. Bush may be dangerously incompetent, but that is an entirely different matter than a Tehran which has repeatedly flouted international weapons laws, chronically violates human rights, is regressively curtailing the rights of women, has inserted further chaos into an already disastrous Iraq, and maintains active calls for Israel’s annihilation.
None of this is meant to refute Iran’s right to nuclear energy (to which they are certainly entitled) nor their right to retain sovereignty over political decisions within the bounds of acceptable human rights standards (which remains questionable). Yet, much like our own, the Iranian government is firmly under the control of conservative zealots who are aggressively asserting their perception of relative power in the regional and global theaters. In my humble opinion, they certainly don’t represent the kind of menace that must be met with preemptive violence, but I am equally convinced they pose a threat to domestic and international stability that must be dealt with swiftly and certainly.
Yet after six years of dichotomous framing by the Bush administration, even ordinarily clear-headed thinkers like Rosenberg find themselves unable to see beyond the boolean absolutes of ‘war’ and ‘not war’. In fact, very few people are posing the question of why we cannot recognize that Iran poses a viable and rational threat without automatically signaling our support for military intervention or the totality of administration policies. The reason for this is clear – when the Snow/McClellan/Fleischer du jour gaggles that “all options are on the table,” we all know they are actually considering both options (which, for them, appears to be one too many) and, with the complicity of a lazy mainstream media, a national debate emerges in which alternate options cease to exist.
This administration has gambled recklessly with our good faith and dragged us into a mess from which we may never entirely emerge. They have proven themselves dishonest, feckless, and incompetent in the conduct of their elective invasion and, no matter how threatening Tehran may become, I could not imagine a single scenario under which I would support Bush’s leadership in yet another invasion. I doubt I am alone. Yet like children, we seem prepared to ignore Iran’s growing threat for as long as Bush remains in office. And for me, there is no more compelling reason to bring impeachment back to the table. While I will continue to oppose aggressive and violent countermeasures under a new administration, I could at least find comfort in a country finally able to look past this despised president and resume a rational and inclusive dialogue on the very real problems we must face.