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Thursday, March 09, 2006

the war will not be pre-owned

First, a shout out to reader M.E., who sent a grad student our way for editing work. Remember friends (he said in dulcet tones), rwg communications does heavy editing, proofing, research, and other writing tasks. As the deadlines get closer for turning in dissertations, those wanting quick, thorough editing should definitely contact us. Write us at rgathman@netzero.net

Second… well, this is difficult. In 2003 and 2004, there was one belligeranti we loved to kick around above all others: Christopher Hitchens. Gradually, we lost interest, however – Hitchens as a propagandist ate into Hitchens as an essayist until the writing was all hollowed out. Mental corruption is as bad for a certain sort of writer as termites are for a wood framed house.

But we do have to recommend the article in Slate, since it represents the position on Iran (détente) that we have advocated at this little blog since we started. It even shows an admirable awareness that there actually is such a thing as a future. LI’s position is that the American irrelevance in Iraq -- a situation over which it has long had no control, – is ultimately dangerous, insofar as America is a very aggressive superpower. While the disconnect between real American powerlessness and the delusion that America is doing the moving and shaking in the Gulf has so far been papered over by the almost supernatural blindness of D.C., reality has a way of biting you in the ass in these situations. Our opinion is that the immediate withdrawal of American troops must be coupled with broader, radical changes in Middle Eastern policy. The one most necessary is to accept reality. The regional position of Iran as the strongest of the Shiite powers now stretching from Iran to Lebanon is reality. Another reality is that U.S. policy has systematically and perversely aided the Islamic revolutionary parties in Iran.

We were pleasantly surprised that Hitchens ends his article about Iran with this image:

“So, picture if you will the landing of Air Force One at Imam Khomeini International Airport. The president emerges, reclaims the U.S. Embassy in return for an equivalent in Washington and the un-freezing of Iran's financial assets, and announces that sanctions have been a waste of time and have mainly hurt Iranian civilians. (He need not add that they have also given some clerics monopoly positions in various black markets; the populace already knows this.) A new era is possible, he goes on to say. America and the Shiite world have a common enemy in al-Qaida, just as they had in Slobodan Milosevic, the Taliban, and the Iraqi Baathists. America is home to a large and talented Iranian community. Let the exchange of trade and people and ideas begin! There might perhaps even be a ticklish-to-write paragraph, saying that America is not proud of everything it is has done in the past—most notably Jimmy Carter's criminal decision to permit Saddam to invade Iran.
The aging mullahs might claim this as a capitulation, which would be hard to bear. But how right would they be? The pressure for a new constitution and genuine elections is already building. Within less than a decade, we might be negotiating with a whole new generation of Iranians. Iran would have less incentive to disrupt progress in Iraq (and we should not forget that it has been generally not unhelpful in Afghanistan). Eventually, Iran might have a domestic nuclear program (to which it is fully entitled and which would decrease its oil-dependency) and be ready to sign a nonproliferation agreement with enforceable and verifiable provisions. American technical help would be available for this, since it was we who (in a wonderful moment of Kissingerian "realism") helped them build the Bushehr reactor in the first place.”

While this fantasy of Bush doing the rational thing is unlikely (and the rapid rewiring of zombie brains, if this ever really happened, might lead to thousands of fatalities in the U.S.), it points to what should happen in the Gulf. The U.S. has taken a position – that Iran basically isn’t there, and that a fantasy Iran of our making is a-comin’ round the corner – that is a non-position. It is a classic instance of neuroses on the mass scale. And so, to go back to reality – to surrender – the U.S. will have to weave around it another fantasy. But it can very easily be done (as the promoter who nearly fell on the floor says in Highway 61). Nixon’s surrender in going to China is the great model.

And – just to get the taste of an approving link to Hitchens out of the LI mouth – we’d also recommend going to Jefferson Morley’s article about the Iranian media group, Rooz Online. We hope our friend Brooding Persian writes about this soon.

And finally, re the current climate of tension -- LI believes that the way in which to understand the Bush administration is to follow the lack of sacrifice. This is why we don't much believe the idea that the U.S. is invading, or even bombing, any time soon. To think that Americans are going to welcome another war, and a hike in the price of their gas by at least a dollar a gallon, even as the hurricane season this summer plays dice with more American cities -- well, we think the odds are against it. And while the Rebel-in-Chief is delusional, about the need for no sacrifice he is very realistic. If he can find some way to pre-own the war, to mount it without any immediate sacrifice, even if it means borrowing another trillion bucks -- he'd do it then in a heartbeat. But I don't think this war will be pre-owned.

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