Beating the War Drums in Versailles on the Potomac

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Photo by Mark Thompson

On 12 December, I described a concatenation of warmongering pressures that were shaping the popular psyche in favor of bombing Iran.  Now, in a 21 December essay, Steven Walt describes a further escalation of these pressures — in this case, via the profoundly flawed pro-bombing analysis, Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option, penned by Matthew Kroenig in January/February 2012 issue of the influential journal Foreign Affairs.

One would think that our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and our growing strategic problems in Pakistan, not to mention our economic problems and political paralysis at home, would temper our enthusiasm for launching yet another so-called preventative war.  But that is not the case, as Kroenig’s analysis and the growing anti-Iran hysteria in the debates among the the Republican running for president show (Ron Paul excepted) show.

Moreover, President Obama’s Clintonesque efforts to triangulate the pro-war political pressures of the Republicans, while appeasing the Israelis, may be smart domestic politics in the short term, but they add fuel to the pro-war fires shaping the popular psyche. Finally, as I wrote last January, lurking beneath the fiery anti-Iran rhetoric are more deeply rooted domestic political-economic reasons for promoting perpetual war — reasons that have more to do with sustaining the money flowing into the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex in the post-Cold War era than in shaping a foreign policy based on national interests.

While it is easy to whip up popular enthusiasm for launching a new war, our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that successfully prosecuting wars of choice are quite another matter.  Nevertheless, as my good friend Mike Lofgren explains in his recent essay, Propagandizing for Perpetual War, devastating rebuttals like Walt’s are likely to have little effect on the course of events.

One final point … a surprise attack on Iran would trigger a far tougher war to prosecute successfully that either Iraq or Afghanistan.  If you  doubt this, I suggest you study Anthony Cordesman’s 2009 analysis of the operational problems confronting Israel, should it decide to launch a surprise attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Yet, the beat goes on.