How to Stop Bush from "Wagging the Elephant" in Iran
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Josh Marshall echoes my previous post that Bush wants war with Iran to "wag the elephant" - to start a new war in order to turn voters' attention away from 6 years of disastrous Republican rule, and thereby keep Republicans in power in the November elections. Here's Josh:
With respect to what's coming on Iran, what is in order is a little honesty, just as was the case with the Social Security debate a year ago. The only crisis with Iran is the crisis with the president's public approval ratings. Period. End of story. The Iranians are years, probably as long as a decade away, and possibly even longer from creating even a limited yield nuclear weapon. Ergo, the only reason to ramp up a confrontation now is to help the president's poll numbers.
I disagree with Josh that the point of the Iran warmongering game is to boost Bush's poll numbers. I don't think the White House care's about Bush's poll numbers, since he's not running again. But the White House cares desperately about keeping Republicans in control of Congress, to keep Democrats from investigating and/or impeaching Bush.
Karl Rove knows he doesn't have to start a war to win in November - what he needs to do is to create a climate of fear among voters and on Capitol Hill. Then he can manipulate that climate of fear by forcing Congress to vote on some carefully-worded legislation that threatens military action against Iran.
That was the game plan in 2002. Remember Bush didn't invade Iraq until March 2003 - but the political game was won in October 2002 when Bush demanded a Congressional vote authorizing the "use of military force against Iraq." While a majority of Democrats recognized the vote was both a blank check and a political trap, a crucial minority of Democrats felt they needed to vote for the resolution to show they were willing to be "tough" on Iraq. John Kerry fell into that trap, and it became a major Bush weapon in 2004 when he portrayed Kerry as a "flip-flopper" for being "for the war before he was against it."
It is highly likely Bush will play the same game with Iran and force Congress to cast a very difficult vote in the fall amidst a climate of fear. So what is the best way for Democrats to avoid falling into this trap?
Here is Josh's plan:
We have many challenges overseas today. Chief among them, as one of the Democrats' senate candidates puts it, is "refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened." The period of peril the country is entering into isn't tied to an Iranian bomb. It turns on how far a desperate president will go to avoid losing control of Congress.
Go to his heart. Go to his weaknesses. Though the realization of the fact is something of a lagging indicator, the man is a laughing stock, whose lies and failures are all catching up with him.
To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy.
The great bulk of the public doesn't believe this president any more when he tries to gin up a phony crisis. They don't believe he'd have much of an idea of how to deal with a real one. Enough of the lies. Enough of the incompetence and failure.
No buying into another of the president's phony crises.
I'm sympathetic to that approach, but I'm not convinced it would work because AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the American Enterprise Institute, and the rest of the neocons are working hard to create a climate of fear that Iran is a grave and growing danger to Israel, and the Corporate Media (led by FOX) will eagerly embrace that climate of fear.
Democrats need to confront the perception of a threat from Iran, not think we can make it disappear by ridiculing Bush.
The real threat that I see is a region-wide arms race in the Middle East. Certainly Iran is playing its part in this arms race, but they claim to have a reason for it - keeping up with Israel, which reportedly has 200 nuclear weapons, including a small fleet of submarines armed with nuclear weapons.
But Iran and Israel are not the only military powers in the Middle East - Saudi Arabia has all the money in the world to compete if it chooses, and nuclear-armed Pakistan is not far away.
An out-of-control arms race in the Middle East would be a danger to all of the nations of the Middle East, and would endanger the rest of the world through a complex tangle of alliances similar to those that led to World War I.
This is the real threat that Democrats should confront - and demand immediate leadership from George Bush, in the form of regional arms control talks involving Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, assisted by the world's major powers - Russia, China, and Europe.
Democratic Presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had the courage to lead negotiations aimed at securing Middle East peace. George Bush's only policy towards the Middle East is unleashing catastrophic war. Let's draw that "line in the sand" and make this a debate about diplomacy and peace, rather than weapons and war.
Update 1: Atrios explains the Bushevik-neocon-liberalhawk gameplan in sarcastic terms everyone should be able to understand.