There are several items that have already caught my attention today. The first is Peter Ferrara’s article for American Spectator on Obama and Iran. Ferrara writes:
A cherished maxim of self-congratulatory liberals is the notion that diplomacy and negotiation are always the best course of action because “as long as the two sides are talking, they are not shooting.” That was not true on the morning of December 7, 1941. On that very day, Japanese diplomats were in Washington to continue ongoing talks for peace between Japan and America, as Japanese planes were slaughtering some 2,400 American servicemen at Pearl Harbor.
President Obama now has America, and Israel, on that same course in regard to Iran.
I doubt very much that very many liberals would recognize this as one of their cherished maxims, but I’ll leave that to them. There is no guarantee that negotiations preclude fighting, and this is not just because of the possibility of sneak attacks or one party negotiating in bad faith. After all, negotiating peace treaties and armistices presupposes that there is an ongoing conflict. In general, however, avoiding war by pursuing a diplomatic track is preferable to war. If there is to be a war with Iran, it will be started by U.S. or Israeli forces launching, well, something very much like sneak attacks on Iranian facilities. The main difference is that most of the world will be expecting these attacks, and much of the Western world will have acquiesced in them. If anyone should be suspicious of Obama’s extended hand, it should be the Iranians, who could reasonably conclude that Obama is merely buying time or going through the motions of diplomatic overtures to make war “inevitable.” Most of the pre-invasion “diplomacy” the Bush administration engaged in from September 2002 until the start of the war was meaningless. It was done for the benefit of squeamish liberal hawks, multilateralists and pro-war Labour figures in Britain. As we know very well, the decision to go to war had been made months earlier. It is the Iranians who are in the position America was in during the closing months of 1941; we and one of our allies are the ones openly discussing the possibility of bombing their country without having suffered any injuries at their hands. Obviously, this is not the repeat of Pearl Harbor that Ferrara means to conjure up for us, but that is the only way to make sense of the comparison.
Ferrara’s article is representative of the distorted language and thinking that permits American hawks to cast the objectively aggressive, provocative moves of the U.S. and our allies as defensive and the defensive, minimal responses of other states as aggression, revanchism, revisionism, and imperialism. By this thinking, Georgia was not acting aggressively even though it started last year’s war with Russia; Russia is necessarily the aggressor because it is Russia and opposes our projection of power into their backyard. This is how American hawks can continue to portray the events of August 2008 as proof of Russian “expansionism” and aggression: they invert the meanings of all the relevant words and corrupt language to suit their purposes.
First, defensive military measures that these nations undertake to deter U.S. attack — Russia’s attempt to intimidate Georgia, China’s development of “anti-access” capabilities to reduce the ability of the U.S. to defeat it in a war over Taiwan, and Iran’s not-so-disguised attempt to obtain nuclear weapons to deter conventional U.S. or Israeli attacks — are portrayed by American policymakers and pundits as aggressive. According to this Orwellian double standard, U.S./NATO encirclement of post-Soviet Russia on its borders is alleged to be “defensive,” while feeble protest gestures like Russian military flights to Cuba or the bullying of Ukraine are defined as “aggressive” actions that threaten a new Cold War. The knight with the best sword naturally wants to ban the use of shields and armor.
In addition to defining the defensive reactions of Russia, China and Iran to U.S. provocations in their own neighborhoods as diabolical schemes for regional or global conquest, some champions of the Pax Americana have pretended to identify a new global ideological struggle against an “axis of autocracy” or “authoritarian capitalism.” In reality, of course, three countries could hardly be less similar to one another than Russia, China and Iran, which seek to benefit from the existing world system on their own terms rather than overthrow it.
As I was saying earlier this week, the hysteria that hawks display at the smallest sign of another state acting in its own legitimate interests does not come from a real fear of growing foreign threats. It is a pose. It is an an act put on to keep the public from thinking or questioning the reason for so many deployments, wars and permanent installations around the globe. An important part of the play is to make the audience believe that our policies are not arbitrary, aggressive and unnecessary, but have been forced upon us by myriad foes that would annihilate us if we did not keep attacking other states without cause. Their opponents are so busy untangling the nonsensical language and misinformation they put out that there is scarcely any time to debate the real policy, which I suppose is one of the side benefits for the hawks.