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Pretty Please, America … Just a Little Itty Bitty War

The warhawks are softening us up for Romney’s foreign policy. I’ve seen two prominently placed examples in the last ten days, efforts to find a way around the fairly decisive national consensus [1] against starting a war with Iran, or letting Israel do it and then coming in to clean up and finish the job. First David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy, who writes about a “joint U.S.-Israeli surgical strike” [2] that might take only a “couple of hours.” Rothkopf cites a source “close to the discussions,” whom many have assumed to be his former college roomate, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Phil Weiss has the fascinating down low [3] on how this piece led to a shakeup in the Israeli embassy with a less hawkish Israeli diplomat being demoted to Siberia. American officials denied that a joint surgical strike was under consideration.

Then Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens reassured readers [4] that if Romney were elected “we won’t have another war in the Middle East.” Not even, he added “if President Romney orders Iran’s nuclear sites to be bombed to smithereens.”

Stephens apparently assumes his readers are sufficiently dense to believe that Iran would not respond if its nuclear sites were bombed to smithereens; i.e, no closure of the Gulf to shipping, no rockets fired into Haifa, no long delayed terrorism riposte. He presumably is aware that striking underground nuclear reactors would create major collateral damage, unleashing toxic plumes into neighboring cities, and killing or maiming as many as 70,000 Iranians according to one recent study [5] performed by the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. I would surmise that for Stephens, and for whoever leaked the limited strike scenario to Rothkopf, the maiming of innocent Iranian civilians is considered a collateral plus, because it would poison relations between the United States and Iran for a generation–to the benefit of our ties with America’s “only ally in the Middle East.” But it’s not clear that Americans want more blood on their hands, or desire the lasting enmity of the Middle Eastern nation with the largest middle class, modern tastes, and indeed, most latently pro-American values.

The War Party, Take Two–of which Stephens and Michael Oren are charter members– know full well that, after Iraq, the war they want can’t be sold straightforwardly again.    So they’re trying a little bait and switch. Not real war, heaven forbid. Just a little “surgical” bombing. To smithereens. We won’t feel a thing. Many will be watching next week’s debate to see if Mitt Romney makes these thoughts his own.

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#1 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On October 18, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

It’s odd the way we keep talking about preventing a rogue nation to obtain nukes in the Middle East when we are already allied to one.

#2 Comment By Jim Dooley On October 18, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

I would argue that with Iran we are already somewhere between a cold war and a hot war already. The sanctions regime in which both parties are complicit, if unaccompanied by good faith efforts to find openings for diplomatic dialogue, can only lead to actual war on a mistake or pretext, as happened in Iraq, or internal violence in Iran. We need only look to the other countries in the middle east that are wracked by internal violence to decide whether that would be in our interests. The bureacracies which so far have been the restraining factors have accomodated themselves to the status quo. I don’t think that anyone pays attention to Bret Stephens and the status quo is not going to be upset by idiots like him. The reason the status quo is so dangerous is because it can be upset by crisis,whether it be actual, manufactured, provoked, mistaken, or otherwise.

#3 Comment By Old Hand On October 18, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

The patented neocon form of dishonesty is on ostentatious display here, isn’t it? “There will be no war, even if we bomb Iran ‘to smithereens'”. Or “we’ll just go in and ‘clean up’ after the Israelis do it!” How long have we been “cleaning up” in Afghanistan and Iraq so far? I mean, Jesus – don’t these people understand that we know how they operate? Are they stupid? Do they think we’re stupid? Or both?

#4 Comment By TomB On October 18, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

It seems to me that this war business is the conclusive answer as to why, no matter how much one might dislike Obama, and disagree with ever voting for some third-party person, it’s just impossible to vote for Romney.

It’s being reported that of 24 foreign affairs’ advisors on Romney’s team fully 17 of them are dyed-in-the-wool neo-cons, and just like Bret Stephens (former editor of the Jerusalem Post) they aren’t going to stop pressing for war with Iran. Ever. No matter what.

And the consequences of such a war are so unpredictable, and so wide, that a vote for Romney it seems to me is nothing less than an invitation to take responsibility for almost any calamity imaginable. Militarily, economically … you name it.

What astounds me is the cosmic incompetence of the Obama campaign to simply point out to people that voting for Romney is effectively just voting to restore George Bush’s policies and ways of doing things. Because while Romney and the Republicans have clearly decided to keep Bush’s face hidden during this election I can’t think of one issue upon which Romney has clearly repudiated Bush or Bushism.

So here’s Romney having tied himself to Bush rhetorically and otherwise in any number of irrefutable ways—including adopting his same team—and here’s the public whose lip curls at the memory of Bush over so many different issues, and there’s Obama, seemingly unable to remember what he was running against originally and what won him the Big Chair.

It’s just simply incomprehensible.

#5 Comment By R. J. Stove On October 18, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

Shades of Sir Herbert Butterfield’s warning against what he called “that messianic hoax of the 20th century: ‘Just one little war more against the last remaining enemies of righteousness, and then the world will be cleansed, and we can start building Paradise’.”

#6 Comment By William Burns On October 19, 2012 @ 7:27 am

Whenever I see the words “surgical strike” I think some people must know some really, really bad surgeons.

#7 Comment By Nathan On October 19, 2012 @ 7:43 am

So is the choice as follows: MR and probable certain war in the middle east, almost a dead certainty of constitutional violations where civil liberties are concerned, or BHO, far less likely imperialist neocon interventionist wars of aggression especially in the middle east, BUT the risk that the conspiracy buffs are correct regarding martial law all of it.

Flip a coin?

The pastor of the church we go to said, vote on the basis of the candidates who best express Christian values. No help here since arguably neither meet that criteria? Both have at one time or another been pro-choice, and Billy Graham’s site until just a few days ago called Mormonism a “cult”.

So again folks, what are we left with?

#8 Comment By waltinseattle On October 19, 2012 @ 8:20 am

“couple of hours”? sounds like a joke set-up with the next lines going back to an old t.v.. series…and “a few hours cruise.” let’s hope history does not imitate pop culture “art.” or is it too late for hope?

Mr (?) Stove: thanks for that quote. my mind has been looping between K Weil with ‘ show us the way to the next little war, dob’t ask why…’ in one ear and ‘ onward christian soldier’ doing infinite permutations in the other ear. now i have new material. Thanks…I guess.

#9 Comment By Jack On October 19, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

I’ve no doubt that Team Obama is going to lean on Romney hard from this angle, but I’ve also no doubt that Romney will, when confronted point-blank, simply say: “Gosh, I never said I was going to start a war with Iran,” as if shocked, smile, and start babbling in contradictory ways about jobs, small business, and the government’s supposed role in relation to them.

And people will eat it up. His team has no problem with “the bigger the lie” strategy. It actually works. It has, from the first debate on, been the only strategy to make his campaign genuinely viable.

I’ve a strong suspicion war with Iran might be inevitable, but sticking with Obama another time around is the only thing that will make it “less inevitable.” A Romney win will make it certain.

Under either of them, the economy won’t change much (although it would probably get a bit worse under Romney/Ryan, if they seriously intend to implement what we know of their nebulous “plan”), but this war would change EVERYTHING.

It’s what keeps me up nights. The thing that has me ready to start digging a backyard bomb shelter, but then . . . what’s the point? The Romneys of this world have bigger and better bomb shelters. Consider what kind of company you’d be saving yourself for.

#10 Comment By Myron Hudson On October 19, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

@ Old Hand: both.
@ TomB: I also cannot get over the complete failure to just say “Look, here’s GWBs foreign policy team getting ready for their second run”. Seriously, the base had to exhaust every possible alternative to Romney before finally accepting him, complaining all the while that he was being forced on them by the establishment. Well here he is and look at the establishment behind him. Anyway, I think the reasons that the obvious callout has not been made is 1) to avoid being accused of running against GWB rather than runnng against Romney (small difference at this point) and 2) idiocy. Because the fact is, he might as well be running against GWB. Except that GWB at least believed in what he was doing and Romney is a slick chameleon who believes only in himself.

#11 Comment By TomB On October 19, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

@ Myron:

It’s gotta be 2) idiocy because, when you think of it, Obama oughta *welcome* being charged with “running against GWB,” given that it just offers him the opportunity to say that *he* can’t help it, and it keeping that reality front and center.

So it’s gotta be something else, and idiocy is a good idea, but geez, Obama never struck me as an idiot so I still find it just incomprehensible. The only idea that tickles at me is that Obama has given some signs of not having any fire in his belly for a second term. And maybe he’s so disillusioned with finding out what he can and can’t do that that’s the explanation; he’s just sick of the schtick. He’s got his party like an iron wall not letting him move this way. He’s got the Republicans not letting him move the other way. He never really had pre-planned substantive idea of what he wanted to do … other that “to do good,” and thus, not being all the imaginative, is just sort of in a funk about the whole deal.

Regardless, as you say even despite the Republicans *themselves* not really liking Romney, and the Republicans recognizing the public dislike of Bush’s memory and yet Romney’s attempt to recapitulate him, it’s just mind boggling that Mr. Bush isn’t front and center in this campaign, 24/7 as it were, forcing Romney to run against Bush at the very *least.*

An incredible blunder on Obama’s part. Just incredible.