Saturday, April 15, 2006

Just Chill

David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, demonstrates that he's a heavyweight political pundit by warning the president that he darn well better do what he's already been doing with regard to Iran:

[John] Kennedy's genius was to reject the Cuba options proposed by his advisers, hawk and dove alike, and choose his own peculiar outside-the-box strategy. He issued a deadline but privately delayed it; he answered a first, flexible message from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev but not a second unyielding one; he said he would never take U.S. missiles out of Turkey, as the Soviets were demanding, and then secretly did precisely that. Disaster was avoided because Khrushchev believed Kennedy was willing to risk war -- but wanted to avoid it.

The Bush administration needs to be engaged in a similar exercise in creative thinking. The military planners will keep looking for targets (as they must, in a confrontation this serious). But Bush's advisers -- and most of all, the president himself -- must keep searching for ways to escape the inexorable logic that is propelling America and Iran toward war. I take heart from the fact that the counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, is an expert on the Cuban missile crisis who co-authored the second edition of Allison's "Essence of Decision."

[Zbigniew] Brzezinski urges President Bush to slow down and think carefully about his options -- rather than rushing to stop Iran's nuclear program, which by most estimates is five to 10 years away from building a bomb, even after yesterday's announcement. "Time is on our side," says Brzezinski. "The mullahs aren't the future of Iran, they're the past." As the United States carefully weighs its options, there is every likelihood that the strategic picture will improve.

The Bush administration has demonstrated, in too many ways, that it's better at starting fights than finishing them. It shouldn't make that same mistake again. Threats of war will be more convincing if they come slowly and reluctantly, when it has become clear that truly there is no other choice.

Now what does Ignatius mean by that last sentence? When has the president said anything about going to war with Iran? The only people talking publically about war are bloggers like me and pundits like Ignatius and Seymour Hersh. Bush has tried to do the opposite, in fact, by playing down the war talk that the media has been stoking. The media gets all aflutter about war and then they admonish the president, who hasn't said a word about it, to calm down and take it easy. Nice.

It's also odd that Ignatius turns to a Carter national security advisor for advice on Iran. The man who helped preside over the fall of the Shah, the ascendency of the Ayatollahs, the kidnapping and incarceration of American embassy personel, and the belated and failed attempt to rescue them just doesn't strike us as the most qualified person to be giving the current White House suggestions on how to handle the Iranians.

Nor is it reassuring that Ignatius points to JFK's relinquishment of U.S. missiles in Turkey as a sign of genius. Is he suggesting that it would be a brilliant move if the U.S. should give up some strategic asset in its dickering with Iran? What if the Iranians demand that we get out of the Middle East in return for halting their nuclear weapons production? Would it be a brilliant move, worthy of the sainted JFK himself, to say no, but to quietly do it anyway? More to the point, what do people like Ignatius say the U.S. should do if the Iranians refuse to yield at all?

No matter. Bush must stop the saber-rattling, slow down, take a deep breath and do better. Uh huh. Very constructive advice. We wonder how much the Washington Post pays for this sort of thing.

Good Books

Byron responds to Bill's post of 4/9:

Just looking over some older posts (sorry---I was out of town) and Bill notes Mulholland's book "A Deeper Journey." I couldn't agree more; it is a marvelous study of deeper spirituality. The previous one, "Invitation to a Journey" is excellent as well. I might quibble just a little (maybe, I'm still mulling it over) with his emphasis on authentic selfhood--which begins to sound like psychobabble at some points, in similiar authors---but it is, still, one of the best books of its kind. It is great to see it mentioned here. Thanks.

Anyone interested in learning more about either of these books is invited to contact the good folks at Hearts and Minds Bookstore who will be glad to help.

Courage Overflowing at Comedy Central

The culturally sensitive folks at Comedy Central have refused to allow South Park to show an image of Mohammed out of concern for the sensitivities of Muslims, substituting instead a depiction of Jesus defecating on George Bush and the American flag. Evidently this was judged to fall within the parameters of acceptable social commentary, but showing a cartoon Mohammed was not.

What an odd courage they seem to have at CC. These intrepid souls, who pride themselves on being bold and "edgy," are prepared, if they must, to brave the howling mobs of Christians and Republicans who will surely seek to breach their offices with bombs strapped to their bodies. They are ready to risk their all for their "art" and their freedom to challenge the orthodoxies of the day, but these stalwart heroes of free speech blanche at the thought of offending the gentle devotees of the religion of peace.

Very peculiar, but we're sure they must have had good reasons for caving to the sensibilities of the Islamists while being as crude and insulting as they could toward the beliefs of millions of Americans.

On the other hand, maybe they're just despicable moral invertebrates.

How it Would Begin

Kenneth Timmerman has a piece at Newsmax wherein he discusses how an attack on Iran might unfold and how Iran might respond. His article opens by quoting retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney:

According to the man who helped plan the first air war against Saddam in 1991, U.S. aircraft, armed with conventional bunker-buster bombs, would be more than enough to wipe out Iran's nuclear and missile facilities, and cripple its ability to command and control its military forces.

McInerney believes that U.S. air power is so massive, precise, and stealthy, it can effectively disarm Iran with just limited assistance from covert operators on the ground whose task would be to light up enemy targets.

In his "Big George" scenario, the United States would attack 1,000 targets in Iran. Fifteen B2 stealth bombers based in the United States and another 45 F117s and F-22s based in the region would carry out the initial waves of the attack, crippling Iran's long-range radar and strategic air defenses.

Massive, additional waves of carrier-based F-18s, as well as F-15s and F-16s launching from ground bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, would take out Iran's known nuclear and missile sites.

"Big George" would also target command and control facilities - Revolutionary Guards command centers, key clerics, and other regime-sensitive sites - in the hope of triggering a revolt against the clerical regime by opposition groups inside Iran.

The massive strike scenario could be carried out in just two days, McInerney told an audience of intelligence specialists recently in Washington. "We must destroy and damage Iran's nuclear capability for at least five years," McInerney said.

Timmerman goes on at some length to discuss possible Iranian counter-measures and other difficulties, including the Sy Hersh allegations about alleged American plans to use nuclear weapons. It's a very informative article.

We reiterate something we've said previously on the matter of war with Iran. Before any military option is exercised the administration needs to be sure that the Democrats have gone on record as either opposing the use of force or endorsing it. If they are not compelled to announce their position on what should be done in the event that diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons fail, it is certain that whatever Bush does, the Dems will split the country and seek to undermine his policy by proclaiming that he should have done the opposite. They cannot be allowed the rhetorical space to do this.

It is time to insist that they take a stand on what course of action they recommend to the president should diplomacy fail, as, of course, it almost surely will.