Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Time to Boycott TIME

TIME Magazine and I have an arrangement. TIME doesn't pay me to write and I don't pay to read TIME. It's for that reason I haven't seen all of "What Would War with Iran Look Like" from the September 25 edition--they've hidden it behind a subscribers only link.

But from the fair use portions of the article that Steven D has posted at Booman Tribune, it looks like the same kind of drum beating TIME did for the Bush administration during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. And it follows a tried and true formula for preparing a nation to go to war.

Everybody got riled up over the news that the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) ordered "fresh eyes" to look at "long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf." That's as shocking to me as hearing that the Chief of Naval Operations is in charge of the Navy. Discussions at the UN about imposing sanctions on Iran have been in the news for months. I'd be appalled if the Navy wasn't revising its plans for a blockade of Iran's oil ports. That's the kind of thing military planners do.

Nonetheless, such sanctioned revelations send a number of signals to two main audiences. They send saber rattle noises to the adversary's leadership, function as a psychological operation against the adversary populations, and in some cases, they are part of a deception operation. But the other target audience, perhaps the most important one, is the signal sender's own public. In this case, news of a possible blockade is designed at first to send a shock through the American public--hey, it looks like we're going to war again. But over time, America will become desensitized to the idea of conducting yet another conflict while also coming under the spell of rhetoric that defines the coming war as "inevitable."

Pre-war propaganda also creates the illusion that when war comes, it will be despite the best efforts on "our side" to have avoided it. Such has been the case with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's so-called attempts at diplomacy. "…the Bush team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has done more diplomatic spadework on Iran than on any other project in its 51/2 years in office," TIME writes. "For more than 18 months, Rice has kept the Administration's hard-line faction at bay while leading a coalition that includes four other members of the U.N. Security Council and is trying to force Tehran to halt its suspicious nuclear ambitions."

This is utter bunk. Rice's attempts at diplomacy are designed to fail. By making Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment--a right guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty--a precondition to engaging in talks, the U.S. has all but guaranteed that talks will not take place.

And when talks don't take place, "…at some point the U.S. and its allies may have to confront the ultimate choice."

What allies? Our British lapdog won't even play along if we pull the trigger this time. And why will the U.S. have to confront the ultimate choice? According to TIME:
The Bush Administration has said it won't tolerate Iran having a nuclear weapon. Once it does, the regime will have the capacity to carry out Ahmadinejad's threats to eliminate Israel. And in practical terms, the U.S. would have to consider military action long before Iran had an actual bomb. In military circles, there is a debate about where--and when--to draw that line. U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte told TIME in April that Iran is five years away from having a nuclear weapon. But some nonproliferation experts worry about a different moment: when Iran is able to enrich enough uranium to fuel a bomb--a point that comes well before engineers actually assemble a nuclear device. Many believe that is when a country becomes a nuclear power. That red line, experts say, could be just a year away.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has consistently denied that he wants nuclear weapons, and he's certainly never said he would use them on Israel. To do so would be the end of his country. In practical terms, there's no reason for the U.S. to consider military action before--if ever--Iran has an actual bomb. If they were to develop one in violation of the NPT, much less even use one, we would have more than sufficient justification to bring the full power of America's conventional and nuclear arsenal against them.

And just who are these "experts" TIME reports saying the "red line could be just a year away?" John Bolton and his neoconservative pals?

Another key facet of pre-war propaganda is an information campaign that paints the adversary's leader as a lunatic. TIME cooperates in this effort in the September 25 issue in an interview with Ahmadinejad titled "A Date with a Dangerous Mind." (You can read all of that article here. I've linked to the printer friendly version, so hopefully TIME won't get any advertising revenue if you read it.)

Well, TIME calls it an "interview." Nearly half the article, written by Scott McLeod, is an essay that quotes past remarks by Ahmadinejad out of context and describes him as "slippery," a "natural politician," and "gifted in the art of spin and misdirection." During the interview, McLeod says Ahmadinejad was "serious, smiling and cocky--evidence of a self-assurance that borders on arrogance."

Heck, it sounds to me like Ahmadinejad and young Mister Bush would get along like peas in a pod if Bush would agree to a sit down.

I've said this before but it bears repeating: the Bush administration isn't worried about Iran having a handful of nuclear weapons. It's worried that Iran, China and Russia will form an energy coalition that will take the market away from Dick and Dubya's big oil pals.

We can't say for sure what Ahmadinejad's game is. But we can tell what game TIME and the Bush administration are playing because we've seen them play it before.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous12:04 PM

    "I've said this before but it bears repeating: the Bush administration isn't worried about Iran having a handful of nuclear weapons. It's worried that Iran, China and Russia will form an energy coalition that will take the market away from Dick and Dubya's big oil pals."

    Yeah, I never understood why a few Iranian nukes were such a big deal, especially considering Pakistan is far further along that path and probably even more unstable. That said, I'm still not sure your "oil argument" makes a lot of sense in the manner you present it. I mean that, if they just wanted to control oil, the easier path would be simply to trump up some reason to depose Chavez -- Venezuela's a hell of a lot closer and easier than the middle east-- and/or exert more control in other producing areas, such as Nigeria. Saudi is still the big prize, and expansion of Iranian power actually would tend to push them closer to the west. However, I think you could be on to something about the Russia-China aspect. I could see that, consistent with the PNAC nonsense about preventing anyone from challenging American dominance, they fear that, if Iran becomes a Sino-Russian client state, it will be a force multiplier for both countries, giving them access to the Persian Gulf and enabling them to box in Central Asia to keep the US out. In other words, all this could be aimed at preventing China and Russia from becoming rival superpowers. It's a silly thing to worry about, and it would appear that the current strategy, rather than forestalling such an occurence, actually makes it more likely to come about.

  2. Boy, you've brought up some great issues, more than I can do right by in a comment box, but fear now. We'll be discussing all this again at P&S.

    Generally, as I see it, when I talk about oil, I'm really referring to the larger energy market, which right now the oil giants control. What I believe they want to do is not only control the balance of the oil reserves, but the rate at which the world shifts from fossil fuels to other energy producers.

    I've got to look up some numbers, but I'm thinking that if the western oil biggies control most of the ME oil, they control most of the world's oil. If they just control Venezuelan oil but cede the ME resources to a China-Russia-Iran cabal, they become the second string and will never catch up.

    Here's another thing to think about. If China, Russia and Iran manage to become the major influences of the ME and Southeast Asia, they'll have "conquered" of a heck of a large part of the world without having fired a single shot, or broken their respective banks on high dollar military expenditures.

    I read recently where China is using its trillion bucks worth of cash reserves to compete with the World Bank in financing third world development, and they're doing so in places like (if I remember right) Cambodia. So you can sort of see where they're going and how they're thinking.

    Great comment, thanks. We'll talk about all this again soon.


  3. You don't have to own the entire ME playing field, just enough to control or influence the rest.

    -- Big Dan Teague, O Brother Where Art Thou?

    Matt Yglesias calls it the Craziest Goddamn Thing He's Heard in a Long Time, but I wouldn't put anything past this bunch.

  4. You're right, Jeff. You don't have to control the whole field to influence the outcome of the game. Sometimes, a bunt's as good as a dinger.

  5. Anonymous7:38 AM

    Anonymous is missing that the first country on the talented Mr. Bush's agenda was Venezuela, where American aircraft and ships moved in mighty peculiar ways prior to the coup.


    Venezuela - Afghanistan - Iraq: they're a perfect 0 for 3. It's even worse, they've made it much more difficulat for future administrations to make nice with these countries. Why not go for 0 for 4. Btw Mr. Ahmedinejad was in Venezuela yesterday.

  6. This is priceless: "I've linked to the printer friendly version, so hopefully TIME won't get any advertising revenue if you read it."

  7. I wish there were a way to browse the site in all "printer friendly."

    Unfortunatelly, everytime you click on a new page, the cash register goes "cha-ching."