Thursday, May 31, 2007

Podhoretz Begs Bush to Bomb Iran

Leading neoconservative Norman Podhoretz wants George W. Bush to bomb Iran. In a May 30 Wall Street Journal, he writes "I hope and pray that President Bush will do it."

Podhoretz sees the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as "theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle," and sees Iran as another front in what he describes as "World War IV." And to throw in the standard dose of fear factor to support his arguments, he compares today's Iran to Nazi Germany in 1938.

A Hatful of Hitlers

We had one Hitler in the 20th century. In this century, to hear the likes of Podhoretz tell it, we've already had three of them. Osama bin Laden became the new Hitler after 9/11. Saddam Hussein took the Hitler mantle during the propaganda campaign that led to the Iraq invasion. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned into Hitler right about the time the Bush administration figured that, oops, we've hosed up this Iraq thing, time to start making Americans afraid of somebody else.

The anti-Semitic angle aside, what makes Hitler such a convenient boogey man to compare Middle East bad guys too is the 1938 Munich Agreement, which gave the Sudetenland to Germany to satisfy Hitler's desire for Lebensraum (living space). Many credit this appeasement as having emboldened Hitler to invade Poland and France a year later. Podhoretz and others argue that if we appease rather than attack Iran, we'll embolden that country to undertake further aggressive actions.

This Germany/Iran analogy is bunker mentality bunk for several reasons.

First, Ahmadinejad doesn’t hold the kind of absolute power that Hitler had in Nazi Germany. Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i holds the real power in Iran, and unlike Hitler, he has a track record of behaving like a rational actor.

Next, the balance of military power today looks nothing like it did in 1938. Then, Hitler had the most modern and mobile military in Europe. Having invested its military capital in a static defense system of fortifications--the Maginot Line--France was incapable of running Hitler out of the Sudetenland, and Britain's only realistic way to access the continent was to come through France. The only way France or Britain could engage Hitler on the continent was for Hitler to invade France, and we all know how things went for France and Britain when he finally did.

Today, the U.S. spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Even though it has a pesky coastal navy, Iran's military is a comparative flyspeck. It cannot project power much beyond its borders or the Persian Gulf, and if it ever came down to a no-holds barred showdown between them and us, they would lose large. It is ludicrous to characterize a sole superpower's decision to talk to a minor power rather than to attack it as "appeasement."


Iran has consistently claimed that it has no ambitions to produce nuclear weapons, and despite concerted efforts by Dick Cheney and others, no one has been able to prove Iran's claim to be false. But if Iran gets itself a fistful of nukes, Podhoretz says, the Mutually Assured Destruction deterrence of the Cold War won't work. To back up this assertion, he quotes noted Islamic world expert Bernard Lewis:
MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [Iran's leaders] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.

I won't pretend to have Lewis's background and experience when it comes to understanding the Islamic mind, but it sounds like Lewis is losing his, and I'm not alone in coming to that conclusion. Of Lewis's 2002 book What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, Juan Cole wrote: "How a profoundly learned and highly respected historian, whose career spans some sixty years, could produce such a hodgepodge of muddled thinking, inaccurate assertions and one-sided punditry is a profound mystery."

For Iran to use nukes, either directly or through a proxy terrorist group wouldn’t be a case of mutually assured destruction. It would be self-assured destruction. Iran couldn't possibly do as much damage to the U.S. or its allies as the U.S. and its allies could do to Iran. I question Lewis's assertion that Iran's leaders "do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers," but I completely reject the notion that Iran would risk a successful nuclear attack or New York or Chicago at the price of losing all of its people, all of its cities, all of its industries and all of its culture.


Podhoretz describes Iran as the "main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11." He also says that Iran is "the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism's weapon of choice."

The neoconservative propaganda campaign to subliminally connect Iran with 9/11 is fairly new, and is no more substantiated than earlier claims of a connection between Iraq and 9/11. Calling Iran the "main sponsor of terrorism" conveniently ignores the fact that most of the 9/11 attackers were Sunni Arabs from Saudi Arabia, not Shiite Persians from Iran. It also stiff-arms the reality that al Qaeda, supposedly the biggest bad guys in our war on terror, are still comfy-cozy in their feathered nests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Podhoretz also says that Ahmadinejad "wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf."

Well, Ahmadinejad may wish to control the Middle East, but making that wish come true will take a heck of a lot more than blowing out candles on his birthday cake. The notion that the non-head of a Persian Shiite state can "dominate" the largely Arab Sunni Middle East defies the laws of probability. Liberal Buddhist Dennis Kucinich has a better chance of becoming president of the United States.

Iran is most certainly an emerging regional power that we must learn to deal with, but not in the way Podhoretz wants us to. The best move we could make would be to become Iran's big energy partner, elbowing China and Russia out of the picture.

But that would require real diplomacy, which means it won't happen on Bush's watch.


  1. Ya know, IF Delta Forces really existed, IF the 'company' really did 'black ops', IF all that wasn't some made up BS from Hollywood, you know, taking out the likes of Saddam and Sons, Ahmadinejad, Chavez and a few others would be as simple as sending in 'The Unit' and in less than an hour the whole world would be a peaceful and productive place...

    It's a real shame that we don't have something like that 'The Unit' show or a real Delta Force, but ya know, IF we did really have those covert ops groups, we'd have to have a president that had the good sense to know WHEN and HOW to use them, I mean, if you go out and do a 'wholesale' op, you start to look like Michael Corleone in the Godfather...

    And one thing I've noticed is that our 'fearless leader' hasn't been too receptive to any advice from REAL military leaders...

  2. The Reality Kid2:30 PM

    I'm sure you noticed it, but it is worth underlining the supreme irony of one of the Podhoretz' quotes regarding Admadinehad's motives - that he "...wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby control the oilfields of the region..."

    Isn't that what they call "projection"?

  3. So, if I get this right, the PodMan says that because he thinks Iranian President is just like Hitler, out to kill all the Jews, we must also act like Hitler and attack Iran without a casus belli and declaration of war?

    These neoZionists really are sick, twisted anti-social monsters.

  4. I used to train Iranian Naval Officers. They were the best of the foreign officers we had worked with and very impressive in thier grasp of the world.

    Perhaps only the nuts stayed in Iran after the Shah fell, but based upon my observations and those military friends who had spent a lot of time in Iran, I believe that Podhoretz has no appreciation for the sophistication, intentions and capabilities of the people who are really running Iran.

  5. Quest,

    I sense that you are correct. The Iranian exchange officers I met were no dummies.

  6. Coral Sea7:16 PM

    Just wanted to thank you for yet another intelligent, very pertinent commentary, Jeff. I've taken to reading your site on a regular basis of late and find your insights among the best around.

    BTW, may the gods and goddesses help us if these lunatics actually manage to launch their attack on Iran. My soul aches to even think of my country being responsible for such unwarranted and horrific carnage - especially upon a civilization and people as the Persians, who have contributed so much to our world.

  7. Thanks again to everyone for joining the talk.



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    Col. Scott C. Smith, USMC, (ret)

    I'm sure that's a true signature, of course.

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