Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of the Australian, writes:
"There is, I would guess, somewhere between a 30 and 40 per cent chance that the
Bush administration will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the year.
"This is, naturally, a personal judgment. It is based on two weeks of
intense conversations I have had with American national security figures. . . .
"People who know Vice-President Dick Cheney well believe he wants to strike
Iran, that he has made a sober judgment that time is running out. . . .
"Defence Secretary Robert Gates is strongly opposed. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice is also opposed.
"Some analysts believe that in the first
Bush administration Cheney won all such arguments, whereas in the second
administration Rice is dominant. They take this to mean Bush won't strike.
"I don't think it's that simple. It is true that Bush has ceded an enormous
amount of national security power to Rice. However, the Bush administration is
better seen as having two personalities, the psychology of which rose out of
Bush's peculiar historical circumstances.
"Bush understands that he is unpopular across the world and, as a result to some extent, so is the US. Therefore, on every issue where it's possible, from Africa to North Korea, he presents a kindly, moderate, multilateral face. And that face is Rice.
"However, Bush also knows that history will judge him on the outcome in
Iraq. So he does absolutely everything he can to win in Iraq. And this means
mostly following Cheney's advice. Remember that for all of Rice's undoubted
sway, she opposed the troop surge in Iraq, as did Gates. The surge went ahead
anyway, and was successful.
"So at this moment, in the second half of 2008, does the Rice side of Bush or the Cheney side win the argument on Iran?
"I think anyone who pronounces dogmatically on that question doesn't know what
they're talking about. For a start, if the Iranians are caught doing something
stupid, the calculations change dramatically."
Since I don't know what I am talking about, I am the perfect person to make a dogmatic pronunciation. When push comes to shove, I'd put my money on Cheney over Rice. Cheney has the greater motivation; he wants unfettered access to Middle Eastern oil. He is a completely focused and driven man, who is running a large organization he built to fulfill his goals. His time is running out, both as vice-president and as a man with enormous health problems.
Rice seems to be devoted just to her job as Bush's Secretary of State. She doesn't seem to have any grand ambitions beyond the job. And as far as I know she has a lot less power than Cheney. When the two clash, Cheney wins. Korea might be an exception, but Korea isn't sitting on a pool of oil.
Who is in charge? What is his goal? Does he have the resources and will to take what he wants? Can anyone block him? Those are the questions that might give us the answer.
Unless something unexpected happens, we're going to bomb Iran.
So are we at that point now? You know, the point at which, in six months, we're all going to be hating ourselves for not having been better, not having been effective enough to have stopped this. We see it coming, we don't want it to happen. Lots of people know we don't want it to happen. We've been voting. From time to time we've trudged out to hold up signs.
But I can't figure out how to stop it. Even the extreme measures - the ones I can barely imagine taking, like bumping off Cheney - are unlikely to prevent it, and could very possibly unleash even more fresh and loathsome hell.
Susan, I don't know what to do. How bizarre. How do I send pre-condolence cards to our soldiers and to Iranian civilians?
"Just a note to tell you that I will have been opposed to the preemptive attack in which you and/or your families may be going to have been killed, that I will have been consumed with dread and foreboding, and that I anticipate feeling much guilt and sorrow for a real long time, kthxbai."
Have you read "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban? It's a post-apocalyptic novel. From time to time, Riddley Walker observes, while looking at the ruins, "O what we was, and what we become". Except I'm thinking that what we was has never been what we thought we was. I used to think we did more good stuff than bad stuff, and now I don't know.
I haven't read that book, but I'll look it up. I like post-apocalypse novels a lot, if like is the right word. I tag my more apocalyptic posts with "alas, babylon" after the (too-optomistic) book of post-nuclear war America by Pat Frank.
I don't know what to do either. All I can think of at this late date is to try to accept what happens with courage and honor, and never deny guilt or responsibility.
Courage and honor, and acknowledging responsibility. I guess that is something we can aim for. It's horrible to have only "mitigating the horror" as a viable option. I guess it wouldn't hurt to give some money to the right relief groups. I think Doctors Without Borders is pretty straightforward. I'll have to check charitynavigator.org. I sure wish Marla Ruzicka wasn't dead. I'd appoint her Secretary of State, with Pat Tillman as Secretary of Defense, although not, I suppose, in a McCain administration. Or a Bush martial law regime.
And hey, another good novel is World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler. It's pretty new. The setting is decades into a post-oil, no-more-grid world, its population decimated by outbreaks of disease.
You know those 1950s B-movies set after nuclear war, where human mutants appear within weeks, but at least a few pretty girls and nice young men survive, and instead of "The End", the final credit says "The Beginning"? Well, this book ain't that, but still, people keep on.
I've heard of that book; I want to read it also. (My stack of books to read never seems to go down.)
It would not be the worst thing in the world if the US underwent some of the same problems we inflict on the rest of the world. If we grow poorer and must suffer because of our own actions, is it tragedy or farce?
And then there are the idiots who will insist to the very end that we're too special to deal with consequences. Jonah Goldberg says, "American exceptionalism is the key. Pat Moynihan's observation that the key conservative insight is that culture matters more than politics still holds."
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