Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Drumming up of War vs. Iran

Yesterday, it was Elliott Abrams at the "mainstream" Council on Foreign Relations, conjuring the ghosts of Teddy Roosevelt and the War of 1812 in hopes of shaming America into war against Iran.  (Abrams here; my take, here.)  Today, it's Andrew McCarthy, at another forum that surely would like to proclaim itself as mainstream: the National Review.  And he too summons up the ghosts of American history to shame us all forward against the nefarious mullahs: specifically, the ghosts of the Marines killed in the 1983 Beirut bombing that killed hundreds of US Marines in their barracks, and the ghosts of the US Air Force personnel killed in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.  He would have us believe that all those ghosts are howling from their graves, for payback against Iran - who, in McCarthy/NRO world, is responsible for all of it.

Some extra reading would have suggested to McCarthy, though, that it's not so simple.  The Khobar Towers bombing was perpetrated by Arab terrorists, a group known as Hezbollah al-Hijaz (the Hijaz, of course, being the western region of the Arabian peninsula).  The Bush administration was sure that this bunch was inspired and controlled by Iran; a less biased source (meaning, less reflexively anti-Iran), however, suggested that the US allowed the Saudis to float that perception in order to cover up their own embarrassment that Saudi Sunni extremists were responsible.  And as for the Beirut bombing in 1983 - well, Hezbollah in Lebanon (whom McCarthy pins as the perpetrator) has never gone on the record to claim the credit (which, given their anti-American stance, one would think they'd have done by now.  And even if they were responsible, let's remember the historical context: a raging Lebanese civil war into which Syria, Israel, and the US had injected themselves at various points.  The Reagan administration preferred to cast the Marines' role as peacemakers; the various militias on the ground saw the Marines' role there differently, and as hardly impartial; and indeed, the US had taken sides in this hornets nest of a conflict. (Ask the Druze villagers shelled by US battleships at that time - yes, I said battleships; WW II warships brought back into service just for this purpose.)   The US might never have stepped onto that hornets nest had not Ariel Sharon been stirring  it up by invading Lebanon and bombing Beirut the year before.

For McCarthy, though, the nuances of Middle Eastern history and conflict are irrelevant.  In his world, it's all quite simple: Iran = evil.  Indeed, Islam = evil.  And because the Arab uprisings of recent months have entailed the political legitimizing of Islamist groups, he proclaims that "the Arab Spring is diplo-lipstick on a pig."  Democracy in the Muslim world is nonsense, says he. 

In the here and now of July 2011, says McCarthy, there's only one prescription: total victory, of the kind that would swell the chest of any red-blooded American:
Putting aside the merits of a Marshall Plan analogue for the Muslim Middle East, the original Marshall Plan was undertaken only after total victory was achieved over America’s enemies. There could be no free, independent, pro-American Europe without Normandy and D-Day and Hitler’s annihilation.. . .
I do know one thing for certain: Freedom has no chance of advancing in the Middle East, any more than it would have advanced in Europe, unless we conquer the enemy. . . .
Iran is at war with us, whether we choose to engage or not. If we are not going to win, we are going to lose. Happy talk about democracy and springtime won’t obscure the fact that there is no middle ground.

If we’re not in it to win it — for victory, not for tilting at windmills — we should come home. . . .   If we are not going to win, we are going to lose.
In 1951, in the midst of a war in Korea where the US was confronted by a then-emerging Red China, Gen. Douglas MacArthur pronounced before the Congress of an America still flush with its success in World War II that there is "no substitute for victory."  Sixty years on, his country - and its military - remain afloat only because of the willingness of MacArthur's erstwhile enemy to provide ballast for the US economy.  Ah, the irony.

In 2002, George W. Bush's ambition was to crush Iraq with shock-and-awe, decisive military might - no substitute for victory - and thereby inaugurate a new Middle East.  How'd that work out?  Not fully determined, but the mullahs sure did make out well.  Ah, the irony.

So now, Andrew McCarthy points his finger at Iran, and pronounces, we must do it right this time.  We must be vindicated.  No substitute for victory.  Andrew McCarthy, Max Boot, Elliott Abrams; John McCain, Lindsey Graham (whom McCarthy cites almost lovingly), Joe Lieberman -- they're all of a piece (definitely not of a peace): No substitute for victory - and it will be achieved by, if necessary, fighting to the last man - or the last Muslim.

Imagine Obama moving ahead against Iran, in quest of that victory.  Imagine what ironies might be in the offing then.

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