About every half hour, as I remember what a colossal mess the Bushies made of everything they touched, I also remind myself that nowhere were they as dangerous as when they were screwing with foreign policy. And kids, since these are the guys who were dialing back on financial regulation as Wall Street ran wild and handing out deficit-exploding tax cuts for which they hadn’t considered even minimal budgeting, to say they were worse at negotiating and out-thinking the the bad guys in the rest of the planet is truly saying something.
So last week President Obama holds a news conference and gets a flurry of questions on what to do about Iran. “His critics”, which is to say every Republican running for office, have been accusing him of being “feckless” and “dangerous” and worse … for not revving up the B2s. With that in mind, it was reassuring to hear him remind the moths-to-confrontation press corps that gas-bagging campaign bluster is one (silly) thing, and it’s a whole other matter when you actually have to send “the troops” — who conservatives make such a big show about loving and pridefully swelling over — into lethal battle. His tacit encouragement to the press was to get your Mitt Romneys, Newt Gingrichs and Rick Santorums on record explaining not just how soon they’d flatten Tehran but what they’d imagine the blowback to be — as regards, you know, pesky peripheral issues like American standing in a Middle East undergoing dramatic self-generated transformation, oil prices and the world economy.
It isn’t something I expect the corps to follow-up on. I mean, why go there when you can always ask, “Is [insert name of next state] a make or break primary for you?” and call it a day.
But as this Iranian thing simmers, and after reading Ronen Bergman’s sobering Sunday Times Magazine piece “Will Israel Attack Iran?” a few weeks back, I am deeply thankful that foreign policy is the one facet of American government policy that today’s manifestly dysfunctional, obstructionist and counterproductive Republican party can’t screw with … much. In fact, history is already noting the startling qualitative difference between Obama’s foreign policy and domestic policy in the age of Republican pandering to populist Know-Nothingism. Where the former, foreign affairs, is a series of either remarkable successes, (hunting down Osama bin Laden, attacking a long series of other top terrorists, deftly maneuvering through the “Arab spring”) or paying full attention to morass management of coherent if unpopular policies (exiting Iraq and giving the Afghanis one serious last shot at controlling their own security), the latter, the home front, is a constant grinding misery fueled by rhetorical buffoonery, shrill and nonsensical demagoguery and ceaseless Republican obstruction.
What other reaction can you have to Mittens and Newt and Rick, (none of them exactly of the proud, uniformed warrior tradition) trying to out-Curtis LeMay each other over who would drop The Big One first? As I keep saying, there is nothing serious about this crowd, other than, like a heart attack, they have the ability to get a lot of people killed.
Simultaneous with Republicans laughably over-playing their righteous super-hero chops was a “60 Minutes” piece about the mysterious Stuxnet computer virus that wormed its way in to Iranian centrifuges. The story, and numerous newspaper accounts leaves little doubt that the virus was a largely U.S. concocted plot — with Israeli complicity — to slow down and frustrate Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. It was an example of some very clever, 21st century war room thinking, with a negligible repercussion factor. The sort of think smart operators kind of want to try first.
The “60 Minutes” piece is also a cautionary tale about a dawning era of warfare by computer hacking. But, short-term, it represents a level of sophisticated thinking far … far … beyond Bushie, or GOP circa-2012 “shock and awe”, where the only viable pressure ever is full-scale, brute-force military action. Thundering Goliath stuff of the kind that invariably pisses off a whole range of peripheral players and roils international markets in the dreaded “uncertainty” that conservatives love to accuse Obama of fomenting. As with his failure to resolve the debt ceiling crisis, his failure to resolve the home mortgage modification process and his failure to stifle Iranian belligerency.
Based on their tragic record with Saddam Hussein, a far less wily and wealthy despot than the Iranian mullahs, there is no reason (that I have ever read) to believe the Bushie-era neo-cons ever considered anything like a sophisticated cyber-attack on him rather than all out warfare … after of course, first cooking the intelligence through Rummy’s DIA.
So I say again, thank God the adults are in charge. The Stuxnet virus was “outed” after doing its damage for many months. But it is the type of program that gives (good) reason to believe that companion programs are at play.
Moreover, as Obama was talking about nitwits “popping off” and getting all uber-manly — in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — about moving the fleet in to position, his reference to political/campaign posturing could and should be taken as a fresh reminder of what is really going on in the three countries most immediately involved. Boiled to its essence all three, Iran, Israell and the U.S., are in campaign season. And in each one, the usual radical, religious-baiting conservatives are thundering about apocalypse and Armageddon. The hyper-conservative mullahs and their religious zealot base in Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu and his Jewish arch-conservative base in Israel and … well, our guys here in the states.
So I repeat, be thankful every day for respite from The Clan of Chaotic Misadventures.