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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Glorious War Plan for Iran

By Glenn Greenwald - It is hardly news to point out that the warmongers and neoconservatives in the Bush movement are radical, and are becoming increasingly more desperate with the rapid worsening of the predicaments for which they are responsible.

But if you really spend intensive time digging deeply into the things they've been saying and thinking for the last five years -- as I've been doing recently in writing my book -- it is nonetheless astounding: (a) just how deranged and detached from basic reality are their statements and (b) that they have not been forcefully cast out of respectable and mainstream political dialogue as a result of what they say and how they think.

Neoconservatives have now become such caricatures of themselves that it almost pity-inducing to read what they are writing (though even the briefest reminder of the tragic damage they have wrought precludes any possibility of real pity). When it comes to operating within the minimum confines imposed by basic rationality and plain reality, neoconservatives really are indistinguishable from, say, Lyndon LaRouche or Fred Phelps or any number of other deranged extremists who are not merely radical in their ideology, but are so far removed from reality that they command no attention beyond the occasional derisive reference.

Yet there is little doubt that these same neoconservatives still exert the greatest influence on the thinking of our current President, and the more decorated among them still command great respect from our nation's media stars. They are as bloodthirsty as they are detached from reality, as amoral as they are radical, and it is long past the time that just a fraction of the scorn that they so plainly merit be heaped upon them.

The immediate proximate cause prompting this observation is this most repellent article in the leading neoconservative magazine, Commentary, by Arthur Herman, a History Professor at George Mason University. The article, entitled Getting Serious About Iran – a Military Option, is an all-out demand that war with Iran commence as soon as possible, and it offers a detailed plan for how the war should be executed.

Herman declares at the outset that his purpose in the article is to undermine what he scornfully calls the "consensus [that] has taken root in the minds of America’s foreign-policy elite." What is this heinous "elite consensus" that must be uprooted? "That military action against Iran is a sure formula for disaster." Yes, perish that thought. Herman's mission is to defeat the "appeasing line" that war with Iran is "unthinkable." Not only is it thinkable, he contends, but it is feasible and urgently necessary for America's survival.

After reviewing all of the available short-of-war options for deterring Iranian nuclear proliferation, Herman declares -- with a claim that defines a new level of irony -- that “all of these recommendations fly in the face of reality." Dismissing away the consensus of the intelligence community, Herman claims that Iran may possess a nuclear weapon “within the next two to three years,” and that the U.S. (of course) possesses more than ample justification for waging war now on Iran:

Which brings us back to the military option. That there is plentiful warrant for the exercise of this option—in Iran’s serial defiance of UN resolutions, in its declared genocidal intentions toward Israel, another member of the United Nations, and in the fact of its harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists—could not be clearer.

Like a teenager in the obsessive midst of an online vídeo war game, Herman lays out a detailed fantasy plan for our military attack on Iran:

the attack could move to include Iran’s nuclear facilities—not only the “hard” sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another. Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran’s gasoline refineries.

But with the massive air attack on Iran’s industrial infrastructure (not to mention the destruction of their bridges and tunnels, tacked on as an afterthought), Herman is just warming up:

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran’s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran’s continental shelf.

North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran’s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran’s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.

Once the U.S. controls Iran’s oil, Herman envisions that we can then start dictating to Iran what their government will be, what policies they should and should not undertake, and basically put them into complete submission to our will. Herman argues that our war plan:

must therefore be predicated not only on seizing the state’s oil assets but on refusing to relinquish them unless and until there is credible evidence of regime change in Tehran or—what is all but inconceivable—a major change of direction by the reigning theocracy.

And what of the rather self-evident, towering risks of unilaterally attacking a country like Iran and seizing its oil assets? Those are all dismissed away by Herman as casually and cursorily as he drew up his grand war plans: “The tactical risks associated with a comprehensive war strategy of this sort are numerous. But they are outweighed by its key advantages.”

This is not some "thought experiment" or some game theory. This is really what Herman, and so many like him, believe the U.S. should do, and do now.

The very idea that we are going to launch a unilateral bombing campaign against Iran, shatter its infrastructure, and then seize its oil assets is pure insanity of the highest order. There is no other way to describe that. And that would be true at any time, let alone when we are bogged down in the greatest strategic disaster in our nation's history, where our already horrendous position could be worsened immeasurably by Iran.

One feels absurd even dignifying Herman's "analysis" with a substantive response. It really is the stuff of the babbling prophet standing on a cardboard box in the 1980s version of Times Square.

But with the fate of our Iraq occupation sealed through the end of the Bush presidency, the most pressing question is whether the Leader will use the last two years of his presidency to provoke some sort of military confrontation with Iran, and people like Herman are not standing on boxes in Times Square where they belong, but instead are writing in Commentary, which continues to exert real influence among the radicals who have driven our country into the state it is currently in (as but one example, Mark Halperin favorite Hugh Hewitt commended Herman's war plan as a "must-read").

When attempting to understand what has happened to the United States over the last six years, the fact that moronic commentary like Herman's was (and largely continues to be) treated as "serious" and "responsible" foreign policy wisdom, while those opposing the commencement of offensive wars were demonized as frivolous radicals, is the necessary starting point. For the same reason, excising people like Herman and his allies from our political dialogue is the highest priority in beginning to repair the destruction they have spawned.

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