Almost two years ago, I posted a blog entitled “The Drums of War.” (The piece, dated Aug. 14, 2017, is in this site’s Archives.) I fretted then about the building sentiment for war with North Korea. This was before Trump fell in love with the mass murderer who leads that country. Happily, my fears turned out to be ill-founded.
But here we go again, this time in another part of the globe, thanks to the blatantly hawkish duo installed by President Trump: National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They haven’t yet launched us into combat, but their trigger fingers are itchy. In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tom Udall urge Congress to stop the march toward war with Iran being orchestrated by Bolton and Pompeo. Here’s the link:
Durbin and Udall make a polite case for congressional action to prevent a rush to an unjustifiable war. Bob Dreyfuss, an investigative reporter for The Nation, also showed with compelling detail how Pompeo and Bolton are setting the stage for war. Dreyfuss introduces us to the “B” team, the name used by Iran’s foreign minister for the powerful foursome favoring war with Iran. The four B’s are Bolton, Bibi of Israel, bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Here is the link:
So here’s the picture, and I’m putting it less politely than the senators did.
- Bolton and Pompeo are leading U.S. foreign policy. Both are enthusiastic proponents of projecting U.S. military might around the world, both are closely linked to the arms industry (Bolton was a Raytheon board member until Trump tapped him as National Security Advisor.) Both appear to be comfortable initiating armed conflicts that cost civilian lives and directly increase the profits of Big Oil. So take it as a given that our team is pro war with Iran.
- Bibi Netanyahu just won re-election in Israel and is confident that he can get someone else to bomb Iran to oblivion. His partners, the Saudis and Emiratis, have no qualms about starting a war. They did so in Yemen, nearly wiping out the country. The U.S. has a habit of invading countries in the Middle East, often because its powerful military-industrial complex has a vested interest in wars and occupation. So the U.S. is reliably there for Bibi.
- The two crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates clearly want the U.S. to go to war with Iran. It would help their oil business and, not incidentally, kill off a bunch Shia, whom they despise.
Clearly the B Team is greedy, ruthless, amoral and eager for war. Tell me what I have missed with this analysis.
So are we headed for armed conflict with Iran? I see two forces that might forestall it and one might surprise you. Trump has historically been critical of foreign military adventures; his opposition to the Iraq War is a good example. He also marched right up to the brink with all his trash talk of Kim Jung Un, then reversed course. So it’s possible that he could derail the B Team’s plans. They can’t move without his say so.
Running contrary to that line of reasoning, though, is that Trump may see political advantage in going to war before an election. There is little that his supporters like more than watching our jets dump ordinance on Muslims. So, maybe leaning on Trump to keep us out of war is a weak reed.
The second force that could derail the B Team’s plans is Congress. If there are any Republicans other than Rand Paul who will insist that Congress alone can send the country to war, then maybe there’s a chance that Congress will actually prevent carnage rather than cheer it on. Of course, Big Oil and defense contractors will do their level best to make sure their Republican servants in Congress vote to empower the President, thus making Congress another weak reed on which to lean.
The Democratic majority in the House could prevent a war by refusing to allocate money, but that would require Democratic congressmen to stand firm against the all-too-predictable outcry accusing them of “abandoning the troops.” Those howls would be financed by our rich friends who run the companies that make the bombs, bullets, bombers, missiles and mines.
I pray that none of this happens, but the ingredients are there. It is like a chef who has set up his “mise en place” before creating a great culinary masterpiece. He is then loath to not cook it.
You make a fair point, but I can take the opposite view of anything that someone wants to posit. It’s just my annoying personality. Iran has an avowed intent to establish hegemony over the Middle East, and to destroy Israel as a state and as a religion. Further complicating the dynamics, they want to establish Shiaism over the Sunni sect as the dominant Islamic force. I think it’s really debatable to say that the Saudis started the war in Yemen, as opposed to the Iranian proxy forces. That would be pretty similar, arguably, to saying that the French and Brits started WWII by coming to Poland’s defense.
I think the real issue is what our role should be in the world. Is it in our national interest to defend freedom from at least what we interpret to be the greater forces of tyranny (opposing Iran and siding with the Saudis, for example), or should we turn a blind eye even in our own hemisphere to the subjugation of Venezuela by Cuba? Should we abandon Israel and the Ukraine as we did in the last administration, or to what extent should we assist them? Should we have defended France and the UK in WWII? It’s not my intent to load the debate by referring to WWII, but if you’re going to have a philosophical debate about our involvement in the world I don’t think you can ignore it.
So, do we imperfectly choose between the lesser of evils in the world to oppose what we consider to be the greater of evils, or do we simply back off of any involvement? I think that is the real debate, and not whether we have picked the wrong fights.
Jim , you always make good points and I am pretty sure that somewhere between my view of things and yours lies the truth. A few points:
1. While I don’t dispute that the mullahs of Iran have evil intentions and are muddying the water in the Middle East, I don’t buy hook, line, and sinker the picture painted of the country by the likes of Bolton and Pompeo. They are not two honest brokers in my opinion.
2. Further, I wonder what Iran would look like without the US offering to play the great Satan all the time. Are the Europeans crazy for not opposing Iran as vociferously as we do. Why aren’t they moving warships in the Persian Gulf. So, I am skeptical about what I am told by our leaders and think that our chosen path of antagonism feeds the extremists in Teheran. When we were studying together at Tulane, I wrote a paper for a Latin American Studies seminar about the US foreign policy toward Cuba. I argued that our antagonism made Cuba rather than weakened Cuba. I think our antagonism toward Iran strengthens the worst elements within Iran.
3. Now, concerning your ideas or questions posed about our role in the world: I believe we side with the Saudis for all the wrong reasons. They are a vicious theocracy as is Iran. Why do we have to ally ourselves with either of them. Further, you seem to be comfortable having our government decide who is a tyrant and who isn’t, who is on the side of “freedom” and who isn’t. I am not comfortable with that and think that our meddling has been disastrous since the mid 60’s. I think we have proven that we don’t have answers for the problems of the MIddle East.
4. As you probably expect, I don’t think your WWII analogies are relevant for this discussion.
5. Where you and I probably fundamentally disagree is on the military industrial complex issue. I believe that the influence of the defense industry and the extraction industries on our foreign policy is malign. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories and I don’t beleive that a group of CEO’s sits down and says, “how can we sustain a perpetual state of war?” But I think Dwight Eisenhower’s warning has not been heeded and that our foreign policy decisions are not morally grounded. Whenever some politician says we are doing xyz to “defend democracy”, we should analyze that statement with a good dose of skepticism. That’s enough for now.