Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Might Makes Right"

Ken Adelman:

Most troubling, he said, are his shattered ideals: "The whole philosophy of using American strength for good in the world, for a foreign policy that is really value-based instead of balanced-power-based, I don't think is disproven by Iraq. But it's certainly discredited."
Actually, what is most troubling is the rise of the mega-church and the "feel good" branch of Christianity, and the idea that God is on our side, and that we can usher in the kingdom of heaven and bring about the millennia if we help Israel, or otherwise engage in the "right" foreign policy.

One can only wonder how different recent American history might have been if our leadership and our people had learned a few more lessons about history and human nature from Augustine and Aquinas, or just been exposed to Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Irony of American History or The Nature and Destiny of Man. Niebuhr is not without his flaws and weaknesses in his analyses, but at least he tried to tell us what America looked like from a perspective that took into account power and human nature and the limitations of both. The Greeks saw it, too; and the Romans, to a degree. But for all the contemporary complaints about "mythology," for all the critics of religion who misunderstood Bultmann (because they never read him) or railed about the existence of Jesus without even opening Schweitzer's book, none took the time to learn that certain branches of Christian theology were far more sanguine about military power and the realities of military, or even economic, power, than the "hard-nosed realists" have been.

UPDATE: But then, there isn't any reason to believe anyone in the Administration is listening to people like Adelman. Seymour Hersch:

The Democratic victories this month led to a surge of calls for the Administration to begin direct talks with Iran, in part to get its help in settling the conflict in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke ranks with President Bush after the election and declared that Iran should be offered “a clear strategic choice” that could include a “new partnership” with the West. But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. “It’s a classic case of ‘failure forward,’” a Pentagon consultant said. “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.”

The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Condoleezza Rice, who said last month that Iran “does need to understand that it is not going to improve its own situation by stirring instability in Iraq,” and by the President, who said, in August, that “Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold” in Iraq. The government consultant told me, “More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.”

The consultant added that, for some advocates of military action, “the goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb—and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.” (Sadr, who commands a Shiite militia, has religious ties to Iran.)

In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative, argued that the Administration had little choice. “Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he wrote. The President would be bitterly criticized for a preĆ«mptive attack on Iran, Muravchik said, and so neoconservatives “need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.”

The main Middle East expert on the Vice-President’s staff is David Wurmser, a neoconservative who was a strident advocate for the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Like many in Washington, Wurmser “believes that, so far, there’s been no price tag on Iran for its nuclear efforts and for its continuing agitation and intervention inside Iraq,” the consultant said. But, unlike those in the Administration who are calling for limited strikes, Wurmser and others in Cheney’s office “want to end the regime,” the consultant said. “They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.”
Double down, indeed.

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