Category Archives: Foreign Policy

‘Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term’

According to this May 20, 2008 Jerusalem Post report, the US may be planning to attack Iran before Cheney leaves office.

If you’ve read up on Dick Cheney, and read up on the Iraq invasion’s real winner (Iran), its difficult (and not cynical at all) to imagine that an attack on Iran isn’t waiting in the wings, probably during the month before the US presidential election. October Surprise! The US invasion of Iraq has strategically set Iran ahead in so many respects, and now, strangely, some of Iran’s interests are in alignment with US interests (such as Iraqi stability, which, as it develops, continues to serves Iran’s interests). The problem is that everything that the US has done in Iraq since 2003 has served to empower and embolden Iran’s influence in the region, while simultaneously putting US soldiers to the east and west of its borders. Of course Iran is on the defense with its nuclear ambitions and rhetoric, but it is strategically also in an offensive position, able to make things difficult for the US. In the end, an empowered Iran is NOT a Cheney/Bush interest, and will likely cause Hawks like them to conclude that their patriotic duty will be to deal with Iran militarily before they leave office, convinced that a Democratic president won’t. That military action will escalate, and Iran can make things very difficult in the region, for Iraq, for oil tanker traffic, and for Israel. If a much larger escalation of the situation in the middle east doesn’t start to boil before inauguration day, we can continue to hope it never will. But prepare yourself for an October Surprise.


The Atlantic’s 150 Year Anniversary Issue – David Foster Wallace asks how much our security should cost

The new issue of The Atlantic (the 150th Anniversary issue) has reached me in Stockholm. If you don’t subscribe, pick it up at newstands. It’s a terrific issue, with nearly 50 of American’s great minds and writers speculating on the “future of the American idea”. Since The Atlantic won’t let ANYONE read their articles without being paid subscribers, I’ll republish just one of the 50 essays here and see if they get all worked up about it. This was the article that had the greatest impact on my thinking, giving me new perspective and providing clear delineation where I was otherwise a little fuzzy.

The Future of the American Idea
November 2007
Atlantic Monthly
by David Foster Wallace
Just Asking

Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea* one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?* In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?

Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin’s time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice—either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?

In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Patriot Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?

1. Given the strict Gramm-Rudmanewque space limit here, let’s just please all agree that we generally know what this term connotes—an open society, consent of the governed, enumerated powers, Federalist 10, pluralism, due process, transparency … the whole democratic roil.

2. (This phrase is Lincoln’s, more or less)

David Foster Wallace is the author of several books, including Infinite Jest (1996), A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), and Consider the Lobster (2005).

Islamic Extremism Up, America Down

The New Republic
War of Error by Peter Bergen
How Osama Bin Laden Beat George W. Bush
Post Date October 22, 2007

If there was another winner besides Iran since 9-11, it might be Al Qaeda. It has not been the US. Peter Bergen points out why in this cover story from this week’s New Republic. Of course, from a Cheney perspective, it’s all about the long term (The US hasn’t won — YET!). A seductively logical ideology perhaps, but one with alarmingly little chance of being vindicated and with an enormous and guaranteed economic, political, and human cost regardless of the outcome.

The New Republic online is for paying subscribers only, but this link might work.

[My thanks to RBS for catching this article quickly. It’s a great read.]

Why are Israel, Syria, and the US quiet, except for a deliberate minimal leak from the White House to David Sanger?

Prominent Republicans on house intelligence committees have written this letter to the Wall Street Journal (the link here is a “reprint” – WSJ is accessible to paid subscribers only) appealing to the Bush administration to reveal what it knows about a supposed Israeli airstrike on Syria in Sept 2007.

Quote from letter: “We are among the very few who were briefed, but we have been sworn to secrecy on this matter. However, we are prepared to state, based on what we have learned, that it is critical for every member of Congress to be briefed on this incident, and as soon as possible.”

David Sanger, from The New York Times, appears to have received deliberate leaks from the administration, and was interviewed last week on the Diane Rehm Show about it. He was told that it was definitely an air strike on suspected secret nuclear facilities in Syria which may have had some connection to North Korea. Both Israel and Syria have apparently been quiet about it.

What’s going on?

[Thanks to FMH for a “heads up” on this WSJ letter.]