Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Admittedly, that sounds like the title of a goofy blog contest. If there were such a contest, surely the first sentence in today's lead editorial would be a candidate:
Before things get any more out of hand, President Bush needs to make his intentions toward Iran clear.
The last thing that our president should do -- right now, at least -- is "make his intentions toward Iran clear." As I have written before, in the confrontation between Iran, on the one hand, and its geopolitical adversaries, on the other, both sides correctly believe that uncertainty is their friend. Indeed, Iran has deliberately manufactured uncertainty -- about the pace and stage of its nuclear program, for example -- precisely because it knows that it will get a better deal from the West if we don't know what is going on than if we do. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to revel in this. See, for example, his unwillingness even to deny that Iran is supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq. Instead he demands "proof."
Well, it would be equally silly for the United States, Israel, or any other threatened power to reveal either its intentions or its menu of options for confronting Iran. We would be weakening our own position in the negotiations with Iran. What negotiations, you ask? They are going on all the time, even if they do not involve direct discussions in a five-star hotel with press conferences before and after.
There will come a time in the confrontation with Iran when we will spell out our intentions clearly, as we have, finally, this week in the six-party talks over North Korea's weapons program. In the case of Iran, that time has not yet arrived.
The question then is, are the editors of the Times calling for transparency in American strategy because they actually believe it would be useful to tell Iran exactly what we will and will not do if it continues to develop the nuclear fuel cycle? If so, I'm sure many of you would jump at the opportunity to sit down at the poker table with them. If not, their demand that the president state his intentions is nothing but a disingenuous political attack.
Believe it or not, my own hypothesis is that the Times actually believes that we should explain to the world -- in public, so the Times can editorialize about it -- precisely what we intend to do about Iran. My evidence is this strange paragraph from the same editorial:
We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent. Iran is defying the Security Council’s order to halt its nuclear activities, and it is certainly meddling inside Iraq. But we are also certain that the Iraq war has so strained the American military and so shattered this president’s credibility that shrill accusations and saber rattling are far more likely to frighten the allies America needs to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions than to change Tehran’s behavior.
Apart from the absurdity of the premise (that the New York Times believes the president about the threat Iran poses, but "the allies America needs" do not), the editors reveal a bizarre sense for the attitude of "the allies America needs." America's "allies" (and the critical countries in this formulation -- Russia and China -- are rivals, not allies) do not want to get into the messy business of containing Iran. They would much prefer to sell it stuff (in the case of Russia) and secure its oil and gas (in the case of China). So the question becomes, under what circumstances are Russia and China going to do what both George Bush and the New York Times want, which is to vote for and enforce tough sanctions against Tehran? Are they more likely to cast that vote if the United States and Israel have already spelled out precisely what they will not do if Iran fails to comply? Or, will Russia and China be more willing to squeeze Iran if they think that there is at least a teensy chance that George W. Bush might do something rash?
I think everybody with two brain cells to rub together knows the answer to that.
As I was reading your posting TH, I was formulating a reply. but great minds think alike. I agree with your observation that the Times is demanding transparency so they have grist for thier editorial mill. I guess they are tired of ex post facto complaints and now wish to adopt a critical aspect of the Bush doctrine by moving to pre emptive complaining.
Unless the President is up front, the NYT will have to go to all the bother of retrieving classified information over the transom. Such cloak and dagger internal espionage takes away from really important work – like publishing classified information retrieved over the transom.
TH, you are still under the impression that the NYTimes thinks we are fighting terrorism. Their real battle is for the Soul of America, so how everything plays out politically here is the real story to them. The Middle East isn't a real place where people might actually die or anything - it's just a chessboard for the '08 elections.
I gave them the benefit of the doubt on this for too many years. No longer. Events outside the culture war are simply not very real to them.
Were things the exact opposite, for example *IF* US Marines were found with US manufactured bombs killing Iranian civilians and soldiers inside Iran, then the NY Times would not waste a millisecond in blaming a chain of command that went all the way to the President, and claiming Bush knew everything about the operation except maybe the color of their socks. But in the present situation, the NYT will not believe Iran has any military inside Iraq, despite their actual presence, will not believe they are shipping war materials in despite their presence, and will not believe the Iranian government knows about it despite all the evidence. Perhaps if we classified it, they would give it front page treatment, its worked before.
Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/15/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.