Monday, July 23, 2007

The Last Temptation of George

I see that the neocon's most fervent hawk in dove's feathers - Michael Ledeen - is at it again. Here, Ledeen takes Michael Gerson to task for his lack of bellicose recommendations for addressing Iran and Syria:

No surprise, then, that Gerson has no stomach for forceful action against the Syranians. He's for sanctions-plus-hard-bargaining.

Forceful action? Beyond sanctions and hard bargaining? I wonder what that could mean. Most observers whose analysis is tethered to logic would conclude that Ledeen favors a military strike on Iran - with Ledeen, presumably, having the stomach for something more forceful than sanctions. If confronted on this, however, Ledeen and his supporters will do their best to repair and patch Ledeen's dove costume - much as they did with his former advocacy for all out war with Iraq which has been magically transformed into opposition by him and his apologists.

More important than Ledeen's con-man mendacity, though, is the disturbing possibility that Mark Steyn might be right about where Bush's gastro-intestinal proclivities reside in relation to a potential war with Iran. I've long argued that even the Bush administration realizes the ultimate folly of opening up a second front with Iran at this juncture (while our commitments in Iraq leave us so vulnerable), and thus would abstain (albeit ruefully). Much of the military brass is reported to have reinforced this point with threats of mass resignations and the like (not to mention the presence of Robert Gates who appears to recognize the stakes).

Still, an increasingly weakened yet petulant and stubborn Bush might lash out in irrational and self-destructive ways in order to reaffirm his potency in the final months of decline - even ways that cautious observers would have ruled out precisely because they were such obvious mistakes.

It doesn't help to have warmongering cheerleaders like Steyn, Ledeen, the Podhoretz father/son tandem, William Kristol, Michael Rubin, Irwin Stelzer, Paul Gigot, Gertrude Himmelfarb (not to mention the entire Cheney wing of the White House), etc. filling Bush's head with pleasant-sounding and exculpatory Manichean drivel about history's judgment, Divine judgment and the ultimate vindication of The Good (embodied , naturally, by Bush's foreign policies). These paeans amount to little more than a gussied up war cry intended to play on Bush's weaknesses, isolation and insecurity. Nevertheless, such bromides can prove a tempting elixir for a leader like Bush in such a desperate and disheartening position.

In other words, confidence in the belief that Bush will ultimately refrain from committing such an enormous blunder vis-a-vis Iran is predicated on his ability to make rational decisions, concede the limitations of his power and reject the advice of Dick Cheney et al. Those odds should make us all more than a little nervous.

(hat tip to Matt Y)

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