February 06, 2006

The Tortured "Logic" of the Drive to War

Over the weekend, I wrote:
[S]everal months ago, the usual estimate for the time Iran would need to develop nuclear weapons was about ten years. Then it got reduced to five years. Now, people speak as if Iran will have nuclear weapons in the next few months. The unavoidable implication of this tactic is the obvious one, the one that Bush used so disastrously with Iraq: we need to act now. We have to do something now.
I profoundly dislike being so accurate on matters of this gravity. You don't believe me? Perhaps you'll believe Richard Perle:
MUNICH, Germany, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Richard Perle, a key architect of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, said on Saturday the West should not make the mistake of waiting too long to use military force if Iran comes close to getting an atomic weapon.

"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is," Perle told Reuters on the sidelines of an annual security conference in Munich.

"And so, ironically, one of the lessons of the inadequate intelligence of Iraq is you'd better be careful how long you choose to wait."

Perle said Israel had chosen not to wait until it was too late to destroy the key facility Saddam Hussein's secret nuclear weapons programme in Osirak, Iraq in 1981. The Israelis decided to bomb the Osirak reactor before it was loaded up with nuclear fuel to prevent widespread radioactive contamination.

"I can't tell you when we may face a similar choice with Iran. But it's either take action now or lose the option of taking action," he said.
The brazenness of this is truly breathtaking. The lesson from the Iraq catastrophe according to Perle: our intelligence is so bad that we must start another war more quickly -- apparently on the basis of scant or even no evidence at all.

Ignorance is Knowledge. War is Peace. Orwell must be green with envy.

Perle thus also confirms the major argument of Part I of my Iran series: he now tells us with absolute clarity that the intelligence is completely irrelevant. The decision to go to war is one of policy, as Barbara Tuchman points out in the excerpt in that post. Intelligence, whatever it might indicate, has nothing to do with it.

The drums of war are once again being beaten relentlessly. Rumsfeld offered the same line this weekend:
AMERICAN military action against Iran because of its nuclear ambitions is still an option, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned.

With Iran remaining defiant in the face of international pressure over its atomic programme - it yesterday ended snap United Nations inspections of its atomic sites - Mr Rumsfeld upped the stakes, describing Iran as a "main sponsor" of terrorist groups.


Mr Rumsfeld, who attended a weekend security conference in Munich, Germany, made no bones about the seriousness of the situation.

"All options - including the military one - are on the table," he told a German newspaper. "Any government that says Israel has no right to exist is making a statement about its possible behaviour in the future."

At the conference, Mr Rumsfeld accused Tehran of being behind international terrorism. "Iran is the main sponsor of terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," he said.
So Rumsfeld and Perle were at the same security conference in Munich. Comparing notes, spouting the same line of propaganda -- and doing everything possible to ensure that the next "crisis" arrives on schedule, for use in the fall election campaigns. Obviously, what's most disturbing about Perle's comments about Iran is that his bottom line -- "it's either take action now or lose the option of taking action" -- represents the view of those now in power in the executive branch, and of many members of Congress.

Just pray they don't decide to implement the plan. At this point, I think one is justified in expecting the worst -- and then multiplying it by a factor of ten.