Sunday, April 09, 2006

Will Bush Nuke Iran?

According to an article by Seymour Hersh in the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker, Bush is seriously considering attacking Iran to eliminate its purported nuclear weapons program. Attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. I haven't kept a scorecard, but my impression is that Hersh's reporting has been rather reliable over the past few years. And I do know that the Bush administration has been serious about developing "usable" nuclear weapons -- in particular the bunker-busters they are reportedly considering using against Iran.

I think that Hersh's article is probably the scariest thing I've read in a good long while. Possibly even the scariest thing I've read during the entire Bush Administration. Obviously, Iran getting nukes would be a bad thing.* But that hardly means that bombing Iran would be a better option. (Sometimes there are no good options.) The horrific possibilities -- Iranian loss of life, the reaction of the rest of the world, the likelihood of terrible retaliatory attacks on Americans (in Iraq, in the "homeland" through terrorism, or elsewhere), to say nothing of increased support for the Iranian regime and increased Iranian determination to develop the bomb -- are so numerous that it boggles the mind. So even if Iran is on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon, I don't think we should bomb them. (We should negotiate seriously and in good faith, which it's hardly clear we've been doing.)

But of course these are the people that brought you the Iraq war, complete with we'll-be-welcomed-as-liberators, Mission Accomplished and all the rest. These are the people who are talking about bombing Iran causing the fall of the (Iranian) government, rather than a rallying around the government (which has traditionally been the response to bombing -- bombing has over and over again rallied civilians to even terrible governments; the thought it would work this time is nuts -- but then, these people are nuts). I hope no one dismisses this because it's simply too crazy. These people are crazy. I don't know if they will do this, but it's quite clear that they might. His poll numbers are low -- but that to them might be an argument for not against. Our army's bleeding in Iraq -- but since they seem to genuinely believe that there won't be retaliation, that the government will fall, they may think we can do both. There are systems of self-reinforcing thought at play here that may lead them to do it, blind or oblivious to the horrors they will unleash.

The one ray of hope in the article was the possibility that protests by senior military officers might force the batshit crazy civilians to back down. God I hope so. It's like Dr. Strangelove in reverse -- the loonies are the civilian government, the few sane people are the military.

The article's quite new, so so far the blogospheric response has been minimal -- at least in terms of substantive posts: most of what I've seen so far are basically expressions of horror. Digby and Tristero say a bit more; Jonathan Schwarz at This Modern World points us to this Washington Post article which adds a bit to Hersh's piece; and Think Progress points us to this summary of Hersh's article. The last link came from Atrios, who also drew my attention to the article in the first place; he points out the scale of likely world reaction. If I get a chance -- and see any additional good blogosphere discussion of this -- I'll try to add links.

Absa-fracking-lutely terrifying.

Update: P. Z. Myers comments (& follows up); as does Mahablog. Also Kip Manley. Matt Stoller has a brief comment. Also, two important pre-Hersh posts on this topic: Steve Clemons says that Israel is calmer than the Americans about Iran; and Kevin Drum mentions a few other articles discussing the increasing likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran.

Additional Update: Crooks & Liars has the video of Hersh on CNN; TalkLeft quotes highlights of the transcript of the CNN interview, and the conclusion of a briefing paper about what the consequences would be. Hersh's interview made the bombing seem quite likely, but a specifically nuclear bombing rather unlikely -- due to military pressure on Bush. And, via Andrew Sullivan, the Times of London has a source confirming Hersh's reporting on the planning for a strike.

Still More: Josh Marshall explains why Bush administration denials mean "absolutely nothing"; Amanda also thinks of Dr. Strangelove. James Fallows in this month's Atlantic talks about why attacking Iran would be a bad idea. More commentary from: Max Sawicky; Todd Gitlin; Matt Yglesias; Helmut.

*I actually think that anyone having nukes is a bad thing, and that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty should be pursued in good faith, i.e. that the nuclear powers (including us) should be getting rid of their weapons. That they should be illegal, just like chemical and biological weapons are, with intrusive inspections (of everyone, including us) to verify. And that this would be the best way to prevent the ultimate terrorist scenario, a nuclear attack on a city. But that's a different post.

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