Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Iran so Far Away?

Sometimes it snows in Minnesota; not as much in recent years, but the past few days we have been hit with a couple of storms. Even people in winter climates tend to lose their heads with the first snowstorm, and they lose the ability to drive. It’s because people are not by nature logical, they are emotional. We become used to certain systems, and the injection of any new element into that system causes our responses to become skewed.

I was driving home yesterday, during rush hour, in a snow storm. It took me an hour and forty minutes to make it the 3.5 miles to my house on surface streets. I had plenty of time to observe all sorts of human behavior (as well as time to knit, believe it or not). The people around me in their cars were doing all sorts of things that they would not have done were the streets clear: clogging up intersections, creeping over lines, crossing over three lanes.

While I sat in my car knitting, waiting for traffic to move, and watching drivers try to squeeze a few more inches off of the distance home, public radio was reporting on the president’s news conference. It appears that, as with Iraq, our intelligence reports were a bit off. It appears that information was thinly sourced and based on less than rigorous methods. Again, officials were saying, we were wrong, but we could be right. Again, it seems like intelligence has been overstated to correspond with the administration’s rhetoric in order to ramp up a case for military action.

Not surprisingly, the injection of this new element into Bush’s system has caused him to be less than logical. But in his case, the system was already skewed to the point that he believes that he is behaving logically. Or at least, he acts like it.

Have you heard of the Axis of Evil? It’s not a rock band or a new hell-themed circus troupe, it was, of course, the triumvirate of terrible regimes named in George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address; the countries upon whom we, as a nation, needed to focus our fear in order for the federal government to squeeze dry the national coffers and bankrupt our schools, social programs, and local communities. Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are out there, and they are out to get America.

Well, we sure showed Iraq, and it seems we are going to show Iran as well. And just to make sure that we have the most satisfying flashback possible, George W. Bush is going to provide us with practically the same situation as we were handed in 2003: spurious claims, imaginary weapons, and repetitive propaganda. Does anyone else feel that not a moment has passed? Maybe for the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, we can bomb Tehran. What are you doing March 18th?

I have to wonder, is Congress smarter now? Is the American public warier now? Is the government going to reevaluate its approach to foreign relations?

It would seem not.

In September, Congress passed a nonbinding resolution naming the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. Currently, 57% of Americans believe that it was a mistake to send American soldiers to Iraq in the first place, which is more of a majority than Bush had in either election, but this means that 41% still think it was a good idea (2% had no opinion). In November, 39% of Americans polled still think that American will definitely or probably win the war in Iraq (the highest point was 49% in December 2005. All figures While the numbers in support of the war have gone down, I still find them to be alarmingly high.

And the administration’s attitude? Iran was, is, and will be a danger.

In October, President Bush was telling us that if we wanted to avoid World War III, then we had better stop Iran. All indications from yesterday’s news conference say that he still holds this view, even though he likes to say things like “The best diplomacy, effective diplomacy, is one of which all options are on the table” and “Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation.”

I don’t know what piece of new information could be added to the current situation in order to cause change. Americans seem to be entirely un-phased by revelations I find appalling, and every time I think the administration can’t possibly recover, Americans sigh and change the channel.

Enough people believed Bush in 2002-3 to help get us in the present mess in Iraq, and it seems that he has the audacity to think that the same thing will work again, this time for Iran. A few news conferences ago he said that he could look in the mirror and feel good because he knew that he had acted on his principles. If that’s true, he is either extremely lacking in self awareness, remarkably uninformed, blissfully obtuse, or rotten to the core.