David Broder’s recent observations about our Peace Prize President have created a stir. In his controversial October 31 Washington Post op-ed “How Obama might recover”, Broder postulates that Obama could choose the Iran war option. Actually, Obama has been doing a variation of this all along, ever since he found himself inside the Oval Office surrounded by the bipartisan Washington establishment. At this juncture—with the Tea Party sans-culottes ascendant and the Republicans soon to control Congress—Mr. Broder, the Washington press corps’ dean, is suggesting that Obama could confront Iran more aggressively, up to and including a full-scale war, to regain his mojo and stimulate a near-prostrate U.S. economy.
Here’s how Broder reasons it:
With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambitions to become a nuclear power, he [Obama] can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
As goofy as it sounds at first blush, this tactic has a solidly successful Democratic track record if you consider the FDR model in 1939-41 and, to a lesser extent, LBJ’s mid-1960s decision to plunge headfirst into Vietnam. Broder’s thinking is based upon domestic politics, not upon foreign policy considerations—and certainly not upon morality, America, or humanity. In terms of foreign policy, the suggestion is wild and crazy. Morally, it’s ignominious.
But in domestic politics, ramping up the fake Iran crisis could be a winner. It has worked before—most outstandingly for the Democrats’ godfather, Franklin Roosevelt. Based on circumstantial evidence and formerly classified documents, FDR railroaded the United States into the Second World War to save his failed presidency and to vanquish the dogged Great Depression. America was in no real danger from Japan or Germany. The authentic danger to America was from within, from Roosevelt and his extended entourage. The only thing not clear is whether or not FDR personally knew that the Imperial Japanese Navy was steaming toward Pearl Harbor with the intent of bombing the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and yet the executive branch failed to warn the commanders on the ground in Hawaii. Washington had broken the Japanese naval code as well as its diplomatic code and knew everything.
Pearl Harbor was a direct consequence of FDR’s own war-mongering policies, specifically designed to force Japan into firing the first shot. FDR wanted war and was privately moving heaven and earth to drag or trick his anti-interventionist countrymen into the bloodbath, all while proclaiming the opposite in public. (Wilson had done something similar prior to entering the Great War. His 1916 reelection campaign slogan was “He kept us out of war!”) The day after the “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR gave the greatest speech an American president ever delivered. December 8th, 1941’s “day of infamy” oration to a joint session of Congress was stupendous. The fact that it was mendacious, hypocritical, and extremely dishonest is another matter.
For FDR, Pearl Harbor was a godsend. It transformed him into a wartime president, a dictator for life. The Imperial Presidency was enthroned. Congress would henceforth be a nullity, or at best a gadfly, in foreign affairs. The United States has lived under this unhealthy, unconstitutional circumstance ever since. The powers that be are pleased with the arrangement. It gives them more freedom of action. And that is what Team Obama needs going forward: A patriotic extravaganza, a distraction in which Barack Obama becomes once again a hero figure, the center of attention, like he was on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2008.
Not everyone agrees. Professor Stephen Walt of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy fame immediately posed the question “What was David Broder smoking?” in his Foreign Policy blog. Walt condemned Broder’s column as “ill informed and morally bankrupt”. FP’s managing editor Blake Hounshell wondered, “Has David Broder lost his mind?” TM’s own Patrick J. Buchanan termed Broder’s analysis cynical in”Broder’s Brainstorm”.
Both Walt and Buchanan are dead right when you apply their thinking to Washington’s Iran policy itself. But both Congress and the press have wholeheartedly embraced this bipartisan, bellicose policy toward Iran for years. It may be more appropriate to ask, “What have Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, G. W. Bush, and Capitol Hill officials been smoking all these years?” and then, “Has Washington lost its mind?”
If Mr. Peace Prize were to wage war on Iran, it would amount to a natural outgrowth of an established policy he inherited and which both political parties endorse. If a shooting war resulted, it would be stupid and counterproductive just like Iraq. The policy has been ill informed, morally bankrupt, and cynical from the start. Thanks to America’s malfeasant leadership, we are already engaged in a de facto war with Iran. All of which begs the question: Why?
The policy is predicated upon the fiction, voiced by Broder, that “Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century.” Does Broder actually believe that absurdity? Who cares? It only matters that this false premise—part of the “clash of civilizations” bilge—is being used to justify U.S. foreign policy. The premise is generally accepted as true. It certainly is what Tel Aviv and its U.S. acolytes want everyone to believe, especially a gullible American public that is sitting back, swallowing it, and paying for it. The Israel lobby’s agitprop is relentless, brazen, and goes publicly unchallenged in official Washington.
The fact that Iran possesses no nuclear weapons and has not embarked on a nuclear-weapons program matters no more than it mattered that Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction were a fabrication of American neocons working for Ariel Sharon and Likud. Iran’s nuclear weapons and Iraq’s WMD are cover stories to mask a hidden agenda. Our Peace Prize President and Bush Jr. and Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and John Boehner, et al., pretend that Iran is a serious threat because it is good, inside-the-Beltway politics to do so. To act otherwise—to advocate that Iran not be embargoed, not be harassed, and not be bombed—would be a big mistake. The aforementioned individuals’ livelihood and standing depends to a great extent upon the largesse, influence, good will, and tolerance of Washington’s most powerful lobby. Why take a chance? The next election is always right around the corner.
And this is where Walt and Buchanan are slightly off target. Broder is a political junkie. He does not claim to be an expert on business or the economy. With this in mind, the Broder postulate is entirely understandable and unremarkable. He is not advocating that Obama start a war to entrench and advance his own career, even though such a strategy worked like a dream for Roosevelt. Rather, Broder is stating the obvious. He has a habit of doing this. (I have written about Broder before. See The Long Climbdown.) The warpath option against Iran is open and would be advantageous, based upon prevailing realities and attitudes in Washington. Simply stated, it will help Obama politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. Does anyone disagree? The Republicans will have been co-opted.
This says more about Washington’s deplorable state of affairs than it does about David Broder. Didn’t something along these lines do the trick for co-Presidents G. W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2004, even after it had become clear that the WMD fabrication they used to justify their Iraq adventure was bogus? Senator John Kerry, who ran against the dubious duo in 2004, did not dare to question that premise or even to express doubt about the Iraq invasion itself. How could he? His own Democratic Party was in on the same vote-getting, campaign-funding scheme as the Republicans. The Democrats had been co-opted.
Upon announcing his retirement from the U.S. Senate, Ernest Hollings wrote pointedly about G. W. Bush in May 2004:
He came to office imbued with one thought—reelection. Bush felt…spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats. You don’t come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq.
No, you don’t. You wave the flag and sound the alarm. Can Samuel Johnson be wrong? He can’t. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. In certain cases, it may even be the first choice. Why? Because it works.
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