Daily Kos linked yesterday in the open thread to the recent Gallup Poll on American public opinion about the Iranian nuclear threat. The poll showed that Americans recognize the danger, have little confidence in Bush's ability to handle the problem, and slightly more confidence in the U.N. The perception among 47% polled that the U.N. can help is being seeded by Bush State of Delusion Message to mask his abject impotence. The Gallup Poll is revealing, but the poll failed to ask several key questions:
Do you believe "Israel can handle Iran"? (No credible military expert thinks an Israeli air strike would work; the political cost of an Israeli pre-emptive ground war is too horrible to dream of.)
Do you see a link between the Iraq quagmire and Iran's aggressiveness? Is a nuclear Iran the cost we may ultimately pay for paralyzing our great army in the Iraq war?
Do you think the Iraq quagmire limits our options vis-a-vis Iran?
Do you think military action against Iran would wreck stability in Iraq?
Do you feel President Bush is embarrassed on the world stage by the strutting Iranian Mullahs?
Primarily, the Gallup Poll failed to document American awareness of the link between Iran's aggression and our military paralysis in Iraq.
Aside from public opinion, 'elite' perception of Iran is becoming critical, even among the President's prostitutes in the mainstream media. It's the only issue on which we don't hear the treasonous, idiotic spin that makes most Beltway commentary worthless. I've seen several examples that even Bush's most dishonest press surrogates are concerned about the President's weakness on Iran. David Brooks, in his commentary on PBS before SOTU, looked for an answer on whether Bush had accepted the inevitability of a nuclear Iran. Tony Blankley, conservative editor of the Washington Times, recognizes Iran as a 'gathering storm'. Prior to SOTU, Blankley predicted the President would make a strong statement that Iran would never go nuclear on his watch; Blankley had to be disappointed by the weasling baloney he heard at SOTU. And the Nixonite Pat Buchanan stated flatly that Bush was 'backing away' and 'weak' on Iran in SOTU. The Beltway supplicants who spin, excuse and cover for the President on domestic spying, the Harriet Miers fiasco, Katrina, the deficit, Medicare Part 'Duh', and even Iraq, are embarrassed by the 'in Bush's face' aggressiveness of the Mullahs. In truth, they have never seen an American President 'dissed' on the world stage with such brazen contempt.
DNC chair Howard Dean is forceful, yet responsible, in his criticism of Bush's ongoing Iranian flop. Dean agrees with the President that no option--including the use of force--should be taken off the table. Dean continues to link Iran with North Korea when he talks about nuclear danger. I think this is a mistake. As dangerous as North Korea may be, no one expects China to go to war against North Korea, and North Korea is not publicly threatening to 'wipe Japan off the map'. By dire contrast, Iran's default nuclear posture towards Israel is tantamount to DEFCON 3. The threats are not comparable; by comparing Bush's failure in North Korea to his failure in Iran, Dean is cutting the President some undeserved slack.
Dean also cuts the President undeserved slack by paying lip service to a dubious military option against Iran. However, Dean is speaking responsibly as a statesman and DNC chair. Certainly it doesn't serve the national interest for the U.S. government to publicly concede that we have no credible threat of force. But the Mullahs are neither blind nor stupid. They can see our great and powerful army stuck in a roadside ditch in Iraq; they'll seize the chance to strut their way right under Bush's nose into the nuclear club. And they won't be quiet about it, either. Their over-the-top threats against Israel amount to a declaration of political victory for the Muslim world over America in Iraq. They trumpet Bush's impotence, playing loudly and brazenly to an Islamic audience. In the Muslim view, the Iraqi people have sacrificed their lives to neutralize America's military power, paving the way for the emergence of an untouchable Islamic Nuclear Superpower in Tehran. At the same time, the Mullahs play more subtly to a European and elite American audience by making fools of the IAEC. To the European view, every time the Iranians agree and then predictably reneg on a deal, President Bush looks more and more silly.
The Americans voting in the Gallup Poll are, by and large, too stoned on the smell of bullshit emanating from Fox News to realize how weak we look to the rest of the world. Or perhaps not. The Gallup Poll should have explored what Americans think about how we are viewed internationally in light of the Mullah's strutting and beating their chest over nuclear weapons. Bush's goal at this point is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but to mask his humiliation from American voters. In truth, he and his bribe-addled prostitutes in the Congress deserve a harsher rejection at the polls than Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Just as Bush floats the absurdity of 'Iraqization' to mask his 'cut and run' plans for Iraq, he now floats this Security Council nonsense to mask his abject strategic failure in Iran. 'Congenital' Condeleeza Rice has already lied to this effect, claiming progress in negotiations, at least because the Russians and Chinese now 'recognize the seriousness' of the issue. (Bitch, all that means is that the Russians and the Chinese know the value of their vetoes, and they are going to make you pay through your stuck-up nose for a deal.)
Nothing short of a U.N. oil embargo is going to deter Iran, and the moon is more likely to reverse its orbit than the Security Council is to impose an oil embargo. It's equally unlikely that the Russians or the Chinese will squander the bargaining chip afforded by their Security Council vetoes. The backhanded threat of arming your competitor's enemy with nuclear weapons is an old American Cold War trick, and you can bet the Communists are going to throw it back in our face.
Putin will take his cue from the old Cold Warrior Nixon, deviantly skilled at the mind-boggling game of nuclear chess. Nixon parlayed the threat of a nuclear-armed Japan as he leveraged the Chinese to the bargaining table. He couldn't directly threaten China -- that might have forced a rapproachment with the Soviets. Instead, while offering the olive branch, Nixon passive-aggressively threatened to reduce our security guaranty to Japan. Without the American security guaranty, Japan would have no choice but to re-arm. Nixon even encouraged Japan to replace American missiles on Okinawa with its own nukes. Mao was justifiably apoplectic - however remote the chance that Japan would reverse its anti-nuke policy, he couldn't take the risk. The cliche "Only Nixon could go to China" refers not only to Nixon's anti-red credentials, but to the classic American 'swamp fox' cunning personified by 'Tricky Dick', and so grievously and treasonably lacking in Bush 43.
Following Nixon's example, the Iranian nuclear card is just too juicy for the Russians and Chinese to give up at anything less than an exorbitant price. For the first time in our history, Bush 43 has put us at a disadvantage in bargaining with Totalitarian governments. What resemblance does this man bear to Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan or Bush 41? Bush will undoubtedly 'exude sunny nobility' while begging the Communists on the Security Council for a deal on Iran.
The one skill Bush has mastered is the ability to capitalize politically on his own grotesque failures. Dean can't go for the jugular on Iran because the stakes are too high. In fact, we are humiliated on the world stage by Iran, far more than Jimmy Carter during the 1980 hostage crisis, but the Democrats can't and shouldn't say that. Force against Iran may be necessary, but would require a premature withdrawal from Iraq, would be another serious blow to our economy, and would thoroughly sink the strategy of de-radicalizing Islam, Bush's over-arching goal in the War against Terrorism. The best case scenario is that the Iranians, the Russians and the Chinese will milk the nuclear card for all its worth--we'll pay through the nose but they will back down. The worst case scenario--a U.S. war with Iran--wins out barely over an Israeli-Iranian war, but nuclear weapons in proximity to Hamas is unacceptable, out-of-hand. By comparison, Soviet missiles in Cuba were just a 'mild provocation'.
None of this would be true if we were not bogged down in Iraq. The Iranians wouldn't dare threaten to wipe out Israel while pursuing nuclear weapons if we hadn't already blown our pre-emptive load chasing non-existent WMDs in Baghdad. Bush and 'Congenital' Cheney (that pathetic has-been), through inconceivable incompetence, have neutralized the most feared military in the history of man: now the Mullahs dare to call our bluff. Force against Iran would never be necessary under competent American leadership. The credible threat of force applied with traditional American skill -- the skill of a Kennedy, a Nixon, a Roosevelt, a Truman, a Reagan, a Bush 41, a Clinton 42, a Clinton 44 -- would put Iran in its place as a third rate regional power that knows better than to fuck with the United States.
The best I can hope for: while the American public holds out hope for a U.N. solution or naively believes "Israel can handle Iran", the 'elite press corp' of hacks, rentboys, toadies and RNC surrogates, turns its back on Bush for letting Iran embarrass America on the world stage. Spinning Katrina is one thing, but excusing Bush for his humiliation at the hands of the Mullahs may be the line of treason even David Brooks and Chris Matthews can't cross. Then, a clean sweep in 2006 and 2008 returns the American government to form, and a new 'Slick Willie' or 'Tricky Dick' -- a real American president, for a change -- outplays the Mullahs, Putin and the Chinese, and brokers a deal the world can live with. My money is on the Lady of Steel: Clinton 44.
America may be the 8,000 ton gorilla in the world today, but at our core we have always been the wily 'swamp fox' -- until Bush 43 came along. We out-foxed the British to win our independence, we out-thought the Japanese and Germans to win the atomic race, we out-played the Russians and the Chinese to win the Cold War. Now we are being out-played by Iran, and not even David Brooks can stomach that. Show me one move by President Bush that compares in deviant mastery to the Nixon Japanese nuclear maneuver that brought Mao to the table, or to Kennedy's brilliant brinksmanship in the Missile Crisis.
Well, I'm waiting.