Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What to Do About Iran?

Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein warn that the administration is determined to attack Iran (or, more precisely, to use Iran in the midterm elections--the way they used Iraq), and that the Democrats had better figure out how to respond.

I think the best defense is an early and aggressive offense. Make it about their political maneuvering. Make the point early and often that anything the administration says about Iran has no purpose other than influencing the midterms. Recap 2002: the egregious distortions, the timing of the thing ("From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August"--thank you, Andy Card), disparaging the patriotism of people who didn't want us to get into what has turned out to be an epic clusterfuck. The whole story. Take their hubris and shove it right back down their smug little throats.

Handled right, this is an opportunity; handled wrong (or more likely, not handled at all) it's another Democratic defeat in the making.

Some might object that this is just a political strategy, and doesn't deal with...y'know...Iran. That's absolutely right. So what?

There are two things we know here. The first is that any Democratic strategy for dealing with Iran will not be implemented. We could say 'let's nuke the living shit out of those people' or we could say 'hey, let's just give them tactical nuclear weapons' and there would be no practical difference between the two because neither would have the slightest chance of being implemented. Nothing we propose will actually happen. So, sure, we should come up with some fatuous platitudes with which to counter the other side's fatuous platitudes, but given our position there's really no reason why we should have to come up with a real strategy.

The other thing we know, and we know this from the Iraq experience, is that whatever the administration does will have everything to do with using Iran as a political tool and nothing to do with how to contain them or stop them from getting the bomb (except to the extent that the latter, by purest chance, coincides with the former). In that context, it makes no sense to talk about Iran as if this bunch of clowns might actually consider doing something serious about it.

What this means for us is that any response to any administration proposal must be focused on damaging them politically; we cannot fall into the trap of trying to talk seriously about what should really be done. That sounds like political cynicism, but here's the thing: this really is the best thing we can do about Iran anyway. Whatever the administration proposes is pretty much guaranteed to make things much worse; doing nothing at all is also bad, but vastly preferable to anything they might do. Stopping them--which is to say, making action by them politically infeasible--is our best possible outcome, substantively as well as politically.

Disaster looms, for the world as well as for the Democrats. I hope this time we have the sense to avoid it.

[That's all, folks]