Calculating the Iran Crisis
At the Corner
, Stanley Kurtz says the 2008 election is likely to be more about Iran than about Iraq. Kurtz suggests that the Persian front is about to heat up:
What if Mario Loyola is right, and Iran is likely to expel U.N. inspectors and ramp up its nuclear fuel processing in a matter of months. That will provoke not only a national security crisis, but an American, and global, political crisis. At that point, the key question for every presidential candidate will be what to do about Iran. [...]
By election time, we’ll see a raft of conflicting estimates on just when Iran is likely to get a bomb. None of them will be completely reliable, but there will also be good reason to fear that the worst scenarios are true.
At that point, predicts Kurtz, "the anti-war left" will point to the lessons of Iraq and "deride all the guesswork as bogus fear-mongering."
This, of course, will be a conundrum of the right's own making. The Bush administration and their neoconservative enablers have so degraded the US intelligence apparatus, and so undermined the public's faith in the honesty of the executive branch, that as long as Bush remains in office we will simply have no reason to believe that any of his warnings, any of his dire predictions of smoking-guns-as-mushroom-clouds, have any validity at all.
Still, Kurtz estimates that "overall, if this turns into an Iran election, it will help the Republicans." And probably it will, as Democratic frontrunners will feel compelled to reserve judgment on intelligence that could be legitimate - but which they won't be able to analyze for themselves. The Bush administration will have the advantage of being the information gatekeeper on the Iran situation. The GOP candidate will simply have to talk tough. The Democrat will be obliged to account for the possibility that this time there really is a wolf - even while the entire Democratic base throws its hands up in outrage at yet another round of transparent Republican fearmongering.
You can hear Kurtz licking his chops. Look at this framing:
Unfortunately, I wonder if, by the time a new president comes in, it won’t already be too late to stop Iran. Iran no doubt remembers how it sent the hostages home at the start of Ronald Reagan’s new presidency. It greatly feared Reagan’s combination of toughness and fresh political capital. That’s part of why Iran is racing so hard right now to get the bomb.
There's a little bit of everything here: Reagan worship, self-aggrandizing tough-guy posturing, dark warnings that the sky is falling and only the Republicans can stop it.
It's a funny little paragraph. I doubt Ayatollah Khomeni gave a damn about Reagan's "fresh political capital." He certainly did like the weapons Reagan's people sold him, though.
And if Iran is racing hard to get the bomb, it's because the Bush administration, in its incompetent and incoherent policies toward Iraq and North Korea, has shown that it's in the interest of card-carrying members of the Axis of Evil to get nukes before the US can invade.
But that's not the narrative we'll hear if Iran becomes the issue next year. The Republicans, once again, will be on message - and the Democrats will be, once again, in a quandary.
Labels: 2008, Iran, Presidential election, Stanley Kurtz