RE: White Supremacy.........
Iran Will Be No Iraq
By Richard Cohen
Wednesday, February 1, 2006; 6:24 PM
In the coming showdown with Iran, the cliches -- never mind some of our allies -- are not on the side of the Bush administration. I am referring to that bit of wisdom about generals preparing to fight the last war -- or the one about history repeating itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second as farce." These and others will be cited to use the disaster in Iraq as a lesson of what would happen with Iran. Still, let me offer a different cliche: None of the above.
I would be the last one to say we should ignore history. The war in Iraq is truly an education in the school of hard knocks. The U.S. has lost over 2,000 men and women -- and the Iraqis far more. The war cost us both prestige and respect and it has further eroded the faith people once had in government -- both its competence and its honesty. It is now routine to hear President Bush denounced as a liar. I, for one, cannot agree. I fear he is merely a fool.
The arresting combination of a president so tragically mismatched with his times is not likely to be repeated. The one saving grace of the Iran crisis, if it comes to that, is that it will achieve fruition about five years down the road. We can all take comfort in the 22nd Amendment, which limits a president to two terms. The culmination of the Iran crisis will be the next president's headache.
I do not use the word "crisis" lightly. The evidence keeps accumulating that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, not merely a source of nuclear energy. This is not just the fear of the Bush administration with its sorry record of distorting intelligence, but also of the International Atomic Energy Agency, with its admirable record of standing up to Bush. The difference is a major distinction -- and so, too, is the apparent concurrence of Britain, Germany and France, the latter two hardly knee-jerk American allies anymore. At least on late night TV, France is a virtual enemy.
An Iranian bomb is a serious matter. It could trigger a Middle East arms race, just about the last thing the world needs. Egypt would get its own bomb and so would Saudi Arabia. Israel, which already is believed to be a nuclear power, might be tempted to strike first. After all, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while still subordinate to the country's religious leaders, is a foul-mouthed demagogue who has already vowed to obliterate Israel. His heady combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism is more than repellent; it's scary.
Obviously, the preferred route to a solution is the diplomatic one. But what if that won't work? Well, then, truthfully, I don't know. But I do know that it would be a mistake to take the military option off the table. The temptation to do this will be great, especially among Democrats, and the war in Iraq will be cited over and over again. But one could just as easily cite the first Gulf War, which accomplished its objective with a minimum loss of lives. The difference between one war and the other is the difference between father and son. Poppa Bush knew what he was doing.
History is a buffet of lessons -- take what you want and move on. The U.S., acting through NATO, ultimately intervened in the Balkans and it worked -- instructively, with airstrikes. Lives were saved. The U.S. intervened in the Vietnamese civil war and it didn't work. Lives were wasted. The current war in Iraq is a debacle so far, but almost everything about it has been incompetently handled -- too few troops, too few allies, too much looting, too many insurgents and much too much Rumsfeld. Not even the stated justification for the war -- those weapons of mass destruction -- has held up. Lucky for Bush he is not a doctor. He'd be sued for malpractice.
Clearly, a chastened Bush administration has learned a thing or two. Its recent rhetoric regarding Iran has been moderate. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Bush brought up Iran but throttled back on his standard bellicosity, merely saying "the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." Nothing about "evildoers." Bush must know, as surely as do the Iranian mullahs, that he has had his one war of choice -- and he botched it. The next president can either be shackled by that failure or guided by it. Whatever the case, it will not be a time for cliches.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address