On occasion, this blog has taken intellectual swipes and partisan shots at Mr. Clifford May, the director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank whose main objective seems to be drumming up an imaginary threat that the country of Iran poses not only to the West but the whole world. That is the topic of Mr. May’s essay for January 29, which readers may read for themselves here, while I take it upon myself to address his points.
In this particular bromide, Cliff May rambles about how terrible it is that the Iranian Revolution can celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. While that may not be something worth celebrating for anyone in our hemisphere, May’s piece is worth reading because in his rationale, one can find all the reasons for exactly why there does not need to be a war with Iran.
First, May cannot stop talking about the dangers the Iranian regime presents to the West, i.e. Israel and the United States. But his article begins by reminding the readers that it has been 30 years since the U.S.-installed shah was deposed. Why, in 30 years of supposed wrangling with the U.S., have they made zero verifiable or substantial threats toward us (hostages held in their country and one mention by a figurehead president with no army, air force, or nuclear weapons, of wiping the United States off the map do not count as real threats)? 30 years of avoiding war with a supposed enemy is a success that borders on the Cold War success of not fighting Soviet Russia if one wants my opinion.
Next, the author attempts to drum up fear in the reader by telling them that the revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, wanted to install a Muslim heaven-on-earth by organizing a jihad against the West because of their power, laws, freedoms, and decadence. The call went nowhere. Once the reviled shah was gone, there was nothing left to keep the revolutionary factions together and so, the jihad could not get off the ground.
Mr. May cites Iran’s proxies Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas as evidence that the regime is dangerous. He obviously regards their financial banking of Hezbollah and Hamas as proof that they cannot be tolerated. Yet, both of those terrorist organization are fundamentally weak.
Israel, in 2006 in their war in Lebanon and their recent war in Gaza, utterly blew their opponents away. In the recent conflict, Israel inflicted casualties over 100-to-1 and in spite of that, we are supposed to believe that Iran is an existential threat. If that is what we are told is an “existential threat,” then we certainly have nothing to worry about regarding Iran’s ability to be a menace outside its own borders. Israel was the big military winner in both conflicts.
Then a staple of Mr. May’s writings comes forth: unless something is done (war, anyone?) then Iran will be able to attempt a genocide or nuclear attack on Israel. (On a brief tangent: another staple of May’s is that questioning the wisdom of these foreign ventures is irrational because if we don’t do what we’re doing now, then there won’t be journalists or historians in the future to second-guess these decision. Note the last line of his December 18, 2008 piece).
For Clifford May, a genocide is always right around the corner and unless something is done, poor, weak, little Israel will be facing its own existential threat. Well, in the cases of Lebanon and Gaza, Iran can provide only a paltry little sum of money to support their causes. What makes anyone think that a country without an air force or army can mount any sort of concerted attack on a country with a fast military in Israel with overwhelming firepower, as we have seen. He is right that Iran has a very few number of missiles, but that capability has been proven to be overblown.
But Clifford May stays on message right until the very end. His whole article leads up to advice for the new president who himself is sounding a lot like the old one on how the world “cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. . . . And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it.” It is Mr. May’s advice that there needs to be a war in Iran. No, he does not come out and say those exact words, but he says that the new administration “still has time to limit its final death toll.”
If the war and occupation of Iraq proves anything, it is that even more deaths can result through a well-intentioned occupation than from the original regime that was deemed to evil to be allowed to exist. So he admits that yes, the regime in Iran is terrible, but military action would stop those deaths. News flash: Even more people die when there is military action, Clifford.
Also evident in the “there is still time” line is his presentation to us of a ticking time bomb scenario. Iran is fast on its way to having a nuclear bomb, he clamors. This alone is suspect. Approximations range from the National Intelligence Estimate which declared that Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 but for people who want more rationale for war with the destitute nation, there are places like the International Institute for Strategic Studies that claims Iran could have the bomb by the end of this year.
There are still too many unknowns to make a case for war, but Clifford May and his ilk are determined to get another war.
In addition to preventing them from obtaining a nuclear weapon (which, at the very least, means intervening in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, something we would certainly object to), Mr. May encourages President Obama to make good on his desire to place an embargo on incoming oil to Iran as well as telling the new president to tell the Iranian people that their rulers are the reason for their misery. I may be some crazy, right-wing, antiwar loon, but I have a hunch that if an embargo is placed on an already starving Third World nation, it will only empower the rulers, especially when the people know for certain that some of their misery can be traced back to the Americans.
And there you have a brief commentary and dissection of the writing of Clifford May: neoconservative, warmonger, and rouser.
There are a lot of items of America’s foreign policy plate right now: working on a way to get out of Iraq sooner than 2011, the doubling of the number of American troops in Afghanistan, and launching air strikes into Pakistan. If we wish to avoid another unnecessary war, step number one should involve identifying countries that have made actual threats or strikes at us and ignoring people like Clifford May.