How Liberals Buy Into Stupid Wars
(Paul Pillar) -- by Paul R. Pillar --
Richard Cohen's column in Tuesday's Washington Post, under the headline “Dangerous behavior from Iran,” deserves scrutiny, and not just to pick on Cohen (although he deserves to be picked on for this kind of work). The column exemplifies several of the types of distorted thinking and non-thinking that were critical in pushing the United States into an enormous blunder of a war eight years ago and are threatening a repeat performance with another of the countries in the same part of the world that has a four-letter name starting with “I.” Moreover, the column by Cohen—who on most matters other than stumbling into disastrous wars can be considered a liberal—illustrates how the arguments and attitudes that have greased the skids on which the United States can slide into such a war are not the exclusive province of neocons or others who are the prime movers of such misadventures.
The column begins, unsurprisingly, with the outrage du jour: that strange plot involving DEA informants and a used car salesman in Texas. Cohen has a nifty way to dispose of the chief reason skeptics have found it hard to believe this was an officially instigated Iranian operation—namely, the disconnect between the crazy nature of the plot and the careful tradecraft that the Iranians have consistently exhibited. “I agree” the plot was crazy, says Cohen. “But so is Iran.” It's a rhetorical twofer: not only is the bizarre plot kept in play, but it is done in a way that pushes the main theme of the anti-Iran agitators, which is that Iranian leaders are supposedly irrational and thus cannot be trusted not to do crazy things with whatever capabilities they have, especially a capability as momentous as a nuclear weapon. “The mistake with Iran,” says Cohen, “is the tendency to think its leadership is rational.” But like others who invoke this theme, Cohen adduces nothing in the record of behavior by the Islamic Republic that suggests irrationality and ignores the fact that the record is overwhelmingly one of caution and careful calculation...MORE...LINK
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