For or about ideas men fight no more.
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West
Oil. Oil is behind, or perhaps I should say beneath, it all. Sure, it’s not quite that simple, but when you come right down to it; oil. Let’s prevaricate no further.
But first a mea culpa.
I was wrong. I’ve been railing away here about the “designs of the neocons” which I have alternately described as “fantastical” and “ill-advised.” I don’t recall if I ever deployed “wild-eyed”, but that would have been a good one.
I fell for it all right. I believed in the sincerity, if not the wisdom, of the lofty tones coming from the Bush Administration, every bit as much as their supporters, an alarming number of whom are still so intoxicated on this blindness inducing bathtub bombast that they continue to wax sentimental on the “accomplishments” of the war.
(Just for the record guys, removing a dictator is simple, replacing him another story altogether; and no, sectarian chaos is not better than the totalitarian brutality of Saddam. Or as Bush the Elder, and wiser, used to say, Sad-uhm)
The Iraq war, soon to be the Iran/Iraq campaign, is pre-emptive alright. What it seeks to pre-empt is scarcity.
Not as if we’re on the brink of ruin, far from it; just looking down the barrel of an impending energy crunch, as China and India consume more and more energy; as the former in particular asserts itself by forging relationships with oil producing nations such as Iran. One can see how this reality doesn’t quite have the appeal of toppling the Stalin-esque Saddam and responding proactively to the Islamic threat by bringing liberalism into the cavernous heart of Islam and directly to the yearning masses. That’s the sort of appeal needed to set Thomas Friedman’s moustache atwitter and distract Christopher Hitchens from his dogged pursuit of exigent global scourge Henry Kissinger. I can almost hear Dick Cheney’s sinister laugh in the background, heh heh heh, as he pores over geographic studies of oil reserves
Of course the canard has been staring us in the face the whole time; belied by neoconservative paterfamilias Leo Strauss’ exoteric-esoteric distinction, the assertion that philosophy holds a deeper esoteric meaning, accessible only to an intellectual elite; a sort of priesthood of the enlightened.
Well, enlightened was never one of the praises offered of the man who was sitting in the Oval Office on September 11; indeed, we had a president who not only never opened a copy of Natural Right and History, his appeal to the public was in his implied disdain for the class of person who would. An ideal foil.
Our political process was long ago taken over by marketing executives and advertising copy writers, and now the transformation of public debate into something more like the interaction between consumer and advertiser is nearly complete. They know what we want; schmaltzy sentimental patriotism for the low brow, specious fancy for the middle; both concealing the same venal motivation. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to talk theory than turkey, I suppose.
There were several levels of deception here, and a brilliant strategy; commandeering the war against Islamic aggression, willfully mystified as the “war on terror”, now reinterpreted as the reverse domino theory, combined with the same old globalization sales pitch rejiggered to exploit the new market created by 9/11. New and Improved. Not your Father’s Imperialism.
It helps to have more than one product line, and if the aphrodisiac of Saddam’s WMD proved to be snake oil, perhaps you’d be interested in the all natural herbal remedy of our amazing democracy powder. The new age holistic approach; replace the negative energies in key points of the global corpus and watch the healing spread like magic.
Even though we all know that idealists wreak as much havoc as anyone, we still can’t help but score them well below the just plain greedy in our estimation of blame. That’s been the game all along. Call it a crusade (just don’t call it a crusade exactly). Secure the oil fields and plant the flag of democracy. In that order. That they’ve managed to do neither yet while establishing permanent military bases in Iraq and that we are about to ensure favorable terms for the right to harvest Iraq’s oil reserves for the next generation tells us as much about the real casus belli as it does about the inept war planning of Donald Rumsfeld.
One thing you can’t accuse the Administration and its courtiers of is a lack of boldness; they have it to a fatal fault. One wonders if they don’t value it above all else. Some might call it nerve, running the exact same play again; now Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power and time is of the essence, just as before, and a dangerous madman is at the helm of a threatening nation that is nonetheless populated by nascent republicans eager to rise up and join us as we destroy their cities. I almost expect someone to come out and say that the Iraq invasion was a mistake due to an error in spelling.
One reason the call to war with Iran sounds so panicked is because it is; yet the panic is aroused not by the specter of a suddenly nuclear Iran, but by the outgoing tide of patience with the neocons. Time is not on the neo-imperialists side, and they know it. But there may be just enough ill-informed investment capital left out there for one more venture before the whole enterprise falls apart. Here’s where the real suckers get fleeced. This bubble hasn’t burst just yet, but it is deflating rapidly. The salesmen are cold calling and knocking on doors like desperate Willy Lohmans because they know that in a month’s time not only will we refuse to sit still for their sales pitch but we’ll appear at the door with a shotgun in our hands.
You see, we must act militarily now to halt Iran’s weapons program, because if we wait much longer people might start pointing out that we really have no right in the first place. Curious, how the question of justification seems so muted amid all the hysteria.
Our pliant media seems incurious about the particulars of Iranian government, content to simplify it as under the control of yet another frothing at the mouth Muslim extremist taunting us from his dusty hovel of a country. The fact of the matter is that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retains little control over foreign policy, despite his grandstanding. “Moderate” former president Rafsanjani, as leader of the powerful Expediency Council, remains a force in the government to rival the man who beat him in the election of 2005.
The real power rests with the Ayatollahs, and ultimately with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khameni, who have already in the past trimmed the sails of the overreaching populist Ahmadinejad, limiting him to a domestic presidency.
The decision to pursue nuclear weapons was made by the clerics (and promoted by Rafsanjani), and the authority has always rested with them. They aren’t moderates, but they are rational, and in a sense they’re political opponents of Ahmadinejad and his middle aged veterans of the Revolution. Ahmadinejad, offered to the impoverished masses by the Ayatollahs as a balm to soothe their need for demagoguery, is associated with powerful radical clerics who covet power for themselves, and hold eschatological beliefs about the coming of the Mahdi that make our worst religious fanatics look like Episcopalians.
Both of these factions eye with unease an increasingly liberal younger generation, who may not like America much but sure like our culture, and are increasingly outside the influence of their religionists. We need to exploit these divisions, not lumber in and unite them.
An unprovoked attack on Iran will rally the nation around Ahmadinejad and a ruling clerical class made more hostile than ever and with no political room to negotiate. It won’t ensure that Iran won’t acquire nuclear capability, but it will ensure a renewed Islamic revolution there and Iranian belligerence for generations to come. The time has never been more appropriate for rapprochement with Iran, and the commencement of the long process of laying the groundwork for a new relationship with its next generation; but this sort of measured, patient action is dismissed with the curious epithet realism by those who offer fabulism as a guiding philosophy.