Von at Obsidian Wings has noble and timely sentiments about Iran:
Iran is the next great challenge, and it is (and should remain) a nonpartisan one.
Then he links to a Q-and-O post which sniffs indignantly at lefty bloggers who’ve done some prognosticating about how the Iran imbroglio will pan out. In a classic example of rhetorical dishonesty
Jim Jon Henke identifies a single blogger as ‘the Democratic base’ and one Atrios post becomes ‘the Democratic strategy.’ Not that I want to single out Von personally, but this empty rhetorical gimmick is depressingly typical. Since when was Ward Churchill a ‘darling of the left,’ since never. Neither is the Democratic Party the ‘party of Cindy Sheehan.’ Is the GOP ‘the party of Pat Robertson?’ No, it’s not. People who concern themselves with precise language should pay attention to rhetorical flourishes that weaken their overall point.
[Update] To be more clear, the point is that every day I hear some iteration of, ‘the Democrats are the party of X,’ where X is some convenient bugbear du jour. You could describe that sort of guilt-by-association as a variant of the logical fallacy of composition. When I said that I wasn’t trying to single Von out it’s because I’m using Von’s example as a jumping-off point to illustrate a larger issue. [/Update]
Perhaps the Democrats will demagogue the Iran issue. And perhaps the upcoming midterms and the affair Abramoff will make it impossible for the Republicans to resist dusting off the language of treason and being on the side of terrorists and wanting America to lose and so forth. We don’t know because, unfortunately in my opinion, nobody in Washington has said a damned thing about Iran (that’s not completely true, but it hasn’t become an ‘issue’ in any meaningful sense of the word). Finding a coherent policy towards Iran is imperative in ways that Iraq never was.
TEHRAN, Jan. 14 — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pushed back at President Bush and European leaders on Saturday, insisting Iran will press ahead with its nuclear program despite the threat of economic sanctions because “ultimately they need us more than we need them.”
At a news conference that lasted more than two hours, a confident Ahmadinejad posed a question to Western governments: “So why do you strike a mighty pose? I advise you to understand the Iranian nation and revolution in a better way. A time might come that you would become regretful, and then there would be no benefits in regretting.”
We don’t need any hysteria about Iraq sharing nuclear weapons with terrorists, which they won’t, when the real problem is serious enough.
Iran has every incentive to develop a deterrent force of nuclear weapons. Living at the dangerous intersection of despotism, oil wealth, anti-American and anti-Israel Islamic fundamentalism and WMD proliferation, the Bush Doctrine basically guarantees that America will eventually attack Iran unless the Iranians give us a very good reason not to. Iraq showed that negotiating and inspections are no guarantor when you’ve got a president hot for invasion and Europe’s opposition means basically nothing. That leaves a functioning nuclear arsenal as the only reliable dissuasive factor. In other words, in theory and particularly in practice the Bush Doctrine makes it absolutely imperative for targeted states to arm themselves as rapidly as possible.
What to do about Iran is a question for better-informed pundits than myself. Invasion is simply off the table. We don’t have the army for it and we can’t afford to alienate Iran’s friends in Iraq, who also happen to be our best friends in Iraq right now. Bombing would have worked when Iran needed centralized facilities to enrich its fissile material, but that time has passed.
Like Von I think that we had better find an answer before the crisis becomes a question of negotiating with a fully nuclear-armed Iran. Whether we’ll succeed in doing that in the midst of scandal and election I don’t know. It’s not encouraging the the biggest bullshit artist in DC remains in charge of government policy.
Von points out that as long as Democrats won’t put forward ideas (which, by the way, is a huge point. If it’s an issue and particularly if it’s going to become a major football, get ahead of it already), Atrios will have to do:
If Defendants want to play the foreign policy game, they need to get in it. Sniping from the sidelines — no matter how trenchant that sniping may be — will get them nothing. And our nation will be poorer for it.
Yes the Democrats need ideas, but that wasn’t my point. Regardless of what the Democrats do or don’t do Atrios simply doesn’t represent anybody but Atrios. The only blogger who reliably gets his calls returned is Markos Zuniga, who found the Democratic establishment so hostile and unresponsive to the netroots that he wrote a book about it. Reid and Dean have set change in motion but you can’t pull a handbrake 180 with an aircraft carrier. The ‘base’ and the netroots remain extremely different things; two years ago you could call it the difference between John Kerry and Howard Dean.
Jon Henke writes,
What’s more, far from “sniffing indignantly”, I called his sarcasm “trenchant”. I just pointed out that it’s not a foreign policy or particularly useful in the discussion of what should be done.
That is fair. Forgive any inaccurate accusations of sniffing. Another version of the above point is that online, policy wonkery loses to hackdom because wonkery is boring. Duncan Black gets more hits than RAND or Brookings because with Atrios you can count on your hourly dose of partisan red meat. It’s what he does. Rather than hold that against him, I’d simply point out that in the internet ecosystem that’s his niche. Black does wonkery fine but meat pays the bills. Sooner or later Kevin Drum will write a long wonkish post about Iran options, which the Dems will also ignore, and balance will be restored to the universe.
Both writers incorrectly assume that I’m making an accusation of unfair partisanship when that’s mostly beside my point. Neither writer is in my opinion anywhere near the extreme end of the ideological spectrum. I don’t respond to Hewitt because there’s no point. Rather the entire basis of my disagreement is the ubiquitous use of the composition fallacy in political discourse. Call it a jihad on my part to get people to be clear about exactly who their bugbear (right or left) does and does not represent.