Ilana Mercer, December 29, 2004

There’s blood in the water and the neoconservatives in and around the administration are thrashing about like sharks. They’ve thrown Donald Rumsfeld over the side, and to many, their treachery is evidence that Rumsfeld can’t possibly be one of them, a neoconservative.


The iconic Robert Novak has been particularly vocal in his attack on the secretary of defense’s neoconservative credentials. In Rumsfeld’s defense, I’ll say this: his resistance to sending more troops to Iraq notwithstanding, his conduct during two years of war has never led me to doubt his dedication to the death and destruction that have accompanied the administration’s democratic crusade in Iraq.


I do question, however, the motives of assorted Republican hacks desperately invested in distinguishing one administration lackey from the next. Their aim? To saddle some with all the blame for the actions of a commander in chief who, “with unidirectional, God-inspired gusto,” lied the nation to war. If Bush, Rumsfeld, and Rice are indeed recovering neoconservatives, the signs are sure to reveal themselves sometime soon (a possibility that doesn’t diminish their culpability in the illegal, immoral, and idiotic invasion of Iraq).


The first of such signs might be the cancellation of the White House’s Weekly Standard subscription. Before, one hopes, this intellectually degraded publication greases the skids for an American assault on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities.


Proliferation experts from the U.S. State Department, France, Israel, and the IAEA all agree that, in secrecy and in violation of treaty commitments, the Iranians have been, as the IEEE’s Spectrum reported in June 2004, “assembling the nuclear wherewithal with a speed and determination not seen since the heyday of Iraq’s infamous nuclear weapons program of the 1980s.” With “some of the world’s largest reserves of fossil fuels,” Iran’s energy needs are not the cause of the urgency. The specter of an American army advancing on – and conquering – Iraq is.


In what reads like a remarkably unsophisticated policy paper, Reuel Marc Gerecht counsels in the Standard against any peaceful solutions to Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities, for no real reason but that negotiations and inspections indicate a defensive “pre-9/11 mindset,” while Gerecht prefers the purity of preemption.


Iran‘s burgeoning nuclear enhancement program is indeed worrisome, which is precisely why the “insights” of neoconservatives such as Gerecht must be avoided at all costs. Their failure to predict the shape Iraqi nationalism would take in response to an American invasion hasn’t humbled them in the least. In fact, their prognostications about Iranian patriotism evince the same grandiose but out-of-focus “vision” they’ve imposed on Iraq, with calamitous consequences.


Duly, our neoconservative Nostradamus Gerecht predicts a favorable outcome in the event the U.S. decides to launch a missile attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. “Iranians are not nationalist automatons – they are among the most profound, cynical patriots imaginable,” he patronizes. Americans can carpet bomb Iran’s nuclear plants to their heart’s content. There’s no danger this will dissolve the average Iranian’s detestation for the mullahs and spur an insurgency against the U.S.


The psychological and political savvy! The sweep of ideas….


Has Gerecht ever considered that loathing both the clerics and the carpet bombers are not mutually exclusive sentiments? Naturally not. Our neoconservative doesn’t draw his analysis from objective reality, but from a countervailing narrative he has concocted. A filament of this faith, for example, is that it is impossible to hate Saddam Hussein and, simultaneously, fight the American forces. Thus, neoconservatives insist that the growing, pan-Islamic guerrilla insurgency in Iraq is Sunni dominated – manned chiefly by disgruntled Ba’athists.


This neat but nutty bifurcation has allowed Gerecht to conclude that Iranians, due to their general disdain for the ruling ayatollahs, will not oppose an American strike. Or that Iran’s Shi’ite Muslims – also a religious majority – will never put aside their theological differences and make common cause with their Iraqi Shi’ite brethren against the U.S.


“What a preemptive attack would certainly do is provoke another debate [in Iran] about the competence of a ruling clergy who led the nation into a head-on collision with the United States,” Gerecht maintains.


Let’s see if I’ve grasped this last neoconservative plot line: After we’ve “preemptively” pulverized their installations, Iranians, who already “have a very jaundiced view of the United States,” will turn on their own rather than on us.


If these fantasies seem too deranged to be true, if it appears I’ve exaggerated neoconservative cretinism, I apologize. I didn’t mean to suggest there has been no neocon learning curve. Gerecht has allowed for a corrective course of action: even if Iranians do embrace “vulgar” nationalism rather than deracinated democratic internationalism, we Americans can always … crush them.


Now, Gerecht’s neocon credentials are beyond doubt, while Rumsfeld’s depend on who you talk to. But so what? As Dr. Johnson said, “There is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.” Neocon or not, louse or flea, a pest is a pest.


December 29, 2004

CATEGORIES: Foreign Policy, Iran, Middle East, Neoconservatism, WMD