“War with Iran Will Be Totally Fine,” Says Person Who Thought War with Iraq Would Be Totally FinePhoto by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Politics Features Iran
Who is Reuel Marc Gerecht?
Well, superficially he’s the man who wrote a November 2002 op-ed for the New York Times titled “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” It included gems like this:
Arguments against a war in Iraq often revolve around the belief that an American invasion would destabilize the Middle East. According to this critique, the region is a powder keg of instability that a war, with all its inevitable unintended consequences, could well ignite. The Arab street would rise, radical Islamist recruiters would benefit from yet another grievance and Iraq’s fractious citizens — Arab Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds — would possibly crack their country apart. Those cracks would spread throughout the region.
But a war with Iraq might not shake up the Middle East much at all.
A brief pause while I note the similarity to the “famous “no it won’t argument espoused by The Onion in response to the same instability concern.
Back to Reuel:
Most regimes in the area are too stable, strong and clever. For example, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt appears to be vastly more adept than was Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, the shah of Iran.
I’ll give you one guess as to whether Hosni Mubarak is still in power, or if he was overthrown just like Pavlavi…use it wisely.
The one truly unsettling thing a second Persian Gulf war might unleash is Iraqi democracy.
Okay, now to the present. Reuel is still around, and he’s still writing. His latest offering, over at the Wall Street Journal and co-authored with Ray Takeyh, is called:
America Can Face Down a Fragile Iran
I wish I were kidding. The sub-title is even worse:
The regime is dangerous, but it isn’t nearly strong enough to withstand a prolonged confrontation.
Now, okay, let’s get one thing straight: If the U.S. and Iran engaged in all-out war, yes, the U.S. would “win,” in terms of taking out the current regime and defeating the Iranian military. We have more money, more weapons, etc. Any child understands that. The idea this title fails to confront is the same thing Reuel couldn’t quite grasp 17 years ago, which is that it will not make anything better for anyone, America included. It’s the same brain disease suffered by Bret Stephens, who advocated for war in Iraq and now wants to sink Iran’s navy, as if it’s an isolated action with a clean beginning and end, and not something that’s going to drag us into a secondary forever war while causing untold death in the region and breeding terror. To reduce this to “well, America will win” is as short-sighted as the “Mission Accomplished” banner that so famously flew behind George W. Bush after Saddam went down.
After correctly assessing the state of U.S.-Iranian relations—Trump pulling out of the nuclear deal and imposing sanctions is a concession to the unshakeable war impulse of ghouls like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, and that it’s going to be another disaster like Iraq—Reuel pulls the rug out and tells us that no, in fact, this isn’t the truth:
The narrative misses a key point. Iran is in no shape for a prolonged confrontation with the U.S. The regime is in a politically precarious position. The sullen Iranian middle class has given up on the possibility of reform or prosperity. The lower classes, once tethered to the regime by the expansive welfare state, have also grown disloyal. The intelligentsia no longer believes that faith and freedom can be harmonized. And the youth have become the regime’s most unrelenting critics.
They will welcome us with open arms! Hmmm, where have we heard that before?
But the regime’s essential weakness means it can’t muster sufficient strength for a prolonged conflict with a determined superpower. The mullahs’ clenched fists, slogans of martyrdom, and staged demonstrations shouldn’t be confused with real power. The Trump administration’s strategy of maximum pressure shouldn’t be diluted as the two sides edge closer to the negotiating table.
The idea that they’re “edging closer to the negotiating table” is so risible that I might choke. The nuclear deal represented negotiations! This latest aggression, on both sides, edges us closer to war, which is, in the end, what the White House seems to want.
Despite the criticisms from Democrats and Europeans, Mr. Trump’s Iran policy has had considerable success. He abrogated a deficient agreement that was smoothing Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. He restored sanctions, which many Iran-deal partisans insisted couldn’t be done effectively. The economic pain Tehran feels today is as great as when the Europeans implemented their oil embargo in 2012.
Here’s the worldview on display: The “correct” policy is backing a hostile country into an economic corner, increasing their desperation, and making them come to heel. That approach has been shown to fail, time and time again, because it openly seeks regime change and—you’re not going to believe this—the regime doesn’t want to change. It forces their hand, and that hand can be aggressive, as we’re seeing with the attacks on oil tankers (if Iran is indeed to blame). It uses intimidation and pain to achieve a desired outcome, but it inevitably leads to war because human nature is to resist being bullied into obsolescence.
America’s Iran problem will remain until the theocracy cracks. Given the regime’s inability to escape the contradictions of its own making, that day is drawing closer. The U.S. needs stamina—and a clear understanding of how the enemy sees itself.
The theocracy is only going to crack under outside military force, and as much as people like Reuel want to argue differently, that will usher in a new set of insoluble problems that history shows us are far worse than what came before.
But back to my first question: Who is Reuel Marc Gerecht? As we learn at the end of the WSJ piece, the answer is informative:
Mr. Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
If you’ve done this kind of thing before, you can already guess what the FDD is—a neoconservative think tank that has long antagonized for war with Iran. Their big-name donors include some of the leading names in American pro-Israel lobbying. ThinkProgress put it best all the way back in 2011:
Most of the major donors are active philanthropists to “pro-Israel” causes both in the U.S. and internationally. With the disclosure of its donor rolls, it becomes increasingly apparent that FDD’s advocacy of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, its hawkish stance against Iran, and its defense of right-wing Israeli policy is consistent with its donors’ interests in “pro-Israel” advocacy.
So the next question becomes: Does Reuel actually believe what he’s writing, or is he just a paid shill who wants war at any cost? And the answer doesn’t really matter, because the end goal is the same. As the Trump administration pushes us closer to what will 100% be a disastrous conflict, should it transpire, it’s important to recognize just how compromised their media cheerleaders are. They’ve been wrong before, they’re wrong again, and they’ll go on being wrong as long as there’s money to pay them. What might change, if we pay attention, is how we treat them—it’s imperative to view articles like these with derision, and deny them the credibility that gets passed on to Trump, and transformed by political alchemy into war.
For what it’s worth, we’re not off to a great start:
In the past 48 hours @NewsHour, @OnPointRadio & @WSJ have called on the man who wrote this column in 2002 to comment on Iran. Why? How is anyone who wrote this still employed much less seen as a rational, sober expert? How is there absolutely zero accountability in US media? pic.twitter.com/2nZfag1Ksu
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) June 17, 2019