Friday, August 28, 2015

Two loyal diplomats devise a promised war

Dennis Ross, sometime Ambassador
and leading media source in Am-
erican policy circles since the
first Bush, has been joined by
the even less secretive whiz kid
of the second Bush's surge, David
Petraeus, in a column in the Post
this week, echoing the genius of
Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. In ex-
change for a blessing they sound
willing to contemplate, for the
pending arms accord with Iran,
they join Thomas Friedman at The
Times in demanding that we fur-
nish the most warlike state in 
the region with a Doomsday Ma-
chine, so powerful, no mountain
can withstand it, along with as-
sorted other flashy trinkets.

But in their column, they see
and raise Friedman's shopping
spree down death's Rodeo Drive
by demanding real treasure -
an explicit unilateral contract,
in the form of an executory cod-
icil to the arms accord's ratif-
ication - a démarche, that the
United States will wage aggres-
sive war on Iran, at the other's
option ever to pursue a nuclear
weapon. The ultimate laughing-
stock of the Common Law, the ex-
ecutory contract - if you'll do
this, I'll automatically do that - 
has wrought more mayhem by its
guarantees, than all the cheats
in all the courts of equity in
history. In its emasculation of
the Constitution's distribution
of powers, this one's revolting-
ly messy. But theirs is no mild
grant of an option to embroil 
America in war; it's a whip to 
be driven there, by her friend.
Nice of them, to make it easy.

A more glistening tribute to
another nation's foreign policy
has seldom been launched from
such a lofty perch. Benedict Ar-
nold, yes; Robert E. Lee, yes.
But not intoned with such pro-
fundity of reverberation since
Peter Sellers entranced himself,
as guru and commander-in-chief,
in Kubrick's comic masterpiece.

What could explain, then, this
bizarre nose-dive into strate-
gic silliness and intellectual
dishonour? What is this certain-
ty, of an intolerable risk in
15 years? Does it emerge from
Tehran? Or is it music for Je-
rusalem? Israel's Far Right can
not hold power for another 15
years, can not deny for another
virtual generation the dilemma
it has pretended to finesse:
Israel will become either a mi-
nority Jewish State, or it will
accept a two-state partition of
its volume. And neither Jewish
State would back aggressive war.
It's now or never, they surmise.

Our heroes' desperation isn't
theirs, it is a friend's. Now, 
they are impetuous because they
are impatient, they are impa-
tient because their ground is
receding. They cannot be eased
with a President's reservation
(all that history has ever re-
quired, or statecraft ever al-
lowed), of the power to appeal
to use force. They wish no hu-
man intervention in the promise
of the exaltation they envision.
Ross and Petraeus truly do ex-
pose the fault line between the
Existential and the infantile.
I do not think one can blink. 

As the President has remarked,
to the consternation of many who
haven't followed the bouncing
ball, the true alternative to the
accord is aggressive war, rather
soon. These new interlocutors on-
ly pretend to postpone that, in
wondrously modest silence on the
aggression in their stance, an ul-
timatum they would inscribe so in-
eradicably. Iran, for her part,
is only likely to validate their
helpful calculation, that they
are enormously better advised to
arm themselves while they can.
And are not amiable little en-
tentes, with other nuclear pow-
ers, of historically vital in-
terests, too, "down there,"
bound to bloom in empathy?

Who are such wits, to bark us
to the door of this burlesque?

I have enjoyed not being led by
a cosmic idiot in the White House,
and I'd like to reserve the pros-
pect, in 15 years, that such an
exception will reside there again.
I'd give that incumbent something
to do; I'd want the circumstances
to be relevant to the calculation. 
I'd like to imagine, a Constitu-
tion still, to require a Congres-
sional resolution for the act. I
should like the United States to
behave ourselves, cut even from
excuses that our hands were tied.

I wish our savants would permit a
freer people, than the one they'd
like to obligate to aggressive war.
They understand enough its vileness
but not enough what they fear more.
True, we are simple, we are unex-
citing, unrewarding; scarcely even 
audible in the mythology of force, 
but surely not beneath our claim 
to our own government. Who can en- 
tertain advice, to place us there?

Simone Weil
The Iliad, or
  The Poem of Force
Mary McCarthy
New York Review Books, 2005©

Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
  and Peter George, screenplay
Dr Strangelove ..
Stanley Kubrick
Columbia Pictures, 1964©

i    Minor White
     Point Lobos (Carmel)

iii  Soviet propaganda

iv  Michael Stokes
      United States Navy


Update, September 1st

Nicholas Burns, Harvard's Goodman Professor, opined in The Times in the same vein as Petraeus and Ross, on the day when he conceded that his advice was unnecessary. But he offered it anyway, along with the same erector-set play with alliances that served America so well in Viet Nam, as part of a steady drip we can anticipate while the failure to defeat this accord becomes a fact (not that it will stop, even then). All eyes are therefore on former Secretary Clinton, famous for admiring this accord as a positive "first step," to see if she elects in her campaign speech on September 9th, to vow warfare as these gentry of the past demand. The President's wise "all options remain on the table" is indisputable; what aggravates these dissidents is his Presidential forbearance. Of course, there isn't a threat on earth that can project its power.

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