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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


War trumpets are blaring from Washington again, and this time the target is Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, taunts the international community, and has stated that he would like to wipe Israel off the map. He also insists that nuclear power is a right of the Iranian people. The United Nations has attempted diplomatic measures and threatened sanction. Russia has tried to broker compromises, allowing Iran to develop power for domestic use, under strict supervision, and disallowing altogether the creation of nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime is essentially a failed one, and it has failed to live up to the promises of the Islamic Revolution in the eyes of many of its citizens. Since 1979, the Shah has been replaced by a series of crooks or paranoid “revolutionary” cadres while Ayatollah Khomeini looms in the background. Anti-Americanism is used to distract from iniquity and repression. In reaction to the incompetence of their leaders, many Iranians profess a love for American culture born out of defiance. The ability to use “soft” power, economic and cultural influence, the promise of freedom, should be there for the mutual benefit of both nations.

But it is not, at the present moment. Any attack by the U.S. on Iran would be seen by some as a continuation of the “crusade” George W. Bush proposed on the outset of the second war with Iraq. This rhetoric is powerful with many people. The Muslim world, and that section of the Middle East, may not trust Bush to deliver on any promise of liberating Iran or anyone else from their oppressors. In America we have our own questions about him. To some, Bush the crusader evokes a medieval holy warrior ransacking Muslim lands. To others, Bush the crusader recalls Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

One could have made a fair case for taking out Iran’s tin pot dictator, in 2002. Before the insurgency in Iraq commanded our attention. Before it was found that there was no immediate threat from Saddam, before the botched plans of the neoconservatives in Bush’s cabinet took hold. When Iraq seemed like a good idea to the American public.

The climate has changed since then. Ahmadinejad seems to beg for a firestorm, while at home President Bush is caught in a flurry of doubts about his policy. They came again to the fore last week when a group of retired generals, some of whom served in the current war, directly challenged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. A broad swath of the American public rightly feels duped about Iraq. Few of the reasons Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice advanced for war in November 2002 hold water today, and those that do hold true for many other nations. Thugs, warlords and dictators ply their insidious trade, death and destruction, the world over. What was so special about Saddam that made it necessary to take immediate, unilateral action against him? What does anybody have to gain by what has happened in Iraq so far? When does this peaceful and prosperous Iraq come, and why will it be worth our time? When will the mission be accomplished, and to what end?

None of these doubts affect our ability to contain Iran if Ahmadinejad goes a step too far. He, though, knows that defiance against the West is politically expeditious in some sectors of the Muslim world. He comes from a generation of mujahedeen who crave war martyrdom, battle-hardened men who fought the Shah and then turned around to fight Saddam before we got to him. They see peace as weak. The danger is obvious for us and the people of Iran who want no part of the messianic militarism of their regime. Hopefully there is time to prevent a confrontation between Iran and ourselves, and hopefully that time is now. What is to be feared is that the time was right when we attacked Iraq instead.