I just spent 30 excruciating minutes watching coverage of the “Iran crisis” on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Amazing to see a country mesmerized by irrelevant distractions:
- Did the Iranians shoot down the Ukrainian airliner? Did they? Did they? How else did it go down? What do they have to hide? Let’s ask a former FAA official. Then let’s ask some bereaved people with friends and relatives on the flight how it feels to be deprived so abruptly of their loved ones. With any luck, they’ll cry on screen.
- Is the War Powers Act really a law? Really? Let’s ask a general.
- Are Democrats mourning Suleimani’s death? Let’s ask a Democrat who clearly isn’t.
Without venturing an answer, let me just pose this question: what psychological mechanism explains why a country facing a single fundamental issue would work so hard to avoid it, but spend so much effort to address so many others? The fundamental issue is straightforward. The Iranian missile attack on American bases was a signal that Iran can hit us, that we have no effective defenses against even the most benign attack they can muster, and that they are about to begin a proxy war against us, via Hezbollah and its allies, to force us out of “the region.”
The question we collectively face is: withdraw or double down? This question leads to some important subsidiary ones. Suppose we withdraw. In that case, how and from where? Suppose we double down. What will that take? Those are legitimate questions to ask once the fundamental question is answered. But none of the numbered questions above has nearly the same significance as the fundamental or subsidiary ones.
Question (1) is a spectacular, ephemeral side issue–tragic yes, but of no particular political importance.
Question (2), concerning the War Powers Act, is an irrelevant procedural matter: it has no application if we withdraw, and will have to be walked back if we stay and are attacked by Hezbollah.
Question (3) is an obvious red herring with an obvious answer: Democrats are not “mourning” Suleimani’s death; they’re trying too hard to denounce him. What partisans of the war evidently seem to want is that we all get so emotionally invested in our hatred for Suleimani that we confuse that confabulated animosity with a reasoned argument for war. But it isn’t one. It’s just a stupid, pointless waste of time and energy that could be better devoted to averting the next stage of this war.
If you want a sense of what that next stage looks like, I’d suggest turning off your TV, and spending your time watching the videos on this page. I certainly wouldn’t want to be governed by Hassan Nasrallah, but if I had to choose whom to believe right now–Hassan Nasrallah or almost any talking head, Republican or Democrat, blathering away on American TV–I would choose Nasrallah. He may be a bloody, dogmatic fanatic, but better a sincere fanatic than a pseudo-civilized bullshit artist. If you want clear thinking on what’s to come, spend 12 minutes watching this English-subtitled speech by Nasrallah from a few days back (ht: Norman Finkelstein).
I have enough confidence in what Nasrallah says in this speech to make this challenge to anyone willing to take me up on it: Nasrallah insists that Hezbollah respect the non-combatant immunity of Americans in the upcoming war. I believe him. I’m an American. I’m not a combatant. I’m not even remotely a supporter of Hezbollah, and I’m no one’s idea of a good Muslim. The challenge: buy me a round-trip ticket to Beirut and a short hotel stay there; I will meet with a representative from Hezbollah, have a brief apolitical chat with him (or her), and come home unharmed.* I’ll even videotape the whole conversation so that I can prove that it happened, and you can hear what we discussed. Nothing subversive or terroristy, I assure you. Just chit-chat over coffee.
At least to that extent, I trust Nasrallah. I don’t trust the leadership of my own country. If you think I’m kidding, try me. I won’t disappoint. I’ve always wanted to go to Beirut, but couldn’t find an affordable way to get there. If this is the only way to do it, I’m game. It certainly beats sitting in front of a TV here.
*You’d also have to pay any legal fees I incurred for hiring an attorney to ensure the legality of the venture. I have no intention of breaking any laws.