Thursday, March 1, 2012

Struggling with fear

I'm not afraid of the current Republican candidates. As I've said many times here, they are hitching their star to a dying orthodoxy and even when/if they win minor battles, the outcome of that struggle is certain.

But today I am struggling with a different fear. I want to conquer it and can do so rationally. But I need to work on it emotionally. Perhaps writing about it will help.

What triggered my fear is that yesterday Andrew Sullivan wrote openly what has been gnawing at the back of my mind for weeks now.

First, he points to this disturbing news:

Israeli officials say they won't warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill.

And despite the fact that President Obama has had more success than any president in our history in rallying global support to pressure Iran, Sullivan recognizes what is at stake here.

A global war which polarizes America and the world is exactly what Netanyahu wants. And it is exactly what the GOP needs to cut through Obama's foreign policy advantage in this election. Because it is only through war, crisis and polarization that extremists can mobilize the emotions that keep them in power. They need war to win.

Here's a prediction. Netanyahu, in league and concert with Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, will make his move to get rid of Obama soon. And he will be more lethal to this president than any of his domestic foes.

So yes, its Netanyahu that scares me.

Over at Balloon Juice, Zandar reacts to this with the rationality I want to embrace.

I’m rather confident that the Obama administration is not only aware of this but well out in front of it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways we could end up in the septic tank here and in a really friggin’ scary situation, and not all of those ways are under our direct or even indirect control. I like the team we have at the White House and State getting us through this, however.

I too am confident that we have the best team possible that is surely not only aware of this, but are on top of it as much as possible. In other words, I trust people like President Obama and SOS Hillary Clinton as much as I would any other human beings. They'll do their job - but they're not magicians. If worst comes to worst, it will be up to us as citizens to speak loudly and clearly about reacting to provocation. I recognize that many of us did that when the neo-cons built up their case to invade Iraq - to no avail. But this time we have an ally in the White House. Hopefully that will make all the difference.

I don't want to conjure up potential events in the future as something to fear. But this one does concern me. And I can't help but feel like the best antidote to fear is to stare those concerns in the face and do everything we can to be prepared. One of the things that means is that its important to get the facts out there. Like this (which seems to indicate some pretty deep divisions in Israel about all of this).

The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon - or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

Israel also believes the Iranian regime now faces an unprecedented threat to its stability, which for the first time combines both external and internal pressure: from abroad, increasingly harsh sanctions and threats of military action, and at home, economic distress and worries about the results of the parliamentary election scheduled for March.

The impending "mushroom cloud" is no more real at this point than it was when the neo-cons tried to scare us about it in 2003. Let's do everything we can to make sure everyone we come in contact with knows that. As FDR said so long ago: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." I feel a little bit better :-)


  1. I think it is perfectly natural to play out fear scenarios in our minds in an attempt to 'prepare' ourselves for the worst. I'm not going to look to Andrew Sullivan for guidance on this, though. He's wrong too often.
    I don't know anything about Israeli politics, but Netanyahu is just a man. I would suggest that he is a frightened man who sees his world crumbling down around him and is reacting the only way he knows how: badly. He's used to his neocon buddies propping him up and siding with him--protecting him from his own paranoia.
    I'm with you on this, Smartypants. There is no one more qualified to deal with this maniac than our President and his State Department. If Israel goes off the rails, there is nothing we personally can do about it, except keep our heads and wits about us and not get caught up in the frenzy. Whatever happens, the person for the job is on the job.

    1. Thanks Tien. I think we need some rational conversation about this.

      The other thing your comment made me realize that we can do about this is to pre-emptively frame what's going on here. There is NO need to bomb Iran. Anyone who suggests that is playing with even worse fire than the Republicans did during the debt ceiling crisis they created.

  2. I don't believe this is as big a deal as it seems right now.

    Firstly I'm sure PBO will tell Netanyahu in the strongest terms that he better not attack Iran.

    Secondly Bibi is not an idiot and won't attack if he doesn't have a good chance of succeeding, which almost all the military experts say he doesn't.

    If the attack fails then that is basically the end of Bibi's political career and the president can then get credit for supporting Israel in their time of need (as Iran will certainly look to retaliate).

    However if it succeeds then PBO will get some of the credit since it happened on his watch and any successful Iranian retaliatory attack of the U.S. will be blamed on Israel.

    I don't see a problem either way.

    What Netanyahu is trying to do is to bluff PBO into carrying out or providing massive support for the attack.

    That's not going to work.

    The more you hear about Israel going it alone the lower the likelihood of it actually happening.

  3. You know what is playing in the back of Andrew Sullivan's head? A receding hairline and that's it. I take nothing he says to heart anymore. Besides, isn't he blubbing over Breitbart's death?

    1. For me this isn't about Sullivan. He was merely the vehicle who happened to say what has grown into a pretty significant concern for me and many others.