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Friday, April 14, 2006

Deciding Whether to Panic

So, LJ and I were discussing in the comments to the previous post how terrifying all the talk about Iran is. The Seymour Hersh New Yorker article that everybody is talking about makes it sound like: 1) The Iranians are crazy, nobody knows how soon they will have nuclear weapons, but we know they want them. 2) George Bush and company are crazy, they are considering all sorts of unwise military options on Iran, and are seriously thinking about using tactical nuclear weapons to take out Iran's nuclear and military facilities.

Scary stuff indeed. I have no real way of evaluating how reliable this information is, but it seems possible that this portrayal is accurate. For now at least, Bush scares me more than Iran in this confrontation because his actions are less constrained by outside forces than Iran's. He apparently sees himself as the only one with the guts to confront this threat, and regime change is the ultimate goal. I don't need to tell you what a bad idea using nuclear weapons is.

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has been pointing out that the Iran threat talk bears a striking resemblance to administration strategy in the lead-up to our invasion of Iraq. So one logical line of inquiry is whether the threat is as severe as it is portrayed. Today, Josh notes one indicator pointing in the direction of over-hyping the threat: playing up the off-the-wall radicalism of the current president, while everyone spent the entire term of the former president (a moderate reformer) observing that his changes didn't really matter because all the power lies with the sane-but-hard-right Ayatollah Khamenei.

Not that this means there is nothing to worry about. But we'd be wise to try to figure out how much exaggerating is being done.

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