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April 02, 2010

That Wacky, Wacky Joshua Muravchik
Posted by Michael Cohen

World Affairs has a new group blog and it really has to be considered the front-runner for oddest group blog ever. Besides my good friend, the always cheery David Rieff, the ever controversial Jamie Kirchik, there are the occasional missives of famed neo-con Joshua Muravchik. Take today for example where he bemoans the fact that the 2007 NIE on the Iranian nuclear program forestalled any possibility of a Bush Administration strike against said program.

Citing the recent testimony of Vann H. Van Diepen Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, or as one might prefer, history's greatest monster, Muravchik argues that intelligence analysts with a clear agenda - to prevent an attack on Iran - manufactured a less than alarmist intelligence estimate on Iran . . . with dire consequences. Cue over the top and alarmist rhetoric:
With the countless accusations that Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials “politicized intelligence,” it is amazing that so little has been made of this outrageous case, a far more clear-cut example of pursuing a policy agenda by twisting intelligence than anything Cheney et al. did. Worse, Cheney was elected to his position . . . I imagine Van Diepen and his collaborators patted themselves on the back for their coup: They succeeded in shielding Iran’s nuclear weapons program from George Bush’s sword. Millions may yet die as a consequence.
To be sure Muravchik provides no actual evidence that Van Diepen and his "cabal" of friends lied about the Iranian nuclear program or even that a more pessimistic NIE would have ensured war. Nonetheless, how can one really quibble with Muravchik - obviously preventing the Bush Administration from attacking Iraq was far worse than the ACTUAL war that the "politicization of intelligence" in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq produced. 

Muravchik worries, again without evidence, that "millions may yet die" because of Van Diepen's duplicity but appears to be decidedly non-plussed about the hundreds of thousands who DID die in the Iraq War.
I have to admit it's a constant source of amazement at the extent to which neo-conservative are generally more troubled by things that might happen - as opposed to things that actually have happened.

And even with the potential bombing of Iran; while I suppose it is a remote possibility that millions might die if Iran is able to cobble together a workable nuke (although plenty of unstable and tyrannical regimes have possessed nuclear bombs and none of them have actually used one). But here's the thing; we can be pretty sure what will happen if the US does attack Iran. 

First, many Iranians will die. Second, there is a pretty good chance some Americans will perish as well. Third, world oil prices will spike imperiling the economic fortunes of many poor countries and likely reversing the fragile global economic recovery - causing more deaths. Fourth, US relations with key allies both in the region and elsewhere will suffer. Fifth; the United States will likely itself again isolated in the world, which will harm the country's national interests. Sixth, the possibility of terrorist attacks against the United States and allies in the region will almost certainly increase . . . and I could go on.

In short, attacking Iraq militarily is the furthest possible thing from a consequence-free activity. It's not as if you can drop a few bombs and then America's problems vis-a-vis Iran are solved. Indeed, it would be helpful if strident voices like Muravchik - instead of attacking those who are forced to weigh the costs of the military attacks they so casually advocate for -- occasionally wrestled with these difficult issues.


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...obviously preventing the Bush Administration from attacking Iraq

Surely you mean, "Iran" here???

Muravchik worries, again without evidence, that "millions may yet die" because of Van Diepen's duplicity but appears to be decidedly non-plussed about the hundreds of thousands who DID die in the Iraq War.

It's a constant source of amazement at the extent [sic] to which pompous progressive elites are generally comforted by things that never would have happened—as opposed to things that actually have happened.

Here's your reasoning:

  • "Hundreds of thousands died in the US Civil War"

  • "Therefore, the US Civil War caused hundreds of thousands to die.

  • "Therefore, the US Civil War was wrong/a mistake/a crime against humanity/etc etc.

I'm going to speculate—without any evidence at all—that the world without the South's slave economy is better than one with it. Furthermore, I'm going to speculate that many more than the hundreds of thousands who died in the war would have died if the the US hadn't fought them, or if they had prevailed over the US. To begin with, the South's military culture practically determined that, after they had won the Civil War, they would have continued by attacking Mexico and the Caribbean. The slave economy, like the free market, must expand or die. By the time their expansionist drive could have been defeated, many more than the hundreds of thousands who perished in the Civil War would have died.

The same thing applies to the Iraq War. It's useless to harp on the number of dead, as if the alternative was world peace. Obviously, Saddam's Iraq was a slaughter-house to begin with. With more time, and with the help of the corruption of the UN Oil-for-Food Program, Saddam would have rearmed (Kay Commission). If he rearmed, then it would have been to use those new arms. How many would have died then?

That's pretty much Muravchik's reasoning, applied to Iran. I can see why you would find it "whacky:" It takes some effort, maybe, to follow his reasoning, unlike yours, and it doesn't make anyone feel good by focusing on heroes (the anti war) and villains (Bush et al), like you do. It takes the world as it is and tries to figure out the best trade-offs etc etc. One has to be able to live with doubt, ambiguity and uncertainty to adopt it. This does not appear to be your strong point, to put it nicely.

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