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May 17, 2012

This Week In Threat-Mongering
Posted by Michael Cohen

Scared20womanThose who toil in the bowels of the threat industrial complex (trademark pending) have several tools at their disposal for hyping threats and spreading fear. There is the look at the "shiny thing in my hand method," there is the exclusive interview/leak with policymaker that suggests serious threats are being ignored; there is the bogus legislative proposal aimed to combat threats that don't actually exist and the list goes on.

But one of the tried and true methods of the professional threat monger is the "tossing lots of nasty countries into a scary word salad and sprinkle it with nuclear weapons and potential terrorism." Exhibit A: Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation writing today in the New York Post. In a piece delightfully titled, "Disarming US As Wolves Lie In Wait" Brookes offers some rather tasty nuggets of fear.

For example: "The Iranian threat is hardly diminishing. Few would dispute that Tehran will not only have nukes in a few years, but an intercontinental-ballistic missile to carry them."

Actually you know who would dispute that . . . the US government and the International Atomic Energy Agency both of which have concluded that Iran is not actively pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.  Moreover, few analysts believe Iran is anywhere close to building a workable ICBM. And so what if they did? Are they going to fire it against a country that has 2,000 nuclear weapons and thus risk national suicide? Over the past several months there has been significant evidence that sanctions against Iran are causing Iran's oil production to decrease - and notable was the positive nature of recent talks in Istanbul over Iran's nuclear program. Does this sound like a country that is becoming more aggressive or more dangerous to the United States.

Then there is this: "The Assad regime’s survival will certainly find Damascus committed to revenge — and even more wedded to its drive for the bomb."

Where to begin? 1) This assumes that the Assad regime will survive and that 2) after the difficult chore of putting down a domestic insurgency Syria will then look around the region (even the United States) for countries to take revenge upon and 3) it will continue to develop its presently non-existent nuclear program even under the likely specter of international sanctions. Nothing about this sentence has any relationship to reality . . . but it is scary!

Or what about our #1 geopolitical foe - Russia: "You have to wonder whether perceptions of US decline made the Russian chief of the general staff think it was OK recently to threaten to pre-emptively strike American missile defenses in Europe."

So to prevent Russian military offices from saying really dumb things in public that they can't and won't possibly back up with tangible actions the US must . . . not cut defense spending?This is always an element to the the threat industrial complex (trademark pending) that is so confusing - shouldn't the US have the ability to differentiate between words and actions; between threats and capabilities? Does every stray statement by a foreigner that even mildly threatens the US preclude any sort of reasonable cut in defense spending? It's reminiscent of the Bush line during the Iraq War that OBL and AQ sought to create a global caliphate in the Middle East. So what? It was about as likely to occur as me playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. 

When Khrushchev warned during the Cold War that the USSR would "bury" the United States that was a scary notion, because, well the USSR had actual nuclear weapons (although at the time the threat was far less severe then many realized). Today, the Russian chief of staff can talk a tough game - but ultimately his country faces a military alliance with several thousand nuclear weapons and more than a million troops. There's not much he can truly do about missile defense sites in Poland. Indeed, the more sober-minded might ask if it's worth developing these missile defense capabilities against a phantom enemy if it ends up fundamentally harming US-Russian relations. That whole #1 geopolitical foe can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Finally, Brookes has this to say about the Obama Administration's pivot to China, "Meanwhile, Team Obama’s strategic shift to Asia will be more of a dainty pirouette than a muscular pivot, absent the forces needed to project US power across the Pacific."

Because a shift to Asia is, like, so totally gay . . .


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