Is Iran out of the US War Queue? The Twilight of the Hawks

The short telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday may or may not lead to a successful diplomatic resolution of US-Iranian conflicts, especially over Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program. But if it does, how will the hawks in Washington survive?

The US is an unusually war-like country. Since 1963 it has launched a military action on average every 40 months. It is to the extent that the US is still at war in Afghanistan after 12 years, and many Americans may not even realize it.

Washington hawks always have a war queue, knowing that their campaign supporters in the war industries expect it of them. Iraq was in the war queue in the 1990s. Since the fall of Baghdad in 2003, Iran has been the number one state in the war queue. This is so even though Iran is not a superpower or even a regional power. It hasn’t invaded another country in at least a century and a half. Its annual military budget is on the order of Singapore and Norway. It has a population slightly larger than France.

The point of having an enemies’ list is only in part in order to curb an enemy. It serves to scare the public and rally them around the politicians and make them willing to give up personal liberties or forget about being upset at being ruled on behalf of a handful of large corporations.

Putting a country in the war queue requires demonizing its leader, twisting his words to make him seem aggressive, and exaggerating his capabilities versus the US. Even Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin’s crimes, was depicted in the US as a menace who pledged, “We will bury you!” What Khrushchev actually had said was, “We’ll still be here when your capitalist system is dead and buried.” He was wrong but he wasn’t threatening to bury anyone. The Soviet Union’s economy was never more than half that of the US, and its military was no match for the American, but Americans were taught to be mortally afraid of the Soviets, what with their challenge to … gasp … the supremacy of private property.

Likewise, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s quotation of an old statement by Ruhollah Khomeini that “The occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” — a hope that Zionism would collapse the way Communism had in 1991, was transformed by American “journalism” into an aggressive threat to wipe Israel off the map. This, despite repeated Iranian assertions that they had a no first strike policy, and that they would never slaughter noncombatants, and despite the laughable character of the proposition that a weak country very distant from Israel could menace it despite Tel Aviv’s stockpile of hundreds of nuclear weapons, and its poison gas and other weapons capabilities. Iran does not have an atomic bomb or chemical weapons.

The significance of Friday’s phone call is that Iran may be removed from the war queue. Current president Hassan Rouhani is harder to demonize than his quirky, populist predecessor. Twenty years of breathless allegations that Iran is 6 months from having an atomic bomb have raised questions about why the Israelis and the American hawks keep being wrong (not to mention, why the kettle is calling the oven black– Israel and the US are nuclear powers but Iran is not).

The Israeli hawks have been promoting Iran as among the top challenges to the West since the early 1990s, aware that the loss of the Soviet Union and then Iraq left them nothing with which to frighten the American public. The Israel lobbies are horrified that they might now lose the Iran bogeyman. Likewise, the US war industries that back right wing senators and congressional representatives are putting their sock puppets such as Lindsey Graham up to seeking authorization for a war on Iran.

The unacknowledged elephant in the room is that Iran was queued because of petroleum, and to a lesser extent because it is among the few remaining rejectionist states toward Israel. But as the US moves to wind and solar electricity and electric and hybrid plug-in cars, petroleum’s value will plummet over the next 20 years. The US is going to be energy independent in 20-30 years, but not via fracked gas and oil, which are relatively expensive. Oil certainly won’t be worth going to war over. The Congressional refusal to authorize a strike on Syria is the writing on the wall here.

Some hawks want to put China in the war queue as a booby prize, but China is a tough sell. It has a nuclear arsenal and so the US can’t just go to war with it. US-China trade is huge and the US needs China. What would Walmart sell if it couldn’t load up on the products of Communist China? Even just alienating Beijing by talking about it as an enemy is difficult in today’s world.

Without a demonized enemy number 1, how will hawks win election campaigns? How will they scare the public into letting them suspend the constitution and our civil liberties? How will they convince the public to let Congress spend billions on their industrial cronies? Maybe they won’t be able to. 

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