D. Broder and the war fever in Washington

Just how serious the current, rising epidemic of war fever is in Washington DC is indicated by a column in today’s WaPo in which veteran pundit David Broder argues quite clearly that for Pres. Obama, “orchestrating a showdown” with the regime in Iran in 2011 and 2012 will be a successful policy at both the political level and that of the U.S. economy.
Broder, whom I hitherto long respected as a voice of relative (and relatively conservative) sanity on the Washington DC, seems to have lost his capacity for rational argument.
The last five paragraphs of his column need to examined in full:

    What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy.
    Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.
    Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
    I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

The rhetorical thrust of that last paragraph is confused. “I am not suggesting… that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century… ”
The claim that he is “not suggesting … that the president incite a war to get reelected” is perhaps true in some purely technical sense. But if he is not suggesting that Obama “incite a war”, he certainly is arguing outright that,

    he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I almost do not know where to start in explaining the intensity of the disappointment I feel in reading this piece from Broder.
Let me try:
1. David Broder has not traditionally been one of the war-mongers (like Jackson Diehl, Jim Hoagland, etc) on the WaPo’s opinion page. I think I remember him expressing some caution when writing back in 2002 about the possibility of an imminent war with Iraq. If the irrationalities of war fever have reached even into David Broder’s soul at this time, then the miasmas in Washington must be even worse than I thought.
2. No-one who has any idea of the effects warfare has on the lives and livelihoods of the residents of the war-zone should ever talk or write glibly at all about the possibility of yet another of humankind’s too-long history of wars being launched. Broder may write that the implications of the possibility of another war “are frightening”. But then, he goes to say that Obama can— and also, by very strong implication should— do this if he wants to be “regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.”
David Broder, what has happened to your sense of humanity??
3. At the purely “technical” level, the argument that launching a war (sorry, “orchestrating a showdown”) with Tehran will ipso facto be good for the U.S. economy is just mind-boggling. David Broder, don’t you remember all the claims made in 2002 that invading Iraq would help the U.S. economy by “bringing down the cost of oil”– and that even if that did not occur, well anyway, the whole invasion and occupation would be largely self-financing because the Iraqis and others would end up paying for it, not the U.S. taxpayer. Why, I believe you even argued against some of those claims back in 2002.
But what effect did the invasion of Iraq actually end up having on the U.S economy? It has been– continues to be– a horrendous drain, having eaten up more than $1 trillion already, and still counting.
Where, David Broder, can you find even one shred of evidence that a war against Iran would be any better for the U.S. economy than that?
Your FDR/World War II argument is flawed, as well. It was true that World War II ended up, at some level, being “good” for the U.S. economy. But by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that Pres. Roosevelt entered the war with the goal of improving the U.S. economy. For him and other members of his generation, the searing economic privations that they had seen the previous World War inflicting on Europe was a powerful disincentive to go to war. When Washington did enter the war it was because the U.S. Navy had been attacked.
No-one has attacked the U.S. on this occasion.
Indeed, the almost certain effects that a U.S. “showdown with the mullahs” would have on the world economy, and therefore on our own, are staggeringly negative. World oil markets could be brought to a standstill. Most other major players in the world economy would not blame Iran for this. They would blame the country that unnecessarily escalated the tensions with Iran toward the “showdown”. The costs they might impose on the U.S.– economically and in other ways– could well be staggering. (Remember that the soundness of the dollar is, actually, dependent on the kindness of strangers.)
… You mention none of these probable economic consequences of a war. Indeed, you don’t even attempt to adduce any evidence as to why, in the 2010’s, the forcing of a “showdown with the mullahs” could be good for the U.S. economy at all. You just write, “as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve;” and you use the facile comparison with FDR and World War II– which happened in an era when the world’s economy, as well as its political balance, were very different from today.
You are discussing an extremely serious issue here in a way that is intellectually lazy to the point of near-dishonesty, as well as mind-bogglingly belligerent.
David Broder, I am very disappointed.

17 thoughts on “D. Broder and the war fever in Washington

  1. David

    As pro-Israel as I am I can’t understand how anyone can think that “Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century.”
    One can certainly argue that locally in the middle East they are a big threat but “world”?

  2. Jan Czekajewski

    Obama, Elections and Wars
    When a decade ago, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia talked about the dangers of war with Iraq, he talked to an empty chamber. No body took to heart his warnings about the consequences of war. In contrast, there was euphoria on both sides of the aisle when G.W. Bush spoke. Senator Hilary Clinton, now Secretary of State, and Senator Lieberman, currently an “Independent” joined in non-ending applause for G.W. Bush proposing war on Iraq. It reminded me of the Soviet Communist’s Party Congress applauding speeches by Joseph Stalin. Now, a decade later, we still do not have stable and friendly government in Iraq and in my opinion will never have. You can not make friends by bombing them for a decades. Now, both US installed puppet-governments in Iraq and Afghanistan flirt with Iran.
    If President Obama follows the advice and pressures from warmongering circles to bomb Iran, in my opinion, the consequences to US and Israel will be devastating.
    Yes, we will win the war, but we will lose any possibility for peace in this region. Russia and especially China will benefit from the resulting American quagmire. Israel will enjoy for a few years an illusion of a non- nuclear Iran, but scientific progress can not be stopped and one day more countries, hostile to Israel, will have home made , A and H bombs.
    As we now know, common sense is not a virtue of politicians, kings and presidents, as exemplified by events leading to WW I which has been swept to the dust bins of history, in only four years, the three imperial houses, German, Austrian and Russian,.
    Let’s concentrate on our domestic problems, education and manufacturing. Wars in distant lands will not help us, in the United States, to live better and have domestic peace. To be an “Empire” the US needs a solid industrial base. For the last few decades this base has been eroding, by running trade deficits and exporting manufacturing. Wall Street bankers have fooled us for decades that we can live forever on borrowed money, even when lenders are our potential adversaries, like China. If we get involved in more wars, we may face revolution that could lead to establishing political system similar to Communism or Nazism, obviously labeled with more palatable name.. The current path of American imperial thinking without the solid moral and economical base is making us a real Paper Tiger, as US was once labeled by Mao-Tse-Tung.
    Jan Czekajewski, Ph.E. (Electrical Engineer)
    Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year (1989)
    Columbus, Ohio. USA
    JanCzek@AOL.com

  3. chauser

    “Your FDR/World War II argument is flawed, as well. It was true that World War II ended up, at some level, being “good” for the U.S. economy. But by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that Pres. Roosevelt entered the war with the goal of improving the U.S. economy. For him and other members of his generation, the searing economic privations that they had seen the previous World War inflicting on Europe was a powerful disincentive to go to war. When Washington did enter the war it was because the U.S. Navy had been attacked.”
    Helena, unfortunately your understanding about the US entry into WWII is incorrect.
    FDR’s entry into WWII did indeed have to do with reviving the US economy. Events were skilfully orchestrated by the US to force Japan into a corner in which it was known that its response would be an attack. The USA knew about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor months in advance. The Japanese codes had been broken by the Australians and passed on to the USA.
    My own father was privy to this information. This was due to a telegram received by a young journalist lodger in his parents’ apartment building. The journalist was summoned abroad immediately to cover the “coming attack on Pearl Harbor” several months before the attack occurred. He got a telegram months in advance of the attack. He had to break his lease as a result–which is why my father knew about it. My father saw the telegram with his own eyes and he never forgot it.
    I read about the US strategy behind these events in a non-fictional essay by Gore Vidal.
    The events are detailed in full in the book “Day of Deceit” by Robert B. Stinnett (superbly referenced with previously unreleased documentation). The events described have been confirmed by both my father and by family friends who are Japanese. While of differing political views they agree on the events described in this book, which they experienced personally.
    While it is deeply disturbing to see Broder strongly suggesting that Obama should go to war to revive the economy, it remains a fact–though not widely known or acknowledged–that indeed FDR’s strategy in entering WWII was to revive the US economy.
    FDR had to orchestrate a Japanese attack on the US in order to get the American public to agree to entering the war, as public sentiment at the time was isolationist.
    I hope Obama does not repeat FDR’s strategy. There has got to be a better way of reviving the economy without launching a new war.

  4. Scott Harrop

    Share your angst Helena. This will stand as one of the most horrendous columns ever written by David Broder. The insinuation that Obama can save his Presidency by making war on Iran (e.g., “orchestrating a confrontation”) is cynicism at its worst.
    If Obama really wants to go down in history as a great President, really wants to have a chance to get re-elected, how about rather than orchestrating a war, how about orchestrating a REAL peace-process?
    Or how about resolving tensions with Iran short of going to war? How about trying REAL engagement — as yet untried? How about getting the rest of your administration to stop undercutting the efforts you’ve tried?
    Might not getting serious about avoiding war be far better for Obama’s place in history, than cravenly going along with the political winds — in both parties?

  5. anonymous

    I read the whole column and it was surprising to me that the war with Iran was a short final paragraph – but it is verbal dynamite – and mental preparation of the MSM to beat the drums of war

  6. Patrick

    “With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, [Obama] can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on.”
    Obama is already in trouble with his base. If he spent the next two years orchestrating a war with Iran, he would be writing off most of his support with democrats. Good luck trying to get re-elected then. Even as a purely political calculation this idea is senseless.
    It seems to me that there is in all this a nostalgia for the time following WWII when the US emerged as the world’s dominant power. It’s a world that doesn’t exist anymore, but it seems that old guys like Broder simply can’t accept that.

  7. Salah

    David,
    The Israeli propaganda and other western elites before this done to Iraq , they might make same thing unless you forgot that.
    But Iran different to Iraq, Israelis never forgot Persian have done a favor for them in the past.

  8. erik

    Disappointed in David Broder, eh? He went off the deep end in the early “oughts” and has been a total tool for years now. The guy’s columns have been the sort of pap one expects from the likes of Cal Thomas. Hard to know why he’s made this transition, but maybe age is a factor and just because he used to be highly reputed he has held on to his position because folks remember he used to make sense and they tend to give credence to his more recent blatherings, but for this reader there is no surprise.

  9. bevin

    The economic argument is not very sensible. Quite apart from the actual history-the US economy was in full flight by December 1941, it had been supplying the warring powers, mainly the UK and Empire, since 1939-the circumstances now are very different.
    A war with Iran would not make much difference to unemployment, except that it would allow the inmates on Capitol Hill to justify deficit expenditure because it would be for war.
    But how much impact does such expenditure have on the US economy? Enormous deficits have been piled up during the past decade, war spending has been out of control and the economy has deteriorated steadily.
    The US economy is now permanently geared to war. In fact it is dangerously unbalanced, another war, unless it served to terrorise the rest of the world into submission, (which is highly unlikely) would simply make things worse.
    This is not to say that Obama and his friends will not embark on a war, to save themselves the embarassment of recognising the crisis in the economy, but that attacking Iran would be likely to be the beginning of the end for the Empire, including Israel.
    That having been said, Broder’s remarks are obscene, diabolical in their casual welcoming of the deaths of millions. It is to be hoped that Iranian exiles, can see through their hatred of the government in Tehran to the reality that the US is proposing to kill millions of their millions of their countrymen.
    The United States polity constitutes the greatest danger to humanity that the world has ever seen; plunder, genocide and deceitfulness have characterised the Republic throughout its existence. It is becoming clear that it will circle the world endlessly smashing up cultures and looting civilisations until it is stopped. Ask a Cherokee or a Shawnee, if you can find one.
    “Last, best hope” indeed!

  10. delia ruhe

    I’ve been noticing slippage in Broder’s work for some time now. I think age is caught up with him. He really does need to retire.

  11. Shirin

    One can certainly argue that locally in the middle East they are a big threat…
    One can argue anything one likes, no matter how unrealistic it is. And one can manufacture all the “threats” one likes in order to justify military and other forms of violence. Israel is, of course, the master of that sort of thing, and the United States is pretty good at it too. The fact is that there is no actual evidence that Iran has ever posed a threat, poses a threat now, or will ever pose a threat in any sense that requires military or any other kind of confrontation. There simply is no “there” there.
    That has never stopped either Israel or the U.S., of course. If they decide that Iran must be destroyed they will manufacture whatever pretext they need to to justify its destruction, just as they did with Iraq.

  12. David

    We are not in agreement that there is no “there” there. It is not entirely unrealistic to perceive a threat from a nuclear Iran. And not just from an Iranian government, nukes that can be stolen or hijacked also pose a threat.
    As for Obama orchestrating a showdown, I agree with Patrick above, he would lose the majority of the support that elected him in 08 and not gain evan a handful of Republican supporters.
    As for your statement in your last paragraph “they will manufacture whatever pretext they need to to justify its destruction, just as they did with Iraq” as I said before I want to believe they could not be that that stupid, again.

  13. Shirin

    David, you are free to frighten yourself and others all you like with hysterical “what if” scenarios you like. I greatly prefer a rational approach based on a full and factual picture of historical and current reality. Especially helpful is to look at things from the Iranians’ perspective, including their priorities.
    I personally find it irresponsible and dangerous, not to mention lazy, to jump to inventing unlikely what-ifs to maintain hostile relations.
    As for prefering to believe the Americans and Israelis would not be that stupid again, history suggests that they have been and will continue to be that stupid again, and again, and again, and again, and again at least as long as the general public is so willing to take the easy way out and let others do their thinking for them.

  14. Salah

    they could not be that that stupid, again.
    The matters is not of stupidity here, the matter of US citizen themselves all they need to do is a new lie in new look.
    David you protesting about Masjad on 9/11 place what you did with Iraq war how many times you went out against that war? do you planning for protest if they go to war with Iran or you just protesting in your heart like most of folks each time telling us here they are against the war in Iraq?

  15. David

    Shirin,
    It’s not a question of trying frighten myself or others it’s a simple statement of fact. Nuclear weapons are a game changer. Without nuclear weapons Iran is not a threat except possibly in a minor way to US troops in Iraq. They can fight an 8 year war with Iraq or try to invade Saudi Arabia but these are all run of the mill mid east threats. (Sorry for being so callous). Nuclear weapons change that – they are able to wreak vast destruction with very little effort. Just like a gun is a big advantage in a knife fight, nuclear weapons are a big advantage if all your opponent has are conventional weapons.
    Unfortunately I deleted a paragraph from my previous post where I stated that we will have wait and to see how bellicose Iran is as it comes closer to have a working bomb and how plausible is their delivery system.
    Salah,
    No, I did not go to any protests against our invasion of Iraq. I went to protests against the Vietnam war but I’m a little older now and prefer to sit and read. My daugher did go to one of the big protests.
    That some Americans and Israelis have not learned that there are limits to military force is obvious by the Broder article that Helena used to start this thread. I think he and others who want to preempt are the exception not the rule.

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