Notes From the Margins…

Joshua Muravchik: War Zombie

  • March 16, 2015
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You have to admire neoconservatives.   Alright, maybe not admire them exactly.   But in any case you have to acknowledge that these guys are in it for the long haul.

Neither age nor failure can wither them.     No amount of death and destruction can ever dampen their ardor or lead them to question their assumptions.   Whole countries and regions may collapse into bloody chaos as the result of the wars that they have advocated, but they won’t say sorry because they have nothing to be sorry for.

Like Martin Luther King they have had a dream, but this one has nothing to do with sitting at the table of brotherhood.

Their dream is a world in which America fulfills its ‘destiny’ and has absolute military domination of every corner of our troubled planet, a world in which there no more rivals and ‘challengers’, no more evil and tyranny and every country will be a thriving market democracy, watched over by American power.

These beautiful dreamers don’t know the meaning of defeat.   When their predictions turn into nightmares they come springing out of the ruins like Terminator, ready to fight evil and march on towards the next target.

Don’t expect them to weep for the dead and wounded,   either on the enemy’s side or their own, because empathy is not their strong point, and they always know that no matter how far the outcomes of wars differ from their predictions, there will always be another one, better than the last, that we must fight before it’s too late.

This weekend the writer and commentator Joshua Muravchik gave a classic demonstration of what makes the neocons great in a piece for the Washington Post which argued that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are pointless and that war is ‘probably our best option.’

Muravchik has been making the same argument for years, not only about Iran, but also about Iraq and Libya.     Now after careful consideration – ok maybe after very little consideration – he argues that negotiations with Iran are doomed because

The Iranian regime that Netanyahu described so vividly as ‘violent, rapacious, devious and redolent with hatred for Israel and the United States’ is bound to continue its quest for nuclear weapons by refusing any ‘good deal’ or by cheating.

Yep, a regime that is ‘redolent with hatred’  is clearly not one to be negotiated with, any more than you would negotiate with a rabid dog.     And how could it, when

Ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond.

As an analysis of Iran this is about as profound and insightful as a xmas cracker joke, and certainly does nothing to bear out the Wall Street Journal’s description of Muravchik as ‘ maybe the most cogent and careful of the neoconservative writers on foreign policy’.

Muravchik’s Iran is another variant of a cliché put forward by Niall Ferguson, Bernard Lewis and others, who have depicted the Islamic Republic as inherently irrational when compared with rational states, without any state or security interests of its own.

This nonsense once reached a crescendo of stupidity, when Ferguson and Lewis suggested that Iran was bent on acquiring nuclear weapons in order to carry out an act of nuclear ‘martyrdom’ and bring about the return of the twelfth Imam.

Muravchik’s record on Iran – and his strident support of everything Israel does – is not without a certain amount of ‘hatred’ itself.    As for comparisons with communist and fascist attempts to ‘transform the world’, he and his ghoul-like fellow militarists have spent much of the last twenty-odd years advocating that America should do just that – with catastrophic results that go way beyond anything Iran has been responsible for.

For Muravchik however, ‘visionary regimes’ like Iran cannot be deterred by sanctions and  ‘an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does.’

No need to worry whether such an attack might ’cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime’ because ‘military losses have also served to undermine regimes, including the Greek and Argentine juntas, the Russian czar and the Russian communists.’

So to put it crudely, Muravchik would like America to kill a lot of Iranians, because that might turn Iranians against the regime and get them to love America and democracy.   It makes sense when you think about it, and even more when you don’t think about it too much.

As for   the argument that destroying Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would only delay its acquisition of the bomb or even facilitate its acquisition, Muravchik recognizes that this is a possibility, but it’s not a serious one because  ‘ we can strike as often as necessary’.  Even if Iran concealed its nuclear facilities ‘ we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.’

What if  ‘Iran retaliated by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans’?   Well that’s ok too because ‘ We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.’

So all in all, war would ‘probably’ be the best option, says Muravchik.

But this is a man who doesn’t takes risks without thinking them through.    There is always the possibility that ‘Nonetheless, we might absorb some strikes. Wrenchingly, that might be the price of averting the heavier losses that we and others would suffer in the larger Middle Eastern conflagration that is the likely outcome of Iran”s drive to the bomb.’

I love that ‘wrenchingly’,   with its suggestion that war would be as hard to bear for Muravchik as it would for everyone else.

Because this glib militarism suggests once again that for Muravchik and his fellow neocons war is not the last resort but the first; and that these intellectuals are reckless gamblers with other peoples lives, who pay lip service to the costs and ‘risks’ of war, knowing that for them there will never be any costs or any ‘risks’ at all.

Given the record of the last fourteen years, such men ought to be regarded as a danger to their own country as well to others.

But the fact that one of the great US liberal newspapers chose to publish his call to arms suggests that they are still being given way more respect than they have ever deserved, and that, in a way, is almost as alarming as Muravchik’s crazed pronouncements.



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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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