Opinion

The hilariously over-the-top fear-mongering of the anti-Iran hawks

Is Iran really a suicidal zealot hell-bent on nuclear destruction?

If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it will immediately use it on the United States.

That, at least, is the line being pushed in a new ad by an outfit called the American Security Initiative:

It's an utter crock, of course. But the dissonance between this crazed agitprop and the actual policies supported by those against Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is revealing. If the hardline desperadoes in Congress really believed that Iran was bent on starting nuclear war, wouldn't they propose actions that would actually meet that threat?

The American Security Initiative was founded by three ex-senators, Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). Their ad is reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's "Daisy" ad in 1964, which famously featured a nuclear holocaust. Except it's the other way around: "Daisy" implied that Barry Goldwater's snarling bellicosity would lead him to start a nuclear war, not the Soviets. A voiceover from Johnson made clear that, despite the evil nature of the Soviet regime, the USSR and America must find some way to co-exist. "These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live... We must either love each other, or we must die."

Probably a bit unfair to Goldwater. But no more unfair than this new ad, which paints Iran as controlled by murderous suicide bombers intent on mass murder of civilians. The message is clear: Do as we say, or the terrorists will nuke American cities to dust. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't go so far as to say Iran will nuke America. Instead he argues that Iran is run by Nazi-esque madmen, and that a nuclear-armed Iran will "threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people," as he said in his speech before Congress. Israel will be the first target, not the U.S.

The bug-eyed madness is key to the anti-Iran argument, because ordinarily a state would not launch an unprovoked nuclear strike against another nuclear-armed power — the possibility of devastating retaliation would be too great. But if Iran's leaders are all suicidal zealots, then they can't be deterred by mutually assured destruction.

The problem is that if this is really true, it will be almost impossible to stop them for a certainty with conventional means. Sanctions won't do it for sure; after all, North Korea managed to build a bomb despite working under far more stringent measures.

The only options, then, are a full-blown U.S. invasion or preemptive nuclear strikes. While Netanyahu is clearly angling for the former, it's not at all clear such an effort would be successful (see: Iraq). For that reason, as well as its political unpopularity, the hawks in Congress have been conspicuously coy on the issue. As for the latter, even Sheldon Adelson only argues for a preemptive strike in the empty desert as a warning.

Instead, hawks typically argue for ratcheted-up sanctions, as Netanyahu did in his speech, or as a bipartisan bloc of senators have repeatedly done.

Even Bayh and company's berserk ad ends on a limp note. "Tell Washington. No Iran nuclear deal without Congressional approval." Oh really? So unless we get about the most despised and incompetent institution in American politics to sign off, then we're all going to be vaporized? Best kiss your children goodbye.

In response to looming nuclear Armageddon, we get milquetoast policy. It is almost as if anti-Iran hawks do not actually believe their own rhetoric, and are seeking to scuttle a deal for a host of reasons — politics, knee-jerk opposition to President Obama, an allergy to diplomacy, desire for a free military hand in the Middle East — that have nothing to do with nuclear weapons.

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