The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
A River Runs Through It
Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
Is the administration truly caught between Iraq and a hard place?  "I'm optimistic we'll succeed” President Bush said at his press conference today.  In Sunday’s Washington Post, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld toted up all the gains we’ve made in three years of war and concluded “Now is the time for resolve, not retreat.”  In an appearance on Face the Nation that same day, Vice President Cheney said his past statements that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq, and that the insurgency was in its last throes, "were basically accurate, reflect reality."

All three are further in agreement that the ongoing carnage in Iraq is largely the fault of resident journalists.   According to Mr. Cheney, "There is a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad." Wrote Mr. Rumsfeld in the
Post, “history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack.”

And so, having concluded that the war in Iraq is going well, and that any evidence to the contrary is a media fiction, our leaders have turned their sights on other targets.  “I see a threat in Iran” Mr. Bush said to the City Club of Cleveland yesterday, adding that “we will use military might.”*

In proposing to attack Iran, the president might be making a mistake.  The problem:  there is no guarantee an invasion of that country would match our level of success in Iraq.  The president holds the view that Iran and Iraq are essentially interchangeable, divided by a mere consonant.  He also maintains that all the men and materiel packed and ready for shipment to Iraq can be very quickly redirected to Iran, since changing a ‘q’ to an ‘n’ is easily accomplished with a little white-out.

While the president’s argument is unassailable, as far as it goes, he may be overlooking a few complications.  For one thing, even though civilization as we know it probably began in the neighborhood, Iraq itself was cobbled together from three Ottoman Empire provinces by the British after WWI.  It’s a crazy-quilt of a country, shoved together from odds and ends of different tribes and sects, none of whom see eye to eye on just about anything.  Iran, by contrast, is the modern incarnation of an ancient, powerful, and unified empire whose majority Persians long ago figured out how to suppress dissident minorities.  Compared to Iraq’s irreconcilable religious divisions, Iran is mostly Shia Muslim.  And much as they might dislike their present dreary theocracy, Iranians, unlike Iraqis, will fight ferociously for every inch of their ancestral lands.

There are also a lot more of them, nearly seventy million Iranians compared to twenty-five million Iraqis.  Measured by per capita gross domestic product, the Iranians are more than three times wealthier, inhabit a country nearly four times larger, and are on average five years older and wiser.**  Iran, in other words, is a much tougher nut to crack than Iraq ever was.  And while there’s every reason to believe that the team of Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney could do every bit as good a job with Iran as they’ve done with Iraq, the price would be far, far higher.

While this page yields in bellicosity to none, we counsel kenneling the dogs of war where Iran is concerned.  Not that Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney are altogether wrong;  packing up in Iraq and taking the fight somewhere else is an excellent idea.  But not Iran.  There are plenty of other places to send our troops, at far less cost in treasure and lives.  Grenada, for example.  It has nice beaches, and we’ve already proven we can lick the Grenadans any day of the week.  Or San Marino.  We could take the place in twenty minutes, and the rest of the world wouldn’t even notice.  Plus, there’s duty free shopping.

Neither of these options will be exercised, of course, because as the King of Denial, Mr. Bush is fatally drawn to the Middle East.  The Egyptians should count themselves lucky that riverine geography has never been the president’s strongest subject.

**Economist Pocket World in Figures 2006

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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