Analyzing a war addict

Bush’s recent moves against Iran only make sense if you understand the mind of an addict.

Jason Stahl

Normally, I’m not one for pop-psychoanalyzing major public figures and their motives. It’s slightly juvenile and normally is used to deem someone’s views “crazy” – thus seeking to marginalize ideas from the realm of “respectable opinion.”

So, it is with some reservation that I continually find myself returning to a “clinical analysis” of sorts when trying to make sense of the Bush administration’s recent posturing toward the Iranian government.

In essence, the only explanation which makes sense is to think of President George W. Bush as an addicted gambler – one who, having lost everything, wants to find a way to go back to the table one more time to recoup his losses. In a recent article on the Bush administration’s Iranian policy, a Pentagon consultant put it this way: “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq – like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.” Doubling down as a foreign policy – this is the Bush administration in action.

Maybe readers are rolling their eyes at this point, but hear me out, as I am only arriving at this thesis because nothing else seems to make much sense. For if one examines what is known about the current situation on the ground in Iran, the Bush administration’s blustering only makes sense through the addiction lens.

So what do we know about Iran? According to a recent report, “The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency.” This means that, if they are trying to build a nuclear weapons program, they are years away from doing so.

What else do we know? We know that the person publicizing Iran’s nuclear intentions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is losing power in his country. In recent nationwide elections, his party was soundly rebuked and just this past Friday he was admonished through a newspaper published by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (who has the real power in Iranian politics) to end his involvement in the country’s nuclear program. Moreover, Iran has a military budget 50 times less than the United States and even less than neighbors Saudi Arabia and Israel. Finally, as recently as 2003, Iran was trying to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the United States – only to be spurned by the Bush administration because it was more interested in making war with the country.

So maybe now, given these facts, it is clear why I fall back on my “diagnosis” of President Bush’s motives. Simply put, nothing else makes sense given that Iran is not a significant threat to the United States. Why else would Bush be ratcheting up his rhetoric and actions against Iran if not to “double down” on his mistakes in Iraq?

In his recent Iraq speech, Bush kept mentioning Iran as a regional problem and declared that he was sending an additional carrier strike group and Patriot air defense systems to the region. Moreover, an admiral was just put in charge of overall military operations in the region. None of these moves have anything to do with fighting insurgents in Iraq. Rather, they all indicate some sort of sea/air strike on Iran, with Patriot missiles to defend neighboring countries from Iranian counterattack.

All of these moves by the Bush administration against Iran should greatly worry every American. And as with any addict, an intervention is required. To his credit, Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is starting that intervention by drafting a law making it clear that the president does not have the authority under the Iraq War resolution to go to war with Iran.

This is good, but as with any addict, the question is whether Bush will listen. A recent article addressed just this question and argued that the view inside the administration was that “whatever a Democratic Congress might do … to limit the President’s authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it.”

If such a situation arises, and the President attacks Iran in the face of Congressional opposition, impeachment will be the only reliable form of intervention left. Let us hope – for the country and the world – that we do not get to this point.

Jason Stahl welcomes comments at [email protected]