On That Promised Iran-Debate Update—Updated!

[Please see UPDATES below.] Earlier this week I said that I would soon be presenting a bunch of links and highlights on the emerging debate over a military showdown with Iran. I said that, in contrast to the rush-to-war mood 10 years ago that preceded the invasion of Iraq, this time we were starting to hear more "wait a minute: Is this war a good idea? Is is necessary?" questions from a range of voices before fighting began. For the record, I am in the "It is not necessary, and it is not a good idea" camp.

I haven't gone on to post the promised additional info. The reason is that the "war with Iran?" question is no longer any kind of fringe topic. It has moved to the front pages, the lists of "most clicked" items, and to the center of mainstream news discussion. Apart from Ron Paul, no prominent Republicans seem to be expressing second thoughts; and members of the Obama Administration, from the president on down, are sticking to their "all options are on the table" mantra -- as they should.* But everywhere else a real debate seems to be underway.  So this is a closing-the-loop note for the moment. If you want more back-and-forth on Iran, open up the paper or go to any news site. Right now, mainstream coverage is telling us about a main issue, and with more pushback than I would have expected.

Update: But because I should mention a non-mainstream site worth following, see the range of reports on Nuclear Diner.
* "As they should?" Yes: even if the president had fully and sanely decided that a preemptive strike would be a ruinous error, he has everything to gain by leaving his intentions ambiguous. Unless in so doing he frightened the Iranians into a panicky preemptive move -- but, without playing out all the scenarios at the moment, this is one case where it makes sense for a president to keep his public statements vague.

UPDATE^UPDATED The Atlantic commenter known as mikey writes:

2 points I think worth making.

First, Iran is VERY different from Iraq in a critical way.  The Iraq invasion and occupation did not have a noticeable impact on the global economy.  Indeed, there were quite a large number of individual corporations that profited from that war, and the rest did much the same as they would have had the US never invaded.  Iran is certainly different.  There is no doubt that Iran will use economic warfare to leverage her position and weaken that of the aggressors, using a number of tactics to take as much oil off the global market as possible.  Oil companies might see a short term spike in profits, but the rest of the US and Europe's economies will immediately fall into deep, stark recessions.  The cost of shipping Asian goods will suddenly change all the manufacturing calculations and China's economy will stall.  To the extent that we have learned since 2007 how utterly financial interests control government policy, they will do what they can - and I submit they can do a great deal - to prevent a war with Iran.  So barring some gross miscalculation, I don't expect one.

Second, on this coy, facile "All options are on the table" mantra.  First, does anybody really think there's any substance to that?  Or perhaps to put it another way, if we stopped saying that tomorrow, would anybody assume that a pre-emptive attack on Iran was no longer on the table?  I think it might make sense to take some of the pressure OFF of Iran.  Of all the parties involved in the disputes with Iran, which one do you suppose feels the most threatened?  Daily pronouncements of belligerent intent, and a calm, dispassionate discussion about bombing Iran's cities and killing thousands of her people?  Do you sometimes expect one of Iran's leaders to stand up and shout "HEY!  I'm right here in the room with you.  I can HEAR you talking!"  If I was the Iranian leadership, I would certainly be moving toward a nuclear deterrent just as fast as I could.  I would already know precisely the date I was going to kick out the inspectors and and go into my finishing sprint. 

I think this might be one of those cases where a little less smirking cowboy and a little more humble global neighbor might change the equation.

Overall, this makes sense.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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