A tinfoil-hat moment

Mark, Steve, and Andy: this telepathic listen into a secure White House conference room enriches your discussion of Iran with the principal issues, which are of course domestic politics.

At a time of crisis, policies otherwise unthinkable must be examined seriously. The crisis is unmistakable: Americans have broadly adopted erroneous and disrespectful opinions about our leadership and enough of them may vote incorrectly next fall to cause irreparable harm to our programs. Not to mention a bunch of rude and troublesome hearings: even our own congress is this very day examining the question of whether the current wars are a big enough deal that we can do whatever we want and humiliating poor Mr. Gonzalez in public, a new and alarming level of insolence. There’s no more juice to be squoze out of Iraq; Al Qaeda has become vague and confusing and hasn’t provided a minute of useful video for two years. Afghanistan is so last Thursday; anyway it’s confusing and we wind up blowing away our own football heroes. Don’t even ask about the war on drugs. Most alarming, our friends are asking whether appropriations for them are going to slow down.

We need a new war with good explosion and airplane take-off video potential, and Iran is an excellent place to do it. We don’t need to do any of the messy occupation stuff, just nice clean air strikes, and we can leave the Iranians to sort out the rubble themselves. Such an exercise would be most usefully instructive to other oil supplying nations of which some, like Venezuela, are having delusions of sovereignty, and it would kill enough Shia (though not Arabs) to allow us to claim a benevolent neutrality as between Sunni and Shia factions. Last but not least, such a war allows most of the salutary contracting to be carried out here; it’s been quite inconvenient for our people to have the trough far away in a hot place with no golf courses and no skyboxes, and they’ve been very patient about it up to now.

If anyone can think of something we can do that will similarly tamp down congressional arrogance and generate similar levels of (i) flag and bloody shirt display for the fall elections (ii) pork for our own people, we should consider it. But our options are limited. The only thing that’s worked for us in the whole administration has been bombing Middle Eastern countries and saying “war!” and this is no time to be trying something untested that could blow up in our own face like social security or the prescription drug trainwreck.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.