Iran: so far away

Latest substance on Iran: no nukes for a long time. Latest politics: Just say “No.” And repeat. And repeat.

The Gray Lady, a few years late, has decided not to buy Administration spin. Here’s how far Iran really is from building nukes. I’m glad somebody has managed to remember that one should not simultaneously call a society a fanatical totalitarian dictatorship (more true by the day, in fact) and profess to believe all its propaganda.

I had a complicated, twisty-twirly attitude towards the politics of wiretapping, and still do. But this is different. The case for attacking Iran is awful; the case for doing so soon is worse than awful; the prospect that Bush will murder a bunch of Iranians before the midterm elections and in order to win the midterm elections is criminal. More to the point, large majorities of the public seem willing to believe these propositions: they don’t want to invade Iran, and they don’t trust Bush on the issue. (Even the FoxNews push-poll cross-dressing as newsgathering is equivocal.)

The right message regarding an attack on Iran is “No, No, No, No. No.” Followed by “No.”

And if anyone wants more spin for cable news, “Wag the Dog.”

UPDATE: Tom Hilton of If I Ran the Zoo takes up this idea (if idea it be) except with analysis. In particular, he (like Josh Marshall) reminds Democrats not to get hung up on the substance of the Administration line on Iran—to believe the sincerity of which is, after all we’ve learned, to give that crowd way too much credit. Here good politics is good policy: only repeated, unified political opposition, as we pulled off on Social Security, has any chance of preventing this catastrophe.

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.

4 thoughts on “Iran: so far away”

  1. If I want good relations with my neighbor I build a good fence, I don't send armed people to take over his house and make sure that he does as I wish. Does foreign policy differ because increasing port/border security creates a larger economic burden than invading Iran?

  2. I agree with your comments about the policy itself, but I'm not so sure it doesn't make sense to float the idea of an attack out there. Diplomacy and force aren't diametrically opposed things; they may be two sides of the same coin. It's pretty clear that ONLY diplomacy is not likely to deter Iran, at the same time that actual military action is probably insane, especially given how far away Iran is from having the bomb. But why not put alittle pshychological pressure on Ahmadjinedad? (I'm finally learning how to spell his name.)
    Now, let me make it clear. I don't trust Bush to do things right. Iraq is a disaster. But getting away from that, it seems to me that Ahmadinejad sees the nuke issue as a way of shoring up his nationalist credentials on an issue that even reform-minded Iranians agree on. And he most likely thinks this is an easy one because he sees the US (correctly) as weakened by Iraq, the West in general divided and vacillating and China and Russia unwilling to do much. So, from his standpoint, this is a low-cost way of showing he has cojones. However, some stuff I have read suggests that the Iranian public supports his antics only as long as they seem to work without risking an actual confrontation with the West. So, it seems to me that the West has to do more than just talk nice to Ahmadinejad. It has to be carrots AND sticks. So I'm not so sure that at least floating rumors of an attack doesn't make some sense (although an actual attack, at least at this point, would be disastrous). International relations often depends on opacity and I think this is a good example of it. Let's not simply rule out the military option immediately, if only to give Iran something else to think about.

  3. Thanks for the link. Along similar lines, I would recommend John Aravosis' four-point plan (at AmericaBlog). Besides emphasizing the phony and political nature of the thing, the other points include: Iran is years away from nuclear capability; it makes no sense to deal with this until after the midterms; and in any case, Bush is the wrong person to deal with this issue.

  4. And Iran, Iran so far away…

    No, no, no…
    That’s better.
    (If I’m the millionth guy to make a lame Flock of Seagulls reference, do I win concert tickets or something?)
    A few thoughts on the Iran broo-ha-ha:
    Yes, we know Iran doesn’t need nuclear power. …

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