Thursday, February 2, 2012

To Strike, Or Not To Strike... That Is the Question

The public debate about whether To Strike, or Not To Strike Iran is not an actual intellectual debate. I've seen precious few pundits actually favoring a military strike (outside of some Republican candidates), as anybody who actually considers the consequences of such an action realizes that it would be ridiculous to start a war with Iran.

Yet the debate continues and the news is portraying this as an actual choice between striking and not striking. If the debate is bunk, why are we having it? Overall, the effect of having a public debate about whether or not to bomb Iran is palliative, preventative, and populist.

Having public discussions about possibly striking at Iran makes us feel better. It leads us to believe that we have more of a measure of control over a situation than we really do. (This is nothing new. Take prayer for example.) Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuke is within the US's capabilities, right? Americans don't want to hear a "no" in that respect, that's why hearing this debate on television is comforting. "Which option should we choose? So many to choose from! Oh, let's stick with sanctions now and keep the military option on the table. Just in case!" I feel better already! It wouldn't be comforting to hear, "A military strike on Iran would likely start a regional and possibly global war, all because the Iranians probably have the technical knowledge to build something the Americans built in the 1940's, and the Americans and Israelis don't like that." It's not a sexy statement.

Having a public discussion about striking Iran is also to some degree preventative, in a sense. It prevents Iran from doing whatever it wants to do out in the open. If Tehran didn't know that a military strike was an option for the US, they could openly seek assistance from any nuclear armed power in trying to build a bomb. In this regard, a public debate is necessary, because it informs Tehran of the options that the US and others have on the table (even if those options would be harmful to all involved).

And let's face it: it's popular and populist-politics to threaten military force. With great power comes great responsibility, and those who hold back from punching out the lights of the schoolyard bully in favor of a hardy shove and a "why I oughta..." clenched fist in the face are viewed as chivalrous and brave. As long as we can cheer ourselves and applaud our restraint and denounce the mullahs, we can continue to see ourselves as the good guys. Nationalism creeps into the argument, and turns a no-brainer "debate" into a battle for national pride (read: Who's got the bigger stick?)

Even though the debate about whether to strike Iran is ridiculous, it is meant to give you that warm fuzzy feeling. Insane.

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