Monday, October 29, 2007

Hyping the Terrorist Threat?

Paul Krugman, in his commentary today, takes on the GOP presidential candidates for hyping the threat from radical Islamist terrorism (via Memeorandum):

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

Mr. Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a founding neoconservative, tells us that Iran is the “main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11.” The Islamofascists, he tells us, are well on their way toward creating a world “shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes.” Indeed, “Already, some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia.”

Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?

For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.
It's interesting that Krugman completely dismisses the terminology of Islamofascism. Christopher Hitchens noted in his Slate column last week that Islamofascist terminology has been used widely to discuss Islam's totalitarian tendencies. Hitchens cited Malise Ruthven as the first to use the term in the 1990s, and Ruthven's current piece over at the New York Review discredits the notion that Islam is a "religion of peace."

But Krugman doesn't have time to sort through genuine scholarly controversies over Islam. His project is to debunk an American foreign policy of firmness, especially of the neoconservative kind. (Krugman's not alone: Fareed Zakaria, a genuine scholar of international relations,
also took the administration to task for its warnings of an impending WWIII over Iranian nukes).

Note how Krugman's careful to hedge his argument by suggesting, sure, Islamist terrorism is a real threat, but not as bad a threat as the Bush administration's fear-mongering (and note as well Krugman's omission of any mention of Hillary Clinton, who, despite her disastrous flip-flopping on national security, clearly recognizes the gravity of the terrorist threat).

That's simple, and hypocritical.

But let's be clear: Norman Podhoretz has the temerity to state openly what many people know full well: The international sanctions regime against Iranian nuclear development
has run its course, failing to prevent Iran's eventual establishment of strategic capability. A military strike may be the only course of action that fully decapitates Iran's potential to back its goals for Shiite domination of the Middle East with nuclear weapons.

As I've noted before,
Krugman's an economist by training. But he's obviously having fun with his gig as a New York Times columnist, and he certainly feeds the cravings among the crackpot, hard-left surrender forces for ideological denunciations of any and all things neoconservative.