There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3
The neocon plan as I understand it is to stand by while the EU-Iran talks collapse; hold France, Germany and Britain to an earlier promise to support UN sanctions against Iran in the wake of that collapse; push Mohamed ElBaradei and the IAEA to find Iran in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (even though it’s not); attempt, knowing the effort will fail, to acquire a Security Council resolution condemning Iran; have John Bolton as new U.S. ambassador to the UN declare the organization irresponsible if not useless; and then tell the American people the U.S. has tried to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons threat (and its support for international terrorism, and the prospect of nukes falling into the hands of Islamic Jihad or Hizbollah) through the international body, but failed due to China’s obstructionism based on Chinese selfish demand for Iranian oil.
Soon thereafter (before a massive movement against an attack on Iran can form) they would like to conduct a horrific tactical-nuke operation against Iranian nuclear facilities as well as government offices. Scott Ritter suggests that they plan an actual invasion from Azerbaijan. They apparently plan to use Mujahadeen Khalq forces much as they used Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. Europe might stay out this time, although Israel may have an important role, and France having generally reconciled with the U.S. and having worked with the U.S. to reconfigure Syria and Lebanon (and Haiti) may be assigned a major role in her former colonies in the Levant.
The neocons must anticipate resurgent resistance activity in Afghanistan (due both to the activities of one-time CIA favorite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as well as to Taliban “remnants”), as well as intensified fighting in Iraq, where the Shiites and Sunnis alike will see the Iran attack as a U.S. war on Islam, on behalf of Israel. The American Empire in Southwest Asia will as it expands remain in a semi-chaotic state, with weak client regimes struggling alongside overstretched U.S. forces to contain insurgencies. But that is okay with the neocons, who delight in chaos and see glorious victory and progress in the disarray of Afghanistan and Iraq. They apparently think that their imperial goals can be achieved even in the context of ongoing low-intensity warfare, and that they can meet those goals (of controlling the flow of oil and gas and establishing permanent military bases throughout the region) without a Vietnam-like disaster, or a level of dissent in the U.S. that could actually lead to the fall of the Bush administration.
Over two years ago I wrote that “the neocons’ Achilles heel is arrogance. They did not plan on the degree of Iraqi opposition, just as they did not anticipate the magnitude of the global antiwar movement in the months before the March attack.” They may not have expected that their noble lies would produce some serious scandals, which probably have led several of them (including Feith and Libby) to leave their posts. They may think that they can ride out any near-future political storm, or at least achieve the next goals in the Terror War before they become totally exposed and discredited. But ongoing resistance in all of the attacked countries, combined with resistance to wars of conquest in the U.S. itself, might actually force an end to the “Greater Middle East” empire project. It’s just conceivable that within a fairly short time we’ll have, not an America on the march in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, but America in crisis, bitterly divided politically and culturally, internationally more isolated and opposed than now, and unable to realize its foreign policy goals or to afford their prosecution.
I personally think there’ll be an attack on Iran this year, but then I expected one in June or July. It seems that the schedule has been delayed, and the whole plan could certainly be aborted. A vast movement in this country specifically demanding “Hands Off Iran!” could help prevent the planned attack. But while millions of Americans saw the Iraq attack coming, and protested, the Iran attack if it comes will come swiftly, “like a thief in the night.” Surely it would provoke popular opposition, but how big would it be, both in Iran and here? How well would the regime be able to deploy its Apocalypse-obsessed fundamentalist Christian Zionist supporters? How vigorously might it deploy the fascistic means in place to curb dissent?
* * *
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune
This is what they’re thinking. They have three more years, and foes—advocates of “reality mode” reasoning, international law, domestic constitutional law, and basic morality—are working hard to ruin them and their project. Time is of the essence. If they don’t achieve their program now, the rest of their lives may be “bound in shallows and miseries”–maybe in jail cells if there’s a substantial political shift. Polls show the country deeply divided on the president’s performance, more than half questioning his honesty, more than half finding the Iraq war not “worth the cost.” Far behind are the halcyon days of the U.S. flags on half the houses, half the cars. “United We Stand” doesn’t cut it so well anymore, because we are in fact a very divided people. But another 9-11 might shellshock a substantial portion of those now critical. It might incline them to embrace the general drift towards fascism.
When we read that Cheney’s office has specifically told the Pentagon that the military should be prepared for an attack on Iran in the immediate aftermath of “another 9-11,” we realize that the administration understands full well and is eager to use the “opportunities” such an attack would provide them. http://www.justinlogan.com/justinlogancom/2005/07/what_is_the_pla.html To draw again on Shakespeare’s drama about Imperial Rome, the conspirators must “take the current while it serves”—or lose their ventures.
The historical record shows us that Brutus and his fellow conspirators succeeded short term but indeed lost out in the end. The unruly masses and their own bad timing brought an end to their ventures. There’s no such thing as historical inevitability; there are merely historical opportunities, such as those provided to the unscrupulous by the tragedy of 9-11. The neocons have ruthlessly exploited those opportunities, but might just maybe, following their triumphalist voyage, get trapped in the shallows, shipwrecked in the shoals, appropriately miserable.
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org