On Sunday’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria, neoconservative guest Reuel Marc Gerecht responded to arguments that an attack on Iran would rally the Iranian people behind their government:
“But I think within a… fairly short period of time in Iran, what you would have happen is that all the Iranians would probably say, you know, down with the attack. I mean, that’s just going to be the instinctive reaction. But within a very short period of time—Iranians aren’t simple folk. They’re very sophisticated, and their complaints and criticisms and hostility toward the regime is longstanding, that you’ll start to see in fact questioning of the competence of this regime. Why did it lead to, in fact, a military strike by either the United States or, much more probable, Israel?”
Either Gerecht thinks the Iranian people are a hell of a lot more sophisticated than the American people, or he just doesn’t “get” the patriotism thing.
I mean, it took a majority of the American people several years to decide the Iraq war had been a “mistake,” even when the U.S. government had flat out lied its way into war. On the other hand, Iran is not in fact in violation of the IAEA regime, and public impressions to the contrary stem mainly from the American cable news networks repeating the American government line as straight news.
What do you suppose the odds are that the Iranian people, when their country is suffering the results of military attack, will start blaming the Iranian government for not being subservient enough or showing its belly fast enough to the same global superpower that installed the Shah in power?
Did the American people ever reach a point, when the damage from 9-11 really sunk in, where they blamed the attack on blowback from fifty years of postwar national security policy? Hell, even suggesting such a thing, in the ideological schema of Gerecht and his ilk, would amount to “blaming America first.”
That’s the interesting thing about the neoconservative view of the world, though. The U.S. is the one country that can never be deterred, and can never be allowed to learn from its own experience. The U.S. must never realistically assess the consequences of its own actions and adjust its future course of action accordingly. In the neoconservatives’ little Munich 1938 script, official enemy states are presumed to be self-consciously evil, twirling their moustasches like Snidely Whiplash, and rationally forbearing to commit aggression (albeit with a muttered “Curses! Foiled again!”) in the face of American deterrent power. And when an official enemy’s aggression provokes fully justified American retaliation, they are expected to learn the lesson: “Ah! That happened to me when I committed aggression; I must not do it again.” But to even suggest that American policy elites should be similarly deterred by the possible negative consequences of their actions, or refrain from the aggressive actions that got their tit in the wringer, is “defeatist” if not treasonous. The U.S. must be operationally insane, or our enemies have won.
The idea that Acton’s dictum might apply to the U.S. government, or that it might be a good thing for rival powers to possess a deterrent capability, is outside the realm of acceptable discourse.
The American people rally around their “Commander-in-Chief” in wartime, even—or especially—when the war results from the Commander-in-Chief’s fuckup. To point it out—to say “you fucked up”—would be un-American. Being a real American means never seeing, let alone saying, that the Emperor is naked.
True Americanism, like Orwell’s doublethink, requires deliberate obtuseness—a carefully cultivated inability to draw the most obvious conclusions from self-evident facts. Unfortunately, people like Gerecht never seem to consider the possibility that Iranians might be as stupid—as “patriotic”—as Americans. Ultimately, such insanity is the basis of all government authority, securing the acquiescence of its victims, the people.