Even after a long winter of orchestrated chanting and battlegroup repositioning, springtime American attacks on Iranian territory are not written in stone. Such a war is not predetermined, except in the minds of neoconservatives in this country and some politicos in Tel Aviv.
We should remember that these people do not run the country, ostensibly still a Republic. True, this mindset of war-economics and benign super-dominance of the world is appealing to many in Congress. Those with the ability to deliver votes, and take them away, seem to want this next iteration of creative destruction. More dangerously, this mindset grips the military-industrial complex and even many diplomats for reasons of self-actualization. War makes them relevant, prosperous, significant.
If we were a kingdom, George W. Bush would be our King. If George W. Bush were our King, a war with Iran would indeed be inevitable. To stop that war, we would need to stop the king himself – and stopping a king is often something that requires bold action on the part of those with access to him.
If we were a kingdom trying to stop a troublesome king, we might look to the person closest to him. For us, this would be the vice president, Dick Cheney. However, if we were a kingdom today, we would be witness to a power behind the throne in the form of a well-placed civilian with a mystical reputation for force of personality, and a posse of loyal samurai willing to kill and die for him. Other empires have had their Grigori Rasputins, their Agrippinas, their de Richelieus. If we were a kingdom, we would have Dick Cheney.
If we were a kingdom, a key source of power with excellent access to a wayward or delusion king would be the head of the king’s army. Marine General Peter Pace has recently stated that he "believes" Iran is involved in Iraq against our troops, but he sees no need for "kinetic action against Iran." Well, I suppose that’s comforting. In a kingdom, the top military officer would be exceptionally loyal to his king. In a republic, he would be loyal to the Constitution, or perhaps, the "people." The jury is out on Perfect Peter, but somehow I think he will be of little assistance this time.
If we were a kingdom, we might seek the help of trusted advisors to the king, and call on their persuasive skills to realign the kingdom towards fiscal sanity, peace, and civility. The modern American serfs might set their hopes on the lovely Condi Rice, ostensibly holding an important position and personally close to the president. However, her latest obfuscations to the Congress should leave the serfs less than inspired.
If we were a kingdom, those who speak for the serfs might truly be our salvation. In a republic, a congress may represent the people, and in ours, holds the sole charter to declare wars and to impeach incompetent and corrupt officials. If we were a kingdom, we would have something similar, perhaps a parliament that exists to advise the king, but rarely if ever overrule him. It might be called a parliament of whores, to borrow a moniker popularized by P.J. O’Rourke. Not much help, if we were a kingdom.
If we were a kingdom, we would be in dire straits. We would be saddled with a crazed and warlike fantasist as king, a powerful warlike fantasist as his right hand man, a perfect peter as top military man, an über-loyal diplomatic advisor, and a parliament of whores standing alert and ready like trained dogs.
Are we not a republic? A republic would, in response to the desires of a supermajority, turn back our carrier battle groups, and bring our troops home from Iraq and elsewhere in the world where they occupy unwanted garrisons. A republic would seek constitutional inspiration and hard truth in order to make foreign policy. A republic would take action to impeach corrupt officials, and remove from power those who have proven to be both criminal and grossly incompetent in their public duties.
If we were still a republic, reversing the stupidity and hubris of this administration and bringing troops home, much less avoiding this so-called inevitable attack on Iran, would be achievable, and even normal.
If we are still a republic, I am not justified in advocating harsher and more radical action.
But if we are no longer a republic, then more radical action by individuals and groups is surely appropriate. Today, those who wish for good government and a wise foreign policy charitably march on Washington during the weekend, disrupting no traffic, and seeing few lawmakers. If we are not a republic, it is legitimate to act in a less charitable manner, perhaps by shutting down traffic around the White House Monday through Friday, and disrupting the everyday activities of our monarchy and their lackeys in other creative ways.
If we are not a republic, we have already lost a great deal of that for which we fight as a nation – and thus we ought to feel no obligation to fight solely for an unpopular king. If we are no longer a republic, we should be supporting the troops not by sending sunscreen and love letters but by encouraging desertion, insubordination, and rebellion at every turn.
If we are a kingdom, or an empire ruled by our own special Nero, then we have nothing to gain by following the rules of republican citizenship, and everything to gain by ignoring them.
I don’t know if we will attack Iran or other countries from the sea, the air, and our lily-pads in puppetized post-Saddam Iraq and post-Taliban Afghanistan. I don’t believe it is inevitable, exactly. If we were a republic, we would not do it.
Sadly, habit and evidence both point in a different direction, one of more murder, more death, more destruction – and it demands that each of us begin to learn and practice new and more frightening ways to be patriots and republicans.
February 16, 2007
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. Archives of her American Forum radio program can be accessed here and here. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.