Parini: Bombing Iran

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(Host) Commentator Jay Parini is a poet, novelist, and Professor of English & Creative Writing at Middlebury College. As the world – especially Israel – begins to worry in earnest about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, he’s started thinking about the consequences of invading yet another country in the Middle East.

(Parini) Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel banged the drum loudly, saying that Iranian research toward a nuclear bomb continues to “march forward” and that Israel can’t afford to “wait much longer.” In essence, he was calling for a unilateral strike against Iran – an act of war that would suck the U.S. into yet another conflict in the Middle East.

The GOP candidates, too, have been banging this drum on the campaign trail. Newt Gingrich recently told an audience in Ohio: "You think about the dangers, to Cleveland, or to Columbus, or to Cincinnati, or to New York." Without blinking, he called for “regime change” in Iran.

All this reminds me of similar scares in the mid-fifties. I was a first-grader in Scranton, Pennsylvania; and our teacher, Miss Forgen, made us practice hiding under our desks. It was a common assumption all over the country, even here in Vermont, that the Russians were planning to bomb us and that we’d better do everything we could to get ready. For years I had bad dreams about these attacks, and sometimes I can still can hear Miss Forgen screaming: "Get under the desks!" The drumbeat about regime change in Iran is bringing all of this to the fore – probably in a lot of heads and not just mine.

We’ve had regime change recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, with predictable results. And we don’t seem to learn much from our mistakes. The truth is: we’ve no business in talking about regime change anywhere except on these shores and within our own national borders.

I don’t mean to suggest that Iran is not a threat, even though – as a recent article in the New York Times has explained – there is “no hard evidence” that Iran “has decided to make a nuclear warhead.” And this is, in fact, the consensus view of all sixteen intelligence agencies of the United States.

Iran has certainly been enriching nuclear fuel and building infrastructure that could, if they so chose, lead to the development of nuclear weapons one day. But no evidence suggests that they actually plan to do this. What we have instead is posturing on their side, and posturing on the side of the Israelis, who of course have genuine security concerns. But these concerns must not lead to precipitous action. Remember that the Israelis themselves have nuclear weapons; if anything, Iran should be worried about them, and they are.

And that brings me back to the current war-mongering rhetoric that, in principle at least, echoes the battle cry of John McCain, who in 2007 sang, in tune with the Beach Boys, “Bomb bomb bomb / bomb bomb Iran.” I wish I were making this up, but I’m not.

I wish I were making up the whole past decade of American intervention in the Middle East, but unfortunately… I’m not.

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