December 19, 2006

Lunatics Everywhere

Justin Logan has the goods on why the United States shouldn't go to war with Iran. Most of the arguments are pretty familiar, but everything's compiled in one place, which is handy, and I thought this passage was well done:
Finally, as hawkish American pundits repeat the bizarre and seemingly apocalyptic statements of Iranians to advance the case for war, they would be well-served to consider how hawkish Iranians could make much the same arguments about certain worldviews that are prevalent in America and enjoy influence in Washington.

For one example, the evangelical preacher John Hagee has published a top-selling book titled Jerusalem Countdown, in which he uses biblical prophecy to advocate an apocalyptic showdown wherein Israel and the United States join in a preventive war against Iran, which will be, in Hagee’s telling, the fulfillment of God’s will. Ultimately, according to Hagee, the war will provoke Russia to lead a group of Arab nations into war against Israel and the United States, and this will hasten the second coming of Christ, wherein Hagee and his followers will be granted eternal life.

Hagee has now formed a lobbying organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which is designed to advance his apocalyptic visions. At CUFI’s kickoff banquet, the 3,000 attendees heard speeches from Republican senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum, as well as Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Subsequently, CUFI has enjoyed remarkable access to the Bush administration, including a series of off-the-record briefings on Middle East policy at the White House with officials that the Bush administration refuses to name.

None of this is presented in order to pass theological judgment on Hagee’s views. It does, however, illustrate how certain beliefs that appear bizarre and incomprehensible could be used by outsiders to portray an opponent as dangerous, or wedded to theological tenets that would suggest irrationality. For example, Iranian hardliners could easily cite Hagee’s views and access to the White House to argue that the American administration is convinced that it must hasten the second coming of Christ by attacking their country. While that view would be rightly ridiculed as absurd in this country, it is not difficult to see how it could be used in a culture that does not understand some of the oddity and nuances of American society.
I'd just add that, unlike any of the fanatical clerics running the show in Tehran, the Bush administration actually has semi-openly discussed using nuclear weapons near civilian areas. Just in case we're trying to figure out who's more apocalyptic than whom. But other than that—point taken.
-- Brad Plumer 1:08 AM || ||