One more note on Ezra's response to my thoughts on Iran. I was the tiniest bit chastened a couple months ago when this (the article he linked to) came out. One thing that escaped notice, though, came out a few days after the piece appeared, when they appended the article with this note:
Editor's Note: After this story appeared in print, John Bolton contacted Newsweek to further address the circumstances under which he left the Bush administration. According to Bolton, he left when his recess appointment ended; Bush asked him to stay at the UN "without Senate confirmation, using a second recess appointment and the Vacancies Act," but Bolton says he declined. Bolton added that White House lawyers had used this approach in another case at an earlier juncture in the administration.
Where again is Bush's center of gravity? Basically, I disagree that this administration is, as Ezra put it, "a deeply ideological group, with a set of fairly coherent goals, who approach the world in an almost surprisingly predictable way." In fact, I think this administration is almost exactly the opposite of this. There are plenty of ideologues there, yes, but they don't necessarily believe the same thing. There are "neo-cons" with a variety of reasons for wanting to advance American hegemony, there are (or were) Christian rightists and there are Athiests, each promoting the same social agenda for the sake of advancing the political power of the administration and the party. That's why we've seen cronies--Bolton, Cheney, Rice--as opposed to intellectual comrades, running the show. Predictably, maybe, the results of the policies this group has come up with have been disastrous. Sadly, though, they still have much more power than such a defeated bunch should ever be allowed.
Ezra writes, "None of this is to say that we couldn't yet bomb Iran. But literally no foreign policy type I've spoken to -- which includes establishment folks who wouldn't be unhappy with that outcome -- thinks there's much of a chance that we will." I've had the chance to interact with many of the same people, actually. And while it's not untrue, it's neither the full story, nor, as I see it, particularly germane. That's because, for one, there's a palpable desire (call it the "anti-Sy Hersh impulse") on the part of a lot of people--foreign policy experts included--to not want to believe that any sort of attack against Iran will happen under Bush. At the same time, though, the people who actually have that impulse--foreign policy experts perhaps especially--feel that way at least in part because they understand how utterly terrible that course of events would be (or at least worry about it a little). I sympathize with that, but at the same time, for the above reasons, I don't think the administration really acts the way liberal or establishmentarian foreign policy experts might. The two relevant questions are, first, Is this administration capable of doing something so insane? And, if it is, how likely is it (and what might be nudging them in either direction)?