November 26, 2013

(FDR: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" )

I don't know about you, but I'm happy whenever we can come to an agreement with a country viewed as an enemy of our state. Aren't we always being told that we have the most powerful military, the best technology, smartest people and the greatest way of life in the world? Yet whenever Iran is mentioned there is a big faction of people who are so frightened by them that their only solution is to smash them to pieces. And then they get to go on television and promote their bloodthirsty views.

Some Americans do have very short memories, because only a few years ago President Bush attacked Afghanistan and Iraq on the advice of the neocons, and that turned out to be as disastrous a foreign policy move for American and the world as we've ever seen. And since the Iranian deal was announced, we'll be forced to see an endless parade of those same neocons and war hawks lining up on our airwaves, crying about a short term deal that was negotiated without their participation. They are very cross with Obama for not telling them about those secret meetings. If they hadn't been secret, nothing would have been achieved. The fact that we had serious discussions with a country in which we haven't talked to in over thirty years is impressive. I have been very critical of the Obama administration at times, but this was an excellent move. Even the Washington Post's editorial board approves of the action: An Iran deal worth trying — risks and all

The most welcome parts of the agreement will end Iran’s production of medium-enriched uranium, convert its current stockpile into a less dangerous form and stop the completion of a reactor that could have begun producing plutonium next year. More extensive international inspections will add another measure of safety against an Iranian breakout.

You know if a Republican had struck this deal it would be hailed as their Gorbachev moment by the media and conservatives.

Fred Kaplan agrees with me and has a good take on the Iranian deal:

The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so.
Meanwhile, Iran has to do the following things: halt the enrichment of all uranium above 5 percent and freeze the stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent; neutralize its stockpile of uranium that’s been enriched to 20 percent (either by diluting it to 5 percent purity or converting it to a form that cannot be used to make a weapon); stop producing, installing, or modernizing centrifuges; stop constructing more enrichment facilities; halt all activities at the Arak nuclear reactor (which has the potential to produce nuclear weapons made of plutonium); permit much wider and more intrusive measures of verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency, including daily inspections of all facilities.

Without going into a lot of technical detail (which can be read here), the point is this: The agreement makes it impossible for the Iranians to make any further progress toward making a nuclear weapon in the next six months—and, if the talks break down after that, and the Iranians decide at that point to start building a nuclear arsenal, it will take them much longer to do so.

In exchange for these restraints, the P5+1 nations agree to free up about $6 billion of Iran’s long-frozen foreign assets. This amounts to a very small percentage of thesanctions imposed on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Meanwhile, all other sanctions will remain in place and continue to be vigorously enforced; the agreement doesn’t affect those sanctions at all. The U.S. Congress does have to agree not to impose additional sanctions in the next six months. If it imposes them anyway, they must know that this agreement—and the international coalition holding the sanctions in place—will collapse. Even this Congress is likely to hold off. If it does go ahead and passes a bill imposing new sanctions, Obama will certainly veto it.

It's not a permanent deal at all, but a good first step. And I'm hearing how awful it is that Obama let Iran have about $7 billion, which to some means the end of the world as we know it. Those same people shut the government down and cost us $24 billion, but that is chump change.

And going back to FDR's famous quote, fear is the main ingredient that is needed by the military industrial complex, so we always have an enemy to be afraid of. Just look at your own life. How much has fear of something motivated your own decisions?

Noam Chomsky goes on to explain that: America is a terrified country

Digby writes:

For such a powerful "exceptional" nation, we sure are scared of other countries. Well, I shouldn't indict the whole nation. It's mostly coming from the right, but there are plenty of apolitical and lefty types who are frightened too. It's an interesting phenomenon that we see played out all the time, right now in the nearly hysterical reaction to a possible deal with Iran. One would think that coming closer to a peaceful solution to a vexing security problem would make people feel safer, but it seems to have made an awful lot of people more frightened than ever.

Noam Chomsky had some fascinating observations about this in a recent conversation about his seminal work Manufacturing Consent...
He goes on to point out that the propaganda machine is much stronger than it used to be as well, particularly with the owners of American having so much money now that they can afford to spend it on political propaganda in overwhelming amounts. His comments are well worth reading in full.

I think this insight that the framework is "fear" rather than any specific enemy is key. And I also think it's important to recognize that it's the proportionality of fear to threat that really matters. It's almost as if we are more scared if the threat they're hyping is absurd. (I'm thinking of the recent nonsense in which a federal court declared Al Qaeda an "existential threat.")

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