No, Those War Drums Aren’t Just In Your Mind

Today the Jerusalem Post has a blockbuster story about the looming U.S. war with Iran:

US PREPARING FOR POSSIBLE IRAN CONFLICTJan. 8, 2010Hilary Leila Krieger, JPost correspondent in Washingon

The US does not want to see confrontation with Iran but is still preparing its military for that possibility, America’s top uniformed officer said Thursday.

“We’ve looked to do all we can to ensure that conflict doesn’t break out there, while at the same time preparing forces, as we do for many contingencies that we understand might occur,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during an appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I attended Mullen’s talk at the Washington Institute yesterday, and if Mullen’s answer sounds like pure boilerplate to you, as it did to me, maybe that’s because you’re not trying to gin up a war with Iran. The Pentagon is “preparing” for all kinds of contingencies. Given the prominence of the Middle East, and of Iran, among U.S. national security concerns, it’s safe to say that the Pentagon is preparing more seriously for an Iran contingency than for a Canada contingency, but Mullen gave absolutely no indication, nor could any reasonable person conclude, that those preparations had moved into some significantly higher gear. Indeed, he followed up immediately by adding “On the other hand, striking Iran, that also has a very, very destabilizing outcome.” For some reason, Jerusalem Post correspondent Hilary Leila Krieger stuck that at the bottom of the story.


The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman also attended the event. The only item he found noteworthy was Mullen’s comment about the delay of dwell time expansion for U.S. troops. The only things he found even tweet-worthy were Mullen’s comments on dwell-time, his comments on the destabilizing effects of an Iran strike, and spotting former Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer.

While no one seriously thinks that President Obama is going to war with Iran, it’s clear that there are conservative elements — the stridently hawkish Jerusalem Post being one — that are working to create momentum toward more aggressive action, and to foreclose less destructive options for the administration. Floating a story with a headline like US PREPARING FOR POSSIBLE IRAN CONFLICT, even if it is transparently shoddy journalism, can, by slowly making previously unthinkable ideas more thinkable, serve to prepare people and policymakers to eventually support really, really stupid policies, which is why it’s important to call out this sort of jingoism when we see it.