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Lame ducks considered dangerous

February 22, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, Josh Marshall made a point in passing, and I want to underline and highlight it. It’s the central reason why our country today faces its direst peril since the Cuban missile crisis.

[Iraq is] a failure. There’s no recovering it. And the unspeakable reality — truly unspeakable, apparently — is that it’s not that bad. Horrible for the Iraqis. Horrible for the American dead. Terrible for American prestige, power and honor. All that. But not the end of the world. The future of our civilization isn’t at stake. And our physical safety isn’t at stake. We’ll go on. We are not the brave British standing behind Winston Churchill bucking us up with the confidence that “We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender …” Those aren’t the stakes here. Put it in those words and it’s almost comical. President Bush wants us to believe that it is because it serves his grandiosity and direct political interests to believe that, to believe that his political interests — where everything, history, legacy, etc. is on the line — are the same as ours as a country. They’re not.(my emphasis)

Marshall was considering the disconnect between Bush’s stakes and the country’s in the “Surge”. But the disconnect is at least as marked – and far more consequential – when the same logic is applied to Iran.
Bush is a gambler. Through his whole life, his instinct, when he is losing, has been to double the stakes. (His Dad could always cover the new limits.) Once the “Surge” fails, he is guaranteed to go down in history as a loser. His payoff in this game will be large, and negative. He has nothing personally to lose by running the table, and attacking Iran. The chances are very slim that he can reverse his fortunes. But if the alternatives are a certain loss (for him) and a miniscule chance of vindication (for him), he is not likely to hesitate in going for that minimal chance.

The results for the world, for the country, are almost certain to be devastating on a scale that will make the Iraq debacle look like a spilled ice cream cone at the fair. But Bush’s temperament is not likely to permit him to consider the stakes in any terms except those of his own personal humiliation or vindication.

Bush’s soul is the rope in a tug of war between Gates, who is resisting an Iran war, and Cheney, who is urging it. Everything in Bush’s history says that Cheney will pull Gates down. It is up to Congress to start tugging for the Pentagon’s team. Legislators must outlaw an Iran attack in advance, and follow through with impeachment if Bush decides to force the constitutional crisis. Wes Clark, bless his heart, is circulating this petition to get the ball rolling.

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