Designing a Peace Government

The U.S. and most other countries have political structures with a subtle and dangerous bias toward war, a design that counterintuitively encourages leaders to launch wars. Political systems so designed are irrational and urgently need reform.

The fog of war that clouds the state of the battle is nothing compared to the fog of causality that makes nearly impossible the distinction between a war launched for national security and a war launched for the personal profit of the leader who gave the order to attack. By the time a leader works up the nerve to risk all on war, even he likely cannot make the distinction. Recent wars are swamped with evidence that politicians and leaders of the broader military-industrial complex gained such massive personal profit from the wars that it begs credulity to imagine that the visions of that personal profit did not color their decision to support the decision to launch the war.

Illogically, the political system is designed to encourage war for personal gain. Leaders, during war, are almost guaranteed support, and later few will want to uncover old dirt by looking into the motivations of those who “defended” the nation, for even the most egregious aggression is always called “defense.” Voters, sick with war fever, can seldom differentiate between supporting the war leader and being patriotic, even though the two positions have no necessary relationship whatsoever. Making the argument that “harming the war effort” would be the patriotic course if the war were being fought for the benefit only of some corrupt political faction seems logical enough in an academic setting but gets nowhere in an angry crowd. Saying you love your country so much you want to make it admit that the ultimate decision (to start a war) was not correct and should be reversed is simply too much for most humans to contemplate (call that arrogance, cutting off your nose to spite your face, or–if you want to be polite about it–cognitive dissonance).

Leaders tend to benefit personally by committing the worst sin any leader can commit – launching an unnecessary war, but the argument over whether the leader’s motivation for starting a war was primarily to win reelection/line his pockets or primarily to protect society will never be decided in time to matter if it ever be decided at all. Therefore, logically, the political system should be designed to protect society from the disaster of an unnecessary war.

For the U.S., a “war amendment” to the Constitution might be considered, with provisions designed, first, to clarify what legally constitutes a “state of war” (something that has become utterly meaningless with the advent of mercenaries beyond the reach of Congress and drones) and, second, to implement reforms that would impose personal costs on any leader launching a war, with those costs not so onerous that a patriotic leader would not accept them as the price of doing his duty but sufficiently onerous so as to persuade most leaders not to start wars for career advancement.

To clarify the “state of war,” the following might be useful:

  • No military forces may be maintained under the direct command of the President without the oversight of Congress;
  • When forces representing the U.S. employ force overseas, whether uniformed or mercenary, “war” exists;
  • “War” is illegal without the express permission of Congress, with the automatic penalty that the President be immediately removed from power.

The following provisions might help ambitious or greedy leaders to think twice before launching a war:

  • Within 24 hours of launching a war, the President and Vice President shall both resign, with no right to hold elective office for five years and no right to work ever in their lifetimes for any firm that produces weapons or holds government contracts related to the war effort or engages in the financing of the war effort;
  • Members of Congress who vote for war shall be ineligible for reelection when their term ends and similarly prohibited from working for the military-industrial complex;
  • Presidents cannot be reelected without leaving power for one term;
  • Members of Congress can only be reelected twice;
  • CEOs of corporations that sell weapons or provide contractors and supplies for the war effort shall have their salaries cut to minimum wage levels for the duration of the war.
Finally, the electoral system must be reformed to prevent buying elections. The easiest step in this direction is to provide free TV time for campaigns. The real free speech issue in modern society is not the corrupt idea that dollars equal votes but the defense of the “communications commons:” TV stations should be required, as a condition of using the common airwaves, to offer free time to all candidates and prevented from offering any paid time. However society decides to allocate time to candidates on TV, money should have nothing to do with it.

The message of these reforms should be that holding office is a privilege and launching a war constitutes the failure of the leader to carry out his responsibilities to society: war may be necessary, but the mere fact that it became necessary demonstrates that the leader has failed to prevent the situation from becoming so dire. Firemen should not be placed in the tempting position of being invited to start fires so they can be rewarded for putting them out. Surely, these reforms would not, by themselves, make war obsolete, but they might remove some of the personal incentive, so blatantly obvious in recent years, to commit the nation to a course of aggression.



Washington has deployed even more military forces against Iranand intensified its economic war against Iran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard generals have launched a rhetorical broadside against Washington, and Israel has again threatened to commit aggression against Iran.

Iran’s egregious insult of pointing out the obvious—that it can threaten the massive array of U.S.military bases that have come to surround it since the neo-con push for an Imperial America—is a starving fox poking around a grizzly’s catch. The ability of Iran to respond to attack by hitting the bases comes as no surprise and while its articulation of the threat may play well in Tehran, it is otherwise is likely only to empower the Israeli-American war party, the grizzly pretending that the fox is threatening its existence by trying to steal scraps.
The egregious nature of Washington’s behavior—ratcheting up both military and economic pressure against a Tehran that is doing nothing new—is of a totally different order. Imperial Americaunder Democrats is proving hard to distinguish from Imperial America under neo-cons: be sure you have a new war ready (Iranfor both Obama and Bush) before you end the old war you are currently fighting (Afghanistanfor Obama; Iraqfor Bush). Keep tensions at a fever pitch. Distract voters from the mess at home.
One can only wonder at the idea of distracting voters. Does a man whose bank has cheated him out of his home really not care as long as he can cheer U.S./Israeli aggression against yet another Muslim society? Not only does such a strategy on Obama’s part make the assumption that the American voter is extremely ignorant, it plays right into the hands of the Republicans and the even more dangerous expansionist faction in Israel – the greater the tensions, the easier it is to argue that “nothing less than the immediate destruction of XXX can save the world!”
The Washington Post betrayed the lack of sincerity in Washington’s position, advocating that  “Like any good pugilist, Washington should follow the heavy blow of oil sanctions with further unrelenting pressure.” The author insults the intelligence of his readers by his childish comparison of a boxing match to U.S.-Iranian relations. Perhaps the analogy is indeed apt in describing the bias of Washington decision-makers, however, for they do indeed appear to sum up the relationship in their minds as a battle to the death. For their own self-respect, as long as they refuse to offer Iran an honorable way out (security, participation in world affairs as an equal, and independence), they must insist that the relationship is a zero-sum battle until one side scores a knock-out. 
Iran, meanwhile, is trapped: Washingtonwill not offer a deal because, egged on by a sneering Netanyahu, Washington does not want a “deal;” Washingtonwants Iran to surrender. Perhaps the New York Times finds it appropriate to interpret rising U.S. military pressure as primarily designed to persuade Israel not to start a war, but the timing immediately following yet another round of talks in which Washington apparently chose again not to offer Iran a balanced, compromise deal suggests that the main message Iran should hear—and certainly the message it will hear—is a demand that it play by Washington rules. The talks recently concluded in Istanbulwere technical-level talks; following them with renewed military threats makes little sense if Washingtongenuinely wants a solution. The purpose of technical-level talks is to pave the way for a political solution, not achieve it; that is the job of senior policy-makers.
Washington’s behavior suggests a more ominous interpretation: Iranmust confirm without qualification that Israelis and will forever remain Master of the Mideast Universe. Recognition of Israel’s right to a regional nuclear monopoly backed up by its already overwhelming conventional military superiority resulting from the open arms pipeline from the U.S. and in the context of its blank check authorization to tell other countries what arms they are allowed to possess and to attack any who break its rules means that no country in the region but Israel shall be permitted independence.
But independence, for Iran, is the whole ball game. Iranhas been struggling mightily for a century to reemerge from its recent obscurity and define for itself in its own terms a path forward. Nukes are not Tehran’s goal; its goal is international respect as a player whose voice needs to be listened to. Tehranplays its nuclear card because that is the only way to get Washington’s attention. If Iranends up building the bomb, Tel Aviv and Washington will be to blame for teaching it the lesson that the big boys sneer at everyone who lacks the bomb. Iran’s immediate enemy, Saddam’s Iraq, has vanished only to be replaced by a new string of U.S.bases and an armada of U.S.ships that serve no purpose except to threaten it with nuclear annihilation. Meanwhile, Israelcontinues to swallow those pieces of Palestineit did not digest in 1949 and has now defined Iranas its main enemy. How can Tehranensure Iranian national security except by playing the nuclear card? Washingtonis not offering a rational deal–a trade of terminating its economic war against Iran in return for nuclear transparency—because nuclear transparency is not Washington’s goal. Washington’s goal is formal Iranian acceptance of permanent Number 2 status in the region and that indeed constitutes, for Iran, a surrender.

Shall We Have Another War…This Time, Iran?

No one did much thinking in early 2003; everyone was “in shock,” you see. That excuse cannot be used this time. So…has the U.S. public learned anything in the interim?

Polling suggests most Americans in both major parties oppose Israeli aggression against Iran. As summarized by Just Foreign Policy:

If Israel goes ahead with a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program and Iran retaliates, but not against American targets, only 25% favor the US providing military forces if Israel requests them (though support is a bit higher among Republicans at 41%. Another 14% favors the US providing diplomatic support only. Few would support open opposition. The most popular position is for the US to take a neutral stance, which is supported by 49%.

So half of Americans claim to support neutrality, completely ignoring the fact that Israel’s military power is a U.S. gift. Handing a mugger a gun and then closing your eyes while he uses it is not “neutrality.”  

More interesting than the highly superficial and biased polling would have been such questions as:

1. Should the U.S. Persian Gulf fleet attack any air force that crosses the Gulf with aggressive intent?

2. Is the U.S. morally culpable if another country armed with U.S. weapons uses those weapons to launch a war when itself not under attack or under the immediate and direct threat of attack?

3. If Israel uses aircraft provided to it by the U.S. to start a war with Iran, would Iran be justified in sinking U.S. aircraft carriers in retaliation?

4. Given that Iran has no nuclear weapons and that Israel reputedly has several hundred, which state do you think is a rogue state that is endangering global security?

5. Given the characterization by recently retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan of an Israeli attack on Iran as the “stupidest” idea he ever heard, do you think Netanyahu–who is campaigning for either a U.S. or Israeli attack–is an international criminal?

6. If Israel starts a war against Iran with the justification that Iran might otherwise someday possess a couple of those dangerous weapons, should the U.S. demand regime change in Israel and, if necessary, attack Israel to enforce this demand?

7. What kind of behavior by another state should be considered harmful to U.S. national security?

That would be a poll worth conducting. If the questions above were instead a final exam, then the instructions would include the following directions:

Along with your answer, provide justification focusing on the state of the world ten years hence.

Giving a Fix to an Addict

Reports of giving offensive weapons of mass destruction to the Netanyahu gang sound like buying off the neighborhood junkie with a free fix. The next U.S. president better come into office with a plan of pure magic.

The best TV news program available in the U.S. today, Democracy Now, says that Obama has “reportedly” offered Israel offensive weapons of mass destruction to delay a war of aggression against Iran, i.e., a new and more powerful fix for a buddy who is already a junkie and on the verge of “going rogue.” Given that Obama wants to help Israel, defensive arms and/or an even more solid security wall around Israel than the U.S. already provides might have been in order, but to offer to increase the ability of a potential aggressor to commit aggression in return for a promise that the potential aggressor will delay ever so slightly his commission of the sin would constitute a betrayal of presidential responsibility for protecting U.S. national security, not to mention being a very nasty thing to do to one’s addict-buddy. A friend would offer Israel an option other than the madness of launching an uncontrollable war against a vastly larger adversary rather than further whetting the appetites of a regime already committed to solving its foreign policy and domestic policy problems through violence.

Even the infamous hardline former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, keeps warning against the Netanyahu regime’s promotion of war as the answer, most recently calling the idea “stupid.” One wonders how well he will sleep if the regime he recently left and now distrusts becomes convinced that it finally has the ability to deal the Iranians a “final solution.”

Democracy Now indicated the news might not be true. One can only hope, but this is exactly the self-defeating policy Washington has been pursuing for a generation, and the U.S. “Israel problem” just keeps getting worse and worse. If the report is true, Obama may get reelected, since no presidential-quality opposition is yet visible on the horizon, but if he does, then how will he control Israel the next time?

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

This post by an Israeli and self-described Zionist cuts through the flood of propaganda, ignorance, and willful self-delusion on the subject of attacking Iran with a degree of clarity and moral vision almost unknown in U.S. commentary.

The author concludes:

The Jews I know seem to be divided between those who support sanctions and those who support military action. Maybe I hang out with the wrong crowd. I support neither. The drums of war have started again, and the madness should be stopped now. If either Israel (or its proxy, the US) attacks Iran, it will be difficult for any moral person to defend the right of such a rogue state to exist.

Have we reached the point where we can no longer safely avoid the conclusion that there exists a state so powerful and so vengeful and so lacking in self-control and so contemptuous of the rights of others that the defense of our own national security compels us to disarm that state? In short, can the U.S. any longer afford to permit the state of Israel to exist?