The original cross-post that I put on DailyKos at 11:26 PM Wednesday night sank off the front page in the wee small hours of the morning, while the whole wide world was fast asleep. On Thursday, however, DailyKos diarist Scientician saw Juan Cole's plug on Informed Comment. He checked me out on the web and determined that I was a "respectable foreign affairs academic" (not always a compliment on DailyKos). That morning he nonetheless posted a diary that made it to the top of the recommended list, finally garnering 561 comments, many of them by people who appear not to be lunatics.
Then on Friday New Yorker contributor George Packer called. After our conversation he wrote about it on his blog Interesting Times:
If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington.His evaluation: "True? I don’t know. Plausible? Absolutely."
Later he put up a postscript:
Barnett Rubin just called me. His source spoke with a neocon think-tanker who corroborated the story of the propaganda campaign and had this to say about it: “I am a Republican. I am a conservative. But I’m not a raging lunatic. This is lunatic.”Today, the first day of Magical September (hat-tip to openthread at DailyKos), Scott Horton of Harper's Magazine picked up the story on his No Comment blog, under the title, The New Rollout. Horton summarized my post and Packer's entry and then adds:
Somewhere in the etheral blogosphere, diarist WilyFlorentine is preparing to post a few lessons:
And no sooner does this appear in the blogosphere than we see what may be the first bit of ground-preparation for the rollout: Michael Ledeen’s new book, set for release right on schedule a week after Labor Day, and it’s called—get this–Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction. What’s the point in being subtle when you’re trying to run herd on what Nietzsche called the “bovine masses?” Here’s the blurb:
“Michael A. Ledeen has written a knowing book about Iran’s ways. His is a book that lays bare the cruelties of the radical theocracy and its ambitions beyond its borders. After Ledeen’s book, the illusions about Iran should finally be put to rest. A smart and unsentimental work.”
Ledeen, the author of Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, among other classics, is a fluent Italian speaker with curious connections to the Italian state security and the yellowcake uranium caper. No doubt Michael thinks that somewhere out in the ethersphere, Niccolò is smiling. I think that Niccolò was smarter than that: he’s wincing.
The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.And finally:
One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.
Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.
No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.Since Ledeen is an expert on Machiavelli, the latter quote might argue that the rollout proves that war talk is a bluff designed to pressure Iran into agreeing to the demands of the European negotiators over nuclear enrichment. But brinkmanship works only when the other side has something to gain by conceding. That might be true if the administration's goal really was to prevent Iran from gaining full control of the nuclear fuel cycle. Rhetoric like President Bush's speech to the American Legion and Ledeen's book, however, only further convince Tehran that nothing short of forcible regime change will satisfy Washington.
Perhaps the war party will answer with another quotation from Chapter 17 of The Prince:
It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.In a speech delivered in Macchiavelli's native Florence, "The Danger of Being Hated," Scott Horton provided a fitting answer. He reminded his audience that the original formulation "Let them hate us, so long as they fear us," comes not from Macchiavelli, but from the insane Roman Emperor Caligula. Horton comments:
But there is one counsel of Macchiavelli's that even those who (unlike me) consider the Islamic Republic of Iran an irreconcilable enemy, ought to remember: that any injury done by the Prince should be so great that the victim is "unable to retaliate." And that is why the public and the press must at least ask the questions posed by Packer:
In chapter 17 of The Prince Machiavelli says that “it is much safer to be feared than loved”–a very shrewd rearrangement of Caligula’s statement. But he doesn’t stop there–he goes on immediately to say that the one of the worst mistakes a prince can ever make is to be hated; for in this way he converts himself to a target. He compounds the risks he personally and his subjects must face.
The balance that Machiavelli commends to us is this: don’t strive to be loved, but at all costs avoid being hated. A modern state need not flinch from being feared, but its position is strongest when it exhibits the values of virtue of which he writes. A state which is seen as virtuous, strong and decisive is best able to assure its security.
Does the Administration expect the Iranian regime to fall in the event of an attack? If yes, what will replace it? If no (and it will not), why would the Administration deliberately set about to strengthen the regime’s hold on power? What will the Administration do to protect highly vulnerable American lives and interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world against the Iranian reprisals that will follow? What if Iran strikes against Israel? What will be the strategy when the Iranian nuclear program, damaged but not destroyed, resumes? How will the Administration handle the international alarm and opprobrium that would be an attack’s inevitable fallout?Writing on the futility of relying solely on force, Machiavelli counseled:
For this reason the best possible fortress is--not to be hated by the people, because, although you may hold the fortresses, yet they will not save you if the people hate youThat is why today, more even than when this Republic was founded, we owe “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Today the U.S. is less loved, less respected, and after the debacle in Iraq, less feared but for its folly, than ever before. And that is the greatest threat to our security.