Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrates his 55th birthday this week. The State Department thinks he should celebrate by releasing the two imprisoned American hikers he is still holding in custody. While that’s a nice thought, it’s hard to imagine him gifting the U.S. such a present. Although, he may be inadvertently providing an even larger gift to our entire country—justification for war.
Why is provoking war a gift? Primarily because it could be the thing that rescues the economy from what is widely expected to be a slump lasting for several more years. After all, it was World War II that ultimately rocketed the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Examined carefully though, it’s clear that it wasn’t war, per se, that ended the Depression. Rather, it was what amounted to a massive government stimulus injected into the lagging economy to create the capability for war and then sustain the effort.
In this light, it’s possible that the U.S. doesn’t need to actually launch a war. David Broder argues in the Washington Post that it would be sufficient to prepare for one. However, the threat posed by Iran is not large enough to warrant any sort of Cold War style arms race. Minimally we’d need a large overseas deployment. This would mean hiring lots additional soldiers as well as equipping them, and paying all the companies the modern military depends on for logistical support. That might do the trick.
It could reasonably be argued that if the government was going to take on that much additional debt that it would be more prudent to invest in domestic infrastructure, research to create innovations to be the foundation of the next business boom, or educating our children to be prepared to compete in the global market. While that may be true, the point is moot. There is no political appetite for domestic stimulus. The only spending which might be capable of garnering any sort of bipartisan support would be toward a war effort. If there’s one thing that could reunite the country in purpose, it would be war.
Maybe it’s time to drop the facade of the U.S. being the peaceable gentle giant. Maybe we should forget all that “talking softly” stuff and just focus on the “big stick”. Maybe it’s time to own up to what we really do well.
Unless, of course, that’s not who we are and who we want to be. Maybe there’s something to be proud of beyond our capacity to kick butt. But if that were true, then we could agree on something more productive than military deployments. And it doesn’t seem we can.
Happy birthday Mahmoud… to us.