One of the most fun Corner posts I’ve seen in a while, on a serious topic:
My problem with Goldberg’s response is that it misses (or ignores) the rhetorical maneuver in play, one that often gets used by people who do not like a given policy priority (or policymaker). Friedersdorf lists a number of scary scenarios, most of which are hypothetical, in order to downplay the entirely un-hypothetical prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Why stop with this parade of horribles? Why not compare the Iranian threat to an attack from Mothra? Is the Iranian nuclear program really more important than the potential horror of the Upper Midwest going zombie? What about Great Britain being compelled by vampires to declare war on us?
Now obviously these threats are a good deal more unlikely than an “unnecessary military exchange with China or Russia.” But the argument ad absurdum merely highlights the basic point. When politicians and policymakers talk about foreign threats, they tend to give weight to things that might actually happen and/or that we know about. Right now, the highest priority I have for my daughter is that she’s ready for fourth grade math. But, if there were a rabid bear in my home, my top priority would be to protect her from said bear, we can cover long division later. But since there is no such ursine menace lurking in my home, I don’t say to my wife when she says its time to work with the flash cards, “Honey, don’t you think we should concentrate on preventing bear attacks?”
Right now, the pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program precisely because it is real and looming. As far as I know, the threat of a multi-city attack from al Qaeda, a la 9/11, is real but not looming. Moreover we know our policies are working somewhat in that area. There’s less evidence our policies have done much to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
I do think it’s fair to worry about al Qaeda or some other terrorist group from getting a nuclear weapon, but preventing that and preventing Iran from getting one, don’t seem unrelated.
Knowing what we already know about Iran, they seem like pretty much one and the same thing to me. But can we really afford to ignore the prospective ursine menace as well? GIRD YOUR LOINS, I say!