When host Christiane Amanpour brought up Mid East peace talks on ABC’s Sunday talk show “This Week,” the topic of conversation went quickly from the talks themselves to the West’s standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.
But there was a noticeable difference in the tone of this conversation versus those in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq: Whereas establishment figures tended to capitulate to the hawks in 2003, on “This Week,” both liberal pundits at the round table pushed back against an attack on Iran.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, in his usual bellicose form, predicted Israelis and Palestinians need to have a “civil war” to get to peace (echoes of his prescriptions for Islam at large) and that the U.S. has at its disposal
an Arab world that’s obsessed with Iran, OK? And so you have a natural Sunni-Israel alliance building. So all I’m saying is, let is [sic] breathe. Don’t be smarter than the story. I make no predictions, but we could be surprised.
The notion of a growing Arab hostility toward Iran — largely based on “out of context” comments of one U.A.E. minister and other unnamed Arab officials — was thoroughly debunked last month by Amjad Atallah at Foreign Policy‘s Mid East Channel blog last month, where he enumerated the ways that such an assertion oversimplifies factors like the difference between autocratic Arab regimes and their leaders.
After Amanpour raised Iran again, this time as the focus of discussion rather than a tangential matter in Arab-Israeli peace, liberal New York Times pundit Paul Krugman broke into the crosstalk and said a U.S. attack on Iran is not a popular notion:
[...T]his is not 2003. People in this country, people are — you know, the public no longer believes that drop a few bombs, shock and awe, and we can remake the world in — in our image. So I think there’s — people are just not willing to cede this.
Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will, who’s recently been in Jerusalem spending time with and channeling Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu, disagreed with Krugman and stated, contra assessments of almost any serious Iran analyst, that “regime change, I think, is coming to Iran.” But he acknowledged that this may not come before Iran’s nuclear maturity and that, as a result, “the Israelis are not going to wait on regime change to save them from a nuclear weapon.” Asked by Amanpour to expand on the Israeli perspective, Will went on to say:
I think they’re prepared to cut the administration some slack and move as far as they can in this way on the assumption that, A, that these sanctions, which are more severe than they had thought they would get, are going to work and, if not, that they would have a partner in attacking Iran. But they will attack Iran, if that is the option.
Mary Jordan, a Washington Post editor, broke in and again brought up Krugman’s point that a U.S. or U.S.-supported attack on Iran is not likely to be politically popular:
…America is very war-weary. You know, a servicemen and women have served now, Americans, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people are really tired. There is fatigue of war.
If Sunday talk shows, as they are thought to do, indicate the zeitgeist underlying U.S. politics, there is a very important distinction to be drawn between the liberal reaction to the drumbeat for war with Iraq and that for the U.S. to attack Iran: It seems that some liberals, if not all, have learned from the 2003 invasion of Iraq and are ready to speak out about the political infeasibility of an attack, if not the potentially disastrous strategic fallout.
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