A “moment of atavism” from Politco

Laura Rozen, a blogger for Politico, has written a shockingly poor post in which she claims that the “Iran threat moved closer to [Israel’s] doorstep under [George W. Bush] because of the decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.” President Bush can fairly be criticized for his response to the Iran’s progress in developing nukes, and his decision to invade Iraq also remains highly controversial. However, it is baseless to connect the two matters by claiming that the Iraq war resulted in Iran’s push for nukes.
Rozen’s self-described “hard nosed analysis” is devoid of evidence. Let’s look at some. According to a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iran backed away from its nuclear program in 2003. In all likelihood, this was a response to the invasion of Iraq, which strongly suggested to Iran that the Bush admnistration meant business in the region.
As our difficulties mounted in post-invasion Iraq, the situation came to look very different to Iran. Thus, Iran felt free to resume its nuclear program and did so. It is therefore arguable that, by not doing a better job in post-invasion Iraq, the Bush administration contributed to Iran’s decision to press forward with nukes.
But Rozen blames the decision to invade Iraq. Thus, we must ask how Iran would have acted absent the invasion. In other words, what would Iran have done if the U.S. had backed down to Saddam Hussein, leaving this arch-enemy of Iran free to develop WMD including nukes of his own? The question answers itself. Iran almost certainly would not have temporarily discontinued its nuclear program in 2003; instead it would have proceeded full steam ahead.
Rozen argues that

the reluctance to use force including by Bush 43 to counter Iran if need be is unmistakably largely affected by the post-Iraq invasion situation, including widespread war weariness and skepticism, including from the Pentagon.

The use of three “includings” in a single sentence should not divert us from that sentence’s cynicism. It’s possible that “Bush 43” didn’t use force to counter Iran due to “war weariness.” But Rozen surely does not believe that President Obama would be willing to use force against Iran if only President Bush had not invaded Iraq. “War weariness” did not prevent Obama from escalating the war in Afghanistan.
There are other problems with Rozen’s piece, as Rubin’s response makes clear. Ultimately, it reads like a twisted attempt to persuade us that Israel is better off with “realists” like President Obama than with “sentimentalists” like President Bush. But, while neither is destined to do anything about Iranian nukes, only Obama wants to topple Israel’s government and force Israel to jeopardize its security (which, after eight mostly cooperative years of Bush, was in good shape) by making concession after concession to its violence-prone arch-enemy.
Rozen’s writing is also terrible (see the passage quoted above). And, according to Michael Rubin, Harold Rhode, who makes a cameo appearance via his recent Jerusalem Post interview, had nothing to do with the Defense Department’s “Office of Special Plans,” which is where Rozen tries to place him. And the office from which Rhode retired is the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, not “Net Assessments.”
But it’s the weakness of Rozen’s analysis that should most embarrass Politico. Rubin points out that Rozen used to “partner with Robert Dreyfuss (of Lyndon LaRouche fame) to write deeply flawed exposes which confused time and personnel, and often simply spouted inventions unsupported by fact or reporting.”
A friend of mine calls Rozen’s latest piece “a moment of atavism where her editorializing bubbled up through the artificial neutral language of her Politico reporting.” Politco should hope that she is able to curtail this sort of mindless bubbling.

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