Zakaria on Iran

Fareed Zakaria has a terrific column on Iran today. A snip:

The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism.” For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

The American people seem to have different sensibilities than do political elites. In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Poll, 68 percent of respondents to the question “If the U.S. government decides to take military action in Iran, would you favor or oppose it?” said they would oppose it, a 5 percent increase since 5 months ago.

At the same time, watching the Frontline special called “Cheney’s Law” the other night, I discovered that then-SecDef Cheney had urged Bush the Elder not to go to Congress to get authorization for Gulf War 1, believing that the president had the inherent authority to do whatever he wants with the American military. Further, Cheney told Frontline in 1996 that if Congress had failed to authorize the war, he would have advised the president to attack anyway. It’s pretty clear that the veep, at least, doesn’t much concern himself with the Constitution on these matters. Meanwhile, both Bush and Cheney are ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran, increasingly painting themselves into a rhetorical corner. In a detached political science sense, this is all fascinating. As an American patriot, it’s scary as hell.