Today the administration is casting Iran as America’s biggest bogeyman on every front. National missile defense? Once Kim Jong Il of North Korea was identified as the target of this expensive project. No longer. In a speech Tuesday at National Defense University, Bush declared that “the need for missile defense in Europe … is urgent” because “Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.” Mideast peace? Never mind that the Palestinians are mixed up in a civil war of their own making and blaming the Israelis. Much of it is really the fault of “Iranian aggression,” as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared on Wednesday. “To see Iranian actual penetration now of these more radical elements of the Palestinian terrorist groups is really quite troubling,” she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. U.S. generals are now routinely trotted out to blame Iranian interference and arms shipments for the continuing Islamist insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, though Tehran plays at best a minor role there.
Nothing new here. I had a friend many years ago who was a friendly but obsessive fundamentalist Christian who spent his time searching for signs of the antichrist. For a while during the early Reagan era he was convinced it was Konstantin Chernenko. Then it switched to Moammar Qadafi. Then it was Saddam Hussein. (He actually wrote a book on the subject at that point, which in a weak moment I agreed to read.) We lost touch after that, but my guess is that during the 90s he migrated to Slobodan Milosevic, then Osama bin Laden, then back to Saddam Hussein, and perhaps is now on the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bandwagon.
In a way, he reminds of me of America. It’s not enough for us to have countries out there that we don’t like. Even countries that we really don’t like. There always has to be someone who’s basically the antichrist, and whoever it is is responsible for everything. When people who believe stuff like that are dressed in rags and yelling at passersby from street corners, we call them crackpots. When they dress in suits and, say, edit the Weekly Standard, we call them foreign policy analysts. Weird, huh?