Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Atlantic

Who Is Responsible for the “Loose Talk of War” with Iran?

You can say this about President Obama’s fans in the media: They can be a humorless bunch, but that doesn’t stop them from providing moments of unintentional comedy. A very enjoyable example today comes from the Atlantic’s James Fallows. Fallows heard something he liked in Obama’s speech yesterday to the annual AIPAC conference: “There is too much loose talk of war,” the president said about the Iranian threat.

“Good for President Obama for saying this,” Fallows writes today in a post titled–I kid you not–“Iran Drumbeat Watch: AIPAC Edition.” Yes, there does seem to be a lot of loose talk about war with Iran, much of it, it turns out, coming from publications like the one James Fallows writes for. Heading into the weekend, he filed a post chock-full of links to other stories about war with Iran. His fellow Atlantic blogger Robert Wright has filed four posts on the subject in the last week. But the two, it must be said, are not the pioneers of this mania. They were probably set off by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Haaretz, and other such newspapers that bloggers for the Atlantic might read carefully. And here’s what they likely found.

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You can say this about President Obama’s fans in the media: They can be a humorless bunch, but that doesn’t stop them from providing moments of unintentional comedy. A very enjoyable example today comes from the Atlantic’s James Fallows. Fallows heard something he liked in Obama’s speech yesterday to the annual AIPAC conference: “There is too much loose talk of war,” the president said about the Iranian threat.

“Good for President Obama for saying this,” Fallows writes today in a post titled–I kid you not–“Iran Drumbeat Watch: AIPAC Edition.” Yes, there does seem to be a lot of loose talk about war with Iran, much of it, it turns out, coming from publications like the one James Fallows writes for. Heading into the weekend, he filed a post chock-full of links to other stories about war with Iran. His fellow Atlantic blogger Robert Wright has filed four posts on the subject in the last week. But the two, it must be said, are not the pioneers of this mania. They were probably set off by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Haaretz, and other such newspapers that bloggers for the Atlantic might read carefully. And here’s what they likely found.

In the last week, a brief glance at the New York Times website shows an average of at least one story a day on the subject. The Washington Post has perhaps even more material as many of its Iran dispatches are Associated Press briefs and the paper has a much more active and varied blog and opinion section than does the New York Times.

A visit to Haaretz’s website shows the liberal Israeli daily has helpfully set up a section called “Israel’s Eye on Iran”–a one-stop shop for all your Iran news. The first eight headlines we see are:

  • “Israel would be wise to listen to Obama’s advice on Iran”
  • “Obama and Netanyahu’s White House masquerade ball”
  • “Would God want Israel to attack Iran?”
  • “Tangled web of policy, politics and personality mark Obama-Netanyahu summit”
  • “The hallucinations of the Israeli government”
  • “Jerusalem, Washington, and the Iranian bomb”
  • “The American public’s support for an attack on Iran will be widespread but short-lived”
  • “Barak will have to pass an attack on Iran through a reluctant U.S.”

If you feel overwhelmed by this, head on back to Haaretz’s home page. There you’ll find a link to an opinion piece from Saturday’s paper titled “Netanyahu’s conspiracy to drag the U.S. to war.”

So the president is right. So is James Fallows. There is too much loose talk of war. And Fallows and co. would be delighted to know there is something they can do. Physician, heal thyself.

There is one more interesting nugget in Fallows’s post today. He was struck by the part of the president’s speech “in which Obama explained that he was really, truly Israel’s friend.” Fallows says he “can’t think of another situation where an American president, speaking to an American audience on American soil, would find it necessary or dignified to plead his bona fides in a similar way.”

Nor I. I am young, perhaps, but I too cannot think of another situation in which the American president acted with such visible disdain toward an ostensible ally that he felt he must lecture those concerned about his behavior that they were merely being brainwashed by the president’s unnamed enemies. I also cannot recall a time when a president–let alone a president who received close to 80 percent of the Jewish vote–felt compelled to tell a room of Jewish donors that he was the best they were going to get so they should just quit complaining and write him a check. Who are these Jewish voters going to believe, the president would like to know–Obama or their lying eyes?

You also have got to love Fallows’s choice of words for that complaint: “an American president, speaking to an American audience on American soil….” It’s almost as if he thinks the behavior of that crowd is un- oh, never mind. I’m sure it’s just a poor choice of words. He’s upset–those aggressive Israelis are about to pull us into a war with Iran. He read all about it in the Atlantic.

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