The road to World War III

This past weekend, I watched the Chris Matthews show in horror as a guest panel of high-paid journalists chit-chatted about an American nuclear strike against Iran. Is it good timing or bad timing for a nuclear strike? Is a nuclear strike legal? Is it appropriate? Would it cause political harm or raise political capital? Do it now? Do it later? The discussion was so casual, a viewer tuning in midway could have easily mistaken it for a conversation about mah-jongg or golf. Nuclear war, bandied about with a complete lack of gravitas, and without so much as a hint of concern about a White House frozen in the headlights of its own runaway foreign policy.

The key point left unstated by Chris Matthews" guests: A nuclear strike against Iran will crash America and the Middle East head on into World War III.

And that is exactly what Iran seems to want.

The "Road" To World War III

The missing frame from the current discussion of Iran' uranium enrichment program is precisely this idea of World War III. Before it is too late, Americans must join together and move the debate to this new frame, which has two key elements.

The idea that the Bush Administration is "heading down a road" or "driving in the wrong direction" is a basic and clear idea that must be repeated. So far, the debate on Iraq, and by extension on Iran, is caught in a vague discussion about "plans" and "policies." We are on the wrong highway, and it is time to get off. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans or somewhere in between or outside those two categories, we can all agree that the road our foreign policy is driving down will not get us where we want to go.

I want to emphasize this point: That U.S. foreign policy is on the wrong road is not a partisan issue.

The second element of this frame is the phrase "World War III," which must now be used in the media and in political debate in order to focus people's attention on what is really happening in the world. Again, this is not a partisan issue.

When discussing Iran, we must as a nation be willing to stand up and say, "We will not be led down the road to World War III."

The band of U.S. generals that have recently called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign have not been as effective as they could be because they did not frame their criticisms using the "road" metaphor and by invoking the specter of World War III.

What does this mean in actual debate language?

It means that when we are asked to consider the situation in Iran, concerned Americans should respond by saying, "Look, if U.S. foreign policy continues down this road then we are headed for World War III." Plain and simple.

The alternative is to keep talking about nuclear war as if it is something normal and casual--which appears to be the approach taken by the likes of Chris Matthews.

In our America, we should never allow nuclear strike to be discussed as if it is something other than the most horrific possible action. And since the press, the Congress and the White House have already veered off course on this debate, it is the responsibility of citizens to drive the debate back to solid moral ground.

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