War as a Hobby

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Here is David Broder proposing a way for Barack Obama to get the economy back on track in time for his 2012 election campaign:

Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

There’s one bizarre idea here and one….other idea. The bizarre one is the notion that a war with Iran would cause the economy to improve. It wouldn’t. War with Iran would cost us — at most — about 1% of GDP, and this would have essentially no effect on economic growth. This isn’t a multi-year, two-front, full-scale national mobilization we’re talking about here. On the other hand, it would cause a massive spike in oil prices as Iran’s oil went off line (or traders began to fear it would go off line), and that would almost certainly be really, really bad for the economy. So everyone should just give up on the idea that even if an economic boost isn’t a primary reason to go to war with Iran, it’s at least an argument in its favor. It isn’t.

So then: what about the idea that “Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century”? A lot of people seem to agree with this, so it’s not right to call it bizarre. It is, however, a sign of the times that a major, supposedly centrist newspaper columnist can treat such a statement so cavalierly. I mean, whatever else you can say about Charles Krauthammer, he’d at least write a few paragraphs about why Iran is so dire a threat that we should go to war with them. Broder just tosses it off casually. This does not bode well for the idea that our ruling class has learned any useful lessons from our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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