One of the enduring pedagogical tactics of professors is the deployment of the phrase "Show, don't tell." It's shorthand for a moment when there is too much exposition, too much explaining.
For example: instead of writing something like "As men with wooden stakes and kindling began approaching the congressional offices, the senator from Delaware became anxious," try writing "As men with wooden stakes and kindling set a pyre outside her office, the Senator worried the top of her brow with a finger and looked slightly away from the window." The anxiety in the second sentence is clearer this way, more potent. The message resonates more.
The same goes for the newest WikiLeaks scandal, one that shows (deftly), among a number of awful things, the extent to which the United States is currently at war with Iran. For some, this may not seem like news. From the Beirut bombing of a Marines barracks back in 1983 -- financed by Iran, carried out by its Lebanese surrogate Hezbollah, sounded death knell for 241 American servicemen -- to a number of incidents of kidnapping and violent incitement as well as Iran's funding of pernicious causes and its infamous 2002 lumping in the "Axis of Evil," it's easy to believe we're already in a proxy war with Iran. Or so we've been told.
But the recent analysis of WikiLeaks documents by major newspapers across the world, stemming from roughly four times as many reports as the July features published about Afghanistan and Pakistan, shows the wide-ranging ways in which Iran has played a hand in the killing of American soldiers and the assassination of Sunni politicians in Iraq. The documents also present information about Iran's arming and training of Shiite militias to fight or kidnap coalition forces. And for the coup de grâce, the reports highlight specific incidents in which U.S. troops in Iraq have come under direct attack from Iranian forces.
Now that we've been shown the evidence and it resonates more than it did when our war with Iran was couched in rhetorical or philosophical terms, the question is what should we do? Does this mean the United States should formally declare war on Iran? No. That would be completely insane. Beyond the well-known implications of such a war and its scope, a declaration of war would only bolster an Iran that is economically and domestically weak and run by a cleric established looking for an outsider on which to further project conspiratorial misdirections through its state-run media.
What America really needs to do is get serious about Iran. We must bury the idea that the United States should be engaging Iran. Since President Obama made his famous campaign remark about sitting down with the Iranian leadership within a year of taking office (and without preconditions), the Iranian regime has: continued to advance its nuclear program and spiced up the rampant fatalism of Middle East governments with a dulcet note of brinksmanship, threatened to destroy a fellow UN member state, committed national electoral fraud, murdered unarmed protesters, muzzled or jailed all opposition media, staunched free speech, funded the growing Hezbollah stockpile of missiles beneath the noses of UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, and perpetuated some dangerous falsehoods about both gays and the Holocaust. In addition to the damning links provided by the WikiLeaks document release about Iranian mischief vis-à-vis Iraq, there is undoubtedly more to this litany, all in service of the doleful reality that there is no amount of dialogue that can bring this regime around.
Ultimately, the United States must form a more serious coalition to squeeze Iran politically and economically. The call for this coalition has practically become a hollow trope, but it's become essential as the U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue. If President Obama can aggressively advance the cause of peace as well as coax Syria away from its alliance with Iran, the political gains Iran has made since the U.S. invasion of Iraq will be greatly cheapened. A peace deal would also help Sunni Arab states, deeply frightened of this new Iran, and make it easier to bring them into a coalition.
It won't be easy. Even wars without bullets are tough to fight. But more sabre-rattling about Iran's nuclear program will not help. Making a real impact on the landscape of the region will. It's time to show, not just tell.
The newest WikiLeaks scandal shows (deftly), among a number of awful things, the extent to which the United States is currently at war with Iran. The U.S. must form a more serious coalition to squeeze Iran politically and economically. The call for this coalition has become more important as the U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue.