I don't want to do too much about foreign policy on this blog. As I said in an e-mail to a friend lately, too much of a focus on foreign policy makes for bores and cranks. So I'll try to make this the last one on foreign policy for a little while, anyway.
But there is a phenomenon I'm noticing on the paleoconservative side that I find rather annoying. It's this business of labeling those who disagree on foreign policy as "phobics." We've had Russophobia and now, a new one on me as of yesterday, Persophobia. This ugly word apparently describes the psychological state of thinking that Iran is, or plausibly may be, a serious threat to other countries and that Ahmadinejad is something more dangerous than a powerless buffoon.
Now, I'm not going to claim to know that Iran is going to a) get nukes and b) use them. But they're very open about getting them. Boast about it loudly. And as for using them, well, Mr. A. may not be nearly as brilliant as he thinks he is, but he does apparently think it would be a cool thing if Israel were wiped off the map. And some of his creepy fans seem to think nuking Israel would be a wonderful idea and are getting all geared up to celebrate. Even if it's true (as some claim) that quite a few of his own people think little of him, it doesn't follow that he would have neither the will nor the de facto authority to use nuclear weapons if they were available. It certainly doesn't seem to me ridiculous to think that this raving kookball would be dangerous with such power in his hands. It doesn't, for example, seem to rate the kind of snooty scorn heaped upon the head of Rick Santorum for thinking of Iran as a threat or for taking seriously Mr. A's saber-rattling. I'm as prepared to think that Rick Santorum might have some evidence on this subject that I don't have as to think that, say, the writers at The American Conservative (who think very well of themselves) have such evidence. It's certainly possible that if I knew more about the matter, I'd decide that Iran is nothing to worry about. But even then, I don't think I'd ever call anybody "Persophobic."
I don't like the -phobic suffix in this connection for reasons similar to those that obtain with regard to homosexuality or Islam: I don't think the opinions being so labeled are stupid or indicate anything like mental illness, and to label them as if they do is a preemptive strike on normal political discourse. Do I think some views deserve to be laughed out of court? Sure I do. But not only are these not among them, the words "Russophobic" or "Persophobic"--unlike, say, the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" for people who fantasize about disemboweling the President--aren't even a little bit amusing.