The strong favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize this year is Greta Thunberg, a girl who lectures grownups about climate change. In a sane world, the award would go to somebody who stops wars. In 2019, that somebody should be Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson.
Carlson is a Fox News host, which means the smart people who give out awards will never take him seriously. In the last few weeks, however, he may have done more to advance the cause of peace than any other human on the planet.
Anyone with half a brain can tell that some of President Trump’s cabinet and his advisers are itching to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran — as the late, hawk Saint John McCain so delicately put it, to the tune of the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann. There has been a concerted PR-effort to escalate hostilities with Tehran, one that we all know (we aren’t stupid) is being pushed by national security adviser John Bolton. Iran, foolishly, seems to be taking the bait, having shot down a US drone that may or may not have been in international airspace last night.
If you listen to the hawks, the only thing stopping the president from intervening militarily in Iran is domestic politics. Trump needs to win the election next year. He understands that his base does not want war, so he’s reluctant to ‘punish’ Tehran for its misbehavior. The heavy implication is that, after success in 2020, Trump will ‘show leadership’ by turning fire and fury on the Iranian regime.
No doubt there is truth in that assessment. Perhaps, however, Donald Trump is not quite as convinced of the merits of attacking Iran as his inner circle are. The reason for that, it seems, is Tucker Carlson.
The president is, we’re often told, a Fox News junkie. As the Daily Beast reports, he likes Tucker’s show and sometimes telephones the host afterwards to talk about world affairs. One of Trump’s strengths is that he appears to be able to entertain opposing ideas at the same time, a sign of intelligence. Or maybe he just pretends to hear differing points of view: maybe he just goes with the last opinion he hears, like a mental cushion that bears the imprint of the last bottom that sat on him.
Carlson is intelligent. Rare among famous right-wing pundits, he regards the Bolton worldview — the worldview that brought us the Iraq war — as dangerous and foolish. He says that he is ‘enraged’ by the way the way America is being pushed towards another conflict. He regularly argues that another Middle East war is not ‘in anyone’s interest’. The Daily Beast reveals that, in a series of private conversations, he has repeatedly advised the president not to listen to his more bellicose aides. When Donald Trump told reporters that the alleged Iranian attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman was ‘a minor incident’, he may well have been parroting Carlson. His response on Twitter to yesterday’s drone incident ‘Iran made a very big mistake!’ sounds more like the impulsive, Tweeter-in-Chief we’ve all come to know.
Trump’s recklessness is encouraged by figures such as Bolton. It is moderated by voices such as Carlson’s. It’s often said that Trump is a ‘reality TV’ president who takes his cue from Fox News. This is widely thought to make him a maniac in charge. In this instance, however, Trump’s affinity for Fox has made him less dangerous than he might otherwise have been. Credit for that should go to Carlson.
It’s hard to criticize the case for war without being accused of ‘siding with’ the Iranian regime. So let’s be clear: the government in Tehran is a ghastly, corrupt, theocracy. Iran is, as the Israelis always tells us, a malevolent actor – though it is far from the only force for ill in the region.
It would be good if Iran became a more tolerant place, or if its liberal middle-classes had more stake in their country’s future. But look at Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya: forced regime change doesn’t cause democracy to flower. It tends to have the opposite effect. The fall of the mullahs in Tehran would be good news — in the short term, at least, for US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. But American-led wars almost always backfire spectacularly — and another war could further destabilize the Muslim world, bad news for anyone who wants peace. Let’s hope Donald Trump keeps listening to Tucker Carlson. And give the TV anchor the Nobel!