Glenn Greenwald wrote recently of the extraordinarily limited media debate on Iran, which seems to consist of U.S. and Israeli officials making threats–attack now or attack later–alongside clinical discussions of the difficulties of bombing Iran. There is plenty missing–actual Iranians talking about what war would mean in human terms,legal experts discussing how preventive war (or even the threat of one) violates international law, and so on.
Today's New York Times editorial (3/6/12) offers another illustration of just how limited this media discussion is. The paper states:
Iran's nuclear appetites are undeniable, as is its malign intent toward Israel, toward America, toward its Arab neighbors and its own people.
That rhetoric is indistinguishable from what you might hear from anyone who advocates bombing Iran. It's also wildly misleading, since the assumption here is that Iran is pursuing a weapon, an assertion that is not yet backed by any evidence. So what makes the liberal Times different from, say, Newt Gingrich? They believe bombing would be difficult:
Still, there must be no illusions about what it would take to seriously damage Iran's nuclear complex, the high costs and the limited returns.
This would not be a "surgical" strike like the Israeli attack in 1981 that destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor, or the 2007 Israeli strike on an unfinished reactor in Syria. Iran has multiple facilities, and the crucial ones are buried or "hardened." Pentagon analysts estimate that even a sustained Israeli air campaign would set back the program by only a few years, drive it further underground and possibly unleash a wider war.
This would seem to illustrate what you might call the "liberal" position in the corporate media's Iran debate: There is a hateful, nuke-seeking country in our midst, but attacking them would be very difficult.
It reminds me of the Time magazine debate (10/14/02) on the eve of the Iraq War, which consisted of dueling opinion pieces : Wesley Clark's "Let's Wait to Attack" was the dove, opposed by a more hawkish article by Kenneth Adelman headlined, "No, Let's Not Waste Any Time."