Iran has been in the news a lot lately – at this point, it seems like every Presidential election year is doomed to be filled with the drum-beat of war with the country everyone loves to hate. Which is why it was interesting this week when Iran praised President Obama for striking what they perceive to be a conciliatory stance:
Iran’s top leader Thursday welcomed comments by U.S. President Barack Obama advocating diplomacy and not war as a solution to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, a rare positive signal in long-standing hostile transactions between Tehran and Washington.
The report on Iran’s state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as praising a recent statement by the U.S. president saying he saw a “window of opportunity” to use diplomacy to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Fortunately, both the US and Iran seem to be searching for a diplomatic solution that will leave Israel secure from a nuclear threat, Iran un-bombed and the US un-quagmired. Unfortunately, it’s an election year, so I have no doubt that the GOP Presidential candidates will seek to make the Ayatollah’s comments a liability for the President in the campaign.
The Atlantic Magazine, meanwhile, has resorted to my least-favorite metaphorical device of all, the “Minutes to Midnight” Iran War Clock, akin to the Doomsday Clock that’s been in use since the dawn of the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock has always seemed silly to me – we’ve been no further than 16 minutes from midnight for the last 50 years, and for some reason we are closer NOW than we were at any point throughout the 60s and 70s, a time period that included the Space Race, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. At least that clock has always presumed to be a metaphor, and they’ve never been silly enough to actually attach a concrete probability to it.
The Atlantic’s Iran War Clock, on the other hand, is explicitly tied to a percentage-based projection of war with Iran. They asked a panel of experts to attach a likelihood to war with Iran,
If there is a zero percent chance of war, the clock hand is at 20 minutes to midnight. Each extra 5 percent chance of war moves the hand one minute closer to midnight. So, for instance, a 10 percent chance of war would set the clock at 18 minutes to midnight, and a 75 percent chance of war would set the clock at 5 minutes to midnight. We round up and down, so 48 percent is rounded up to 10 minutes to midnight.
The logic there is just silly – so if there’s a zero-percent chance of war, the clock is still set at 11:40? Are we “20-minutes to midnight” on the “Canada War Clock?” I think the idea of getting a panel of experts to make an aggregate prediction of war with Iran is a great one and a valuable contribution – but the clock metaphor is a needless addition that only clouds the issue.