Very few people want to go to war. Very few people are willing to throw it all away under some delusion that a conflict with the potential to spark another World War will yield a positive result.
Remember how safe you feel after having to take off your shoes at the airport? That’s “security theater”; we collaborate with the government to put on a show and make ourselves feel like we’ve “done something”.
What we’re seeing between the US and Iran is war theater. There is, of course, a balance of power and maneuvers to maintain it in place, most less direct and explosive than these.
However, following the recent riots in the US embassy in Iraq, Trump reportedly chose the extreme option offered to him by his advisers (to make the other, more relaxed responses seem sane in comparison). They forgot who they’re dealing with, and we got the equivalent of a dead secretary of defense on the Iranian side.
The Iranians themselves lobbed a bunch of dumb rockets at Iraqi bases after letting their inhabitants know they’re about to launch — I can only assume to avoid fueling the fire further with corpses — while posturing “we’re strong!” to their people.
Still a shit response; as the wisdom goes, in war, you know how you start, but you don’t know how you’ll end up. Any act of belligerence can backfire by doing more damage than intended, being seen as unproportional and inviting a greater response, or just triggering the wrong hothead on the other side.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT TODAY is that in a world where the Twitterer In Chief speaks freely on the web, where major diplomatic statements are sent transparently across borders, without any chance of them being warped by conflicting interests in broken telephone backchannels, everyone can see — in real time — that no one’s particularly interested in conflict.
There’s less tension, less uncertainty to drive those in positions of power towards anxiety-borne solutions that would further the plot and “do something” to change the mood. It’s now possible to immediately acknowledge the need for war-theater, but actual lack of willingness to fight, on the other side and calm down.
No one wants an all-out war, and the transparency and immediacy offered by the net creates a new type of safety, a new type of belligerence-buffer, never before possible.