Change you can believe in: Bipartisan determination to hit Iran

Links and bracketed info added by yours truly.

November 3, 2008

It is a frightening notion, but it is not just the trigger-happy Bush administration discussing — if only theoretically — the possibility of military action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Of course, no president or would-be president ever takes the military option off the table, and Barack Obama and John McCain are no exception.

What is significant is that inside Washington’s policy circles these days — in studies, commentaries, meetings, Congressional hearings and conferences — reasonable people from both parties are seriously examining the so-called military option, along with new diplomatic initiatives.

One of the most thorough discussions is in a report by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, founded by four former senators — the Republicans Robert Dole and Howard Baker and Democrats Tom Daschle and George Mitchell — to devise policy solutions both parties might embrace.

The report warns that the next administration “might have little time and fewer options to deal with this threat.” It explores such strategies as blockading Iran’s gasoline imports, but it also says that “a military strike is a feasible option and must remain a last resort.”

[Here's the report mentioned, with some other material:

Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development

A report of an independent task force sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Initiative

National Security Initiative (NSI)

NSI's Iran Project]

Its authors include Dennis Ross, top Mideast adviser to Mr. Obama, and former Senator Dan Coats, a McCain adviser. [Dennis Ross was a signatory to the Project for a New American Century's First and Second Statements on Iraq. Note the other signatories.]

Ashton Carter, a senior Pentagon official in the Clinton administration, wrote a paper [Note other authors, including Dennis Ross] for the Center for a New American Security, a prestigious bipartisan think tank, that asserts military action must be seen as only one component of a comprehensive strategy, “but it is an element of any true option.”

At a conference [links to audio and video] in September in Virginia sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “surrogates” for Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama insisted America must focus on preventing Iran from developing a bomb, not on allowing Iran to produce one and then deterring its use.

“John McCain won’t wait until after the fact,” declared the columnist Max Boot [Another PNACer/neocon], from the McCain team. The Arizona senator has previously said risking military action may be better than living with an Iranian nuclear weapon (and to his regret jokingly sang a song about bomb, bomb, bombing Iran).

Richard Danzig, Mr. Obama’s surrogate, said his candidate believes a military attack on Iran is a “terrible” choice, but “it may be that in some terrible world we will have to come to grips with such a terrible choice.” Early in the primary campaign, Mr. Obama declared that as president he would sit down in his first year in office with — among others — Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (He has been reparsing that commitment ever since.) [And in his first press conference wouldn't even welcome Iran's congratulation of his victory -- surely a cost-free way to simply welcome an unprecedented post-revolution opening. It came from Ahmadinejad.]

Given the global economic meltdown and other crises, it is not surprising if the American public is largely unaware of this discussion. What makes me nervous, is that’s what happened in the run-up to the Iraq war. [Lost in transition? Or just, self-congratulation? The usual circus -- don't look for much in the way of bread.]

In those days Americans were reeling from the shock of 9/11 and completely focused on hunting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In Washington, though, talk quickly shifted to the next target — Iraq.

Bush administration officials drove the discussion, but the cognoscenti were complicit. The question was asked and answered in policy circles before most Americans knew what was happening. Would the United States take on Saddam Hussein? Absolutely.

As a diplomatic correspondent for Reuters in those days, I feel some responsibility for not doing more to ensure that the calamitous decision to invade Iraq was more skeptically vetted.

This time the debate is not so one-sided. Most experts acknowledge that military action poses big risks and offers no guarantee of destroying Iran’s nuclear program.

Both presidential candidates have also promised new diplomatic initiatives. Mr. McCain talks of tougher sanctions and Mr. Obama proposes a comprehensive approach involving sterner penalties, more compelling incentives and direct talks with Iran.

Mr. Ross, who was top Mideast negotiator for the first President George Bush and for President Bill Clinton, [Here's some sanity on Ross's role; if anyone wants a Word copy, I have it. I edited this, actually (it's 40 pages in Word).] said that in the prelude to Iraq, nearly all of the talk focused on military action. He says this time experts are taking a harder, more systematic look at all options — including force — because diplomatic efforts have failed to slow Iran’s rush to master nuclear technology.

“I want to concentrate the mind and make people understand, ‘Look, this is serious and you don’t want to be left with only those two choices’ ” — war or living with an Iranian bomb, he said.

With Iran projected to produce enough fuel for a nuclear weapon by 2010, the next president is going to have to concentrate his mind quickly. We hope he, unlike George W. Bush, will encourage a broader public debate about all of America’s options, and the high cost of another war. I will certainly be a lot more skeptical.

[My prediction of what (most? many?) Obama supporters will say, if and when...

1. "No one could have known that an Obama administration would threaten Iran with war/attack Iran!"
2. "Iran deserves it."

Of course a third option is still possible, and necessary, right now:

3. "Oh, boy: we better get on his case pronto about opening a third war in the Middle East/Central-South Asia, especially since he's keen on escalating in Afghanistan/Pakistan."


  1. Both parties are pro-war. This is obvious. A friend of mine recently told me that the elite (the same people who own most of the wealth) chose Obama primarily because he can win more people (especially Blacks, Latinos, and other ethnic minorities) into going along with more war, because he isn't the sort of person we would expect to be imperialistic and whatnot. His choice of Emanuel as chief-of-staff shows that.

  2. Oh, you're so cynical to be paying attention to what's actually happening in reality! Don't you know that the election of Obama proves again that the United States of America is The Greatest Country on Earth and in the History of the Universe?

    Remember how liberals complained about the fact that the Bushites were not part of the fact-based community? Don't hear that much nowadays, do ya?

  3. I know right? Just watching that report from The Real News about Rahm Emanuel should make all of these so-called "progressive Democrats" who voted for Obama realize what they voted for.

  4. Put this together:

    - Corporations were huge donors to the Obama campaign, as were special interest groups. Plenty of support for Obama came from the ultra-wealthy. If Obama really was a far-left/"socialist" candidate, there's no way he'd get their support.

    - Obama is not anti-war. He has said he'd put more troops in Afghanistan (a war which is not going well at all) and would even send them to Pakistan if he "had to".

    - On the same note (and I think I might have told you this before), Obama says he was only against going into Iraq because he thought it was not the strategically right thing to do as part of the "war on terrorism". Again, he would've gone into Pakistan instead of Iraq. People shouldn't be mislead when he says he wants to talk with leaders with whom we aren't friendly. That does not mean he wouldn't escalate the war.

    That man who told me how Obama was chosen to get more people to support the war, he's a huge Chomskyite and insists that it is only the top of the population which gets their interests served by the government. If Obama's main support came from grassroots leftists, college students, ethnic/religious minorities, and lower-class workers, it would be much easier for Obama to convince these people to support another war than it would be for McCain. People voted for Obama because they wanted something new and something different. Sadly, that difference may not be there after all. The only thing I hope is, if Obama does do something along those lines, his basis will cut the partisanship and protest, putting enough pressure on him to stop. Like that video said, he does seem like the kind of person who would respond to public demands a lot better than McCain or anyone in the Bush crowd would.

    America: same empire, different emperor. (That's what it all comes down to.)


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