March 7, 2012

Sparks fly between Obama & GOP on Iran saber rattling

The President had some choice words yesterday for those who are rattling the sabers on Iran to score political points, indicating that the White House is finally ready to stand up for a diplomatic resolution rather than allowing the contest to be measured getting bullied into a war of choice:

Now, what’s said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities.  They’re not Commander-in-Chief.  And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. … This is not a game.  There’s nothing casual about it.  And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.
Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war.  If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so.  And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.  Everything else is just talk.

It’s a positive sign that the White House finally realizes it must take the pro-war crowd to task over its saber rattling and frame the Iran debate around resolving the problem, not merely ratcheting up pressure and getting bullied into war.  I wrote about the need for Obama to call his opponents’ bluff on Iran in October 2010:

Obama has by and large perpetuated a political metric that defines success on Iran only in terms of pressure. Only if Obama raises the consequences of the dire alternative to a successful engagement strategy — war with Iran — and stakes out a new path to create his own political space for diplomacy, can the president effectively navigate the new reality in Congress and pursue a successful Iran agenda.

As if on cue, the some day that Obama made his positive remarks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) suggested the Senate should begin debate on an Iran war authorization:

“I made a recommendation last night for something that I think might convince the Iranians that we’re serious about it, and that would be to debate and vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force. That doesn’t guarantee that force would be used, but it certainly would be a credible step in the direction saying we view this as a very serious matter.”

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry also took Mitt Romney to task over his recent op-ed on Iran in the Washington Post (an op-ed that former Mossad director Efraim Halevy said only made the situation worse):

 And if we are to succeed as the American people want us to in order to avoid a nuclear Iran, then at some point we must all act like statesmen, not candidates. We must be clear-eyed about what we have accomplished and what we have yet to do.

It is my sense that Americans do not want another war of choice and, if the debate is one that is accurately framed as a choice between a diplomatic resolution versus a war–rather than the artificial debate of a nuclear-armed Iran versus war–the President can win the peace before we are pushed into war.

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