May 5, 2008

Rhetoric Continues to Reign Supreme

It appears that rhetoric is the most resilient weed in the US-Iran diplomacy garden. Despite several rounds of both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama attacking President Bush’s “saber rattling,” Clinton has not been able to avoid falling back on the tough talk when in a pinch.
In her appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America on April 22, Senator Clinton said that she would respond in kind to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel and that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran in the process. She defended this statement yesterday in an appearance on ABC’s This Week.

This comment, along with Clinton’s plans for a nuclear umbrella for the Middle East, have been heavily criticized by NIAC, some American newspapers, and international organizations. Last week the United Nations even received a complaint from Iran’s deputy UN ambassador on the comment. The secretary-general of the United Nations has not yet responded but his spokesperson Ferhan Haq has reportedly commented that the UN would pay much more attention to this sort of comment if Clinton is elected president.
Obama accused Clinton of mirroring President Bush’s style of “cowboy diplomacy, or lack of diplomacy.” Given the same question, Obama delivered a more measured statement saying that the US would use an appropriate and serious response to an Iranian attack on the US’ “most important ally.”
But as NIAC has pointed out, these hypothetical statements accomplish nothing and raise tensions between the two nations. The US should focus not on “nuclear deterrence, but nuclear diplomacy.”
The hypothetical questions placed before the candidates are such that the only appropriate response is to use overwhelming force against Iran. While Obama, for the most part, has resisted the premise of the hypothetical situation (On Meet the Press he said he would make sure Iran never got nuclear weapons in the first place), Clinton seems a willing participant in raising the stakes. As if to prove that she can out-hawk the neo-conservatives with her rhetoric.
For the most part, Clinton’s “obliterate” statement has been received in the press as just a campaign tool. However, the effect of her words is so dangerous and alarmist that one can imagine that as President, she is likely to pick up the old saber and start rattling.

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