May 19, 2008

"Not A Serious Threat"

Lots of back and forth today after reaction to Obama's statement about how Iran "is not a serious threat to us" started to register with the campaign. Yes he said it in the context of "...in the way the Soviets were a threat to us", but the distinction rather misses the whole point. It's a new era of warfare, via terrorists and proxies, and the absence of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction makes Iran the best and most dangerous example of the genre.

Ed Morrissey

...the danger in Iranian nuclear weapons has nothing to do with the capacity of its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations will allow them to partner with any small group of lunatics who want to smuggle a nuclear weapon into any Western city — London, Rome, Washington DC, Los Angeles, take your pick. That’s the problem with nuclear proliferation; it doesn’t take a large army to threaten annihilation any longer, which is why we work so hard to keep those weapons out of the hands of non-rational actors like Iran. The Soviets may have been evil, but they were rational, and we could count on their desire to survive to rely on the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. The Iranians believe that a worldwide conflagration will have Allah deliver the world to Islam, so a nuclear exchange may fall within their policy, and that’s assuming we could establish their culpability for a sneak nuclear attack to the extent where a President Obama would order a nuclear reprisal.

Ace

The real problem is Obama's naivete in believing that talk is enough to resolve serious fundamental disagreements between countries.

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Iran wishes to have atomic bombs capable of threatening the region, and possibly destroying Tel Aviv and other large Jewish cities which don't have Muslim holy places within them. We wish them not to have such bombs.

Iran wishes to attack Israel and Lebanon through its ghoulish terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezballah. We wish them not to.

Iran wishes to arm, train, and coordinate attacks on US troops in Iraq in order to destabilize that country, reduce it to a terrorist-spawning failed state, and claim it as a satrapy. We wish them to stop doing so.

Now, my question for Obama is, "What 'compromise' solution do you propose for any of those disagreements?" That Iran shall be permitted to have six nuclear warheads but no more than six? That Iran shall be permitted to arm Hamas but not Hezballah? That Iran will cap the number of US troops it murders per year at, say, 100? With, perhaps, a monetary penalty to be paid for each additional American it kills in excess of that number?

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So what, precisely, does Obama believe he will talk about with Iran? Is he really so naive and arrogant to think that if he offers Iran the same deal Bush (and Clinton, and Bush, and Reagan) have been offering Iran for years, his natural charm and nonthreatening good looks will convince them to accept the deal they've rejected for nearly thirty years now?

(The same logic applies to the notion that there is some "compromise" position that well-intended interlocutors could work from in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, in view of the intransigent Arab insistence on Israel's annihilation. One imagines the starting negotiating position: How about if the Arabs drive half of the Jews into the sea?)

Jennifer Rubin at Contentions...

...taken literally, he [Obama] seems not much concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its commitment to eradicate Israel, its current actions in supplying weapons that have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, and its role in eroding Lebanon’s sovereignty through its client Hezbollah.

And then there is is unbridled faith in diplomacy, unaffected by the lessons of history. Was it presidential visits with the Soviet Union that brought down the Berlin Wall? Or was it the 40 year history of bipartisan military deterrence, the willingness of Ronald Reagan to walk away from Reykjavik summit, the resulting bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire, the support of dissidents and freedom fighters in the war against tyranny, and the willingness to identify Communism as a center of evil in the late 20th century?

You can understand why every attempt by John McCain to discuss global threats is labeled “fear-mongering” by Obama. In his world this is all a fantasy and we are not at risk. All perfectly logical . . . if you divorce yourself from reality.

Then McCain reacted:

Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is “tiny” compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union. Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but ‘tiny”.

Read the whole McCain statement.

Later in the day, Obama's response was rather childish... and also ahistorical. His statement was essentially: oops...yes Iran is dangerous, but only because George Bush's policies made them that way. Here's the quote:

"Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel's existence. It denies the Holocaust," he said. "The reason Iran is so much more powerful than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting in Iraq and refusing to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran. They're the ones who have not dealt with Iran wisely."

Right. The Iranian theocracy has been murdering Americans by the hundreds since they seized power in 1979, and have been openly at war with the Great Satan and Israel since that time, directly and via their proxies all over the globe. Many if not most of their murderous attacks, their belligerent pronouncements, and their hateful and defiant rhetoric predate the Bush administration.

And we are supposed to sit here and listen to this greenhorn poseur tell us it was our liberation of Iraq from a genocidal dictator that has made Iran stronger? What utter sophistry! Imagine the position of power and dominance Iran would be in today in the Middle East but for our presence in Iraq, and the existence of the legitimate elected government there that we helped them to achieve.

Careful, Barack...you're beclowning yourself.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann weigh in.

As Ed Morrissey relates in the post on McCain's reaction, Obama has some really great ideas on his website about how he will pressure Iran to change "their troubling behavior."

Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

Ed counters..

Memo to Obama: We have already offered WTO membership, an end to economic sanctions that prevent investment, and full diplomatic relations to Iran in exchange for an end to and a full accounting of their nuclear program. Iran rejected it, and so we have continued with economic and diplomatic pressure. The only difference between Bush and Obama is the notion that Obama would meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, which he and his allies now claim he won’t do even while his website says he will.

Perhaps he should take a few years to study the actual issues and the history of American policy on this subject before running for President. He seems inadequately prepared for serious consideration for stewardship of a foreign policy he clearly doesn’t understand.

The increasingly apparent problem with Obama's candidacy for President is captured in the first four words of Ed's last sentence.

He seems inadequately prepared.

UPDATE 5/22:

A New York Times op-ed on a young JFK, in over his head in a summit with Krushchev.

More on Kennedy and Krushchev and appeasement in a terrific piece by Caroline Glick.

UPDATE 5/24: More on this from Power LIne

Posted by dan at May 19, 2008 11:50 PM