Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Easy Answers

I keep forgetting that there are reasons that election campaign time is called the "silly season." Fortunately, candidates always remind me of those reasons. This AP report, published in today's Los Angeles Times is a pretty good example.

Apparently "what to do about Iran" has become a major touchstone in the presidential race on both sides. The comments made by the various candidates, unfortunately, have tended to be, well, silly.

Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney have taken a hard line, speaking openly about a possible military strike in Iran, even as they say they support diplomatic measures to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Democrats say they favor multinational diplomacy, combined with economic incentives as well as sanctions. They've repeatedly criticized President Bush for refusing to negotiate with Iran, and say they would consider military action only after exhausting other options. ...

Rand Beers, who has worked as a national security adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents, sees a subtext to all the rhetoric.

"For Republicans, Iran represents a much more comfortable foreign policy subject to talk about than Iraq. It's a hard-nosed, hawkish credentialing and branding issue," Beers said. "On the Democratic side, there is far less saber rattling. They are trying to distinguish themselves from Bush and promote a dialogue and find common ground with Iran, which there may not be."

What Mr. Beers has to say is accurate enough, as far as it goes, but there are several underlying assumptions that he, and the candidates themselves (for that matter) are operating under that are not acknowledged or questioned.

The first assumption, of course, is that Iran is evil. That assumption was crystallized best in the now infamous "Axis of Evil" speech given by the president. It is assumed that Iran harbors and sponsors terrorists and that it is doing everything it can to further destabilize Iraq, even though that would actually be against Iran's own interests. While the current Iranian regime may be detestable for any number of reasons, I don't see much evidence that it is actually stupid.

The second assumption, and the one I think is the most dangerous in the long run, is that the US has the right to determine who gets to do what anywhere in the world. Help India further develop its nuclear plans, sure. Allow Iran to have any kind of nuclear power (energy or bombs), eh, not so much. That region of the world is too important to US interests in the free flow of oil to allow any self-determination.

A third assumption, the one that must not never be acknowledged by any candidate, is that the state of Israel (which itself has nuclear weapons), doesn't want Iran or any other Islamic state to have nuclear capability of any kind. No candidate wants to challenge Israel on such an issue. It wouldn't be prudent.

Look, we have international options in place to help keep the nuclear nightmare to a minimum. The IAEA has inspectors, the UN has mechanisms in place to resolve such disputes, agreements like the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty contain the teeth to ensure compliance. Why is it necessary for the US, whether the current administration or the next, to raise the specter of military action at all? Are we really itching for yet another fight?

Yes. It really is "silly season."

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Blogger Woody, Tokin Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella said...

it is interesting how folks who proclaim they see a 'difference' between the Pukes and the Dims tread so lightly around how indistinguishable they are, especially in the arena of foreign policy, innit?

8:36 AM  

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