Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beating The Drums

Well, another primary/caucus down and just 48 to go. The next one is two weeks away so we get a bit of a breather, but not much. It doesn't appear that any candidates will be dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination for president at this point. Instead, the race will get more heated as those remaining hope to stop the Romney juggernaut or at least slow it down. The dueling will continue via campaign speeches and ugly television ads.

New Hampshire did show us that the key issue there, and presumably a major issue in the rest of the country, is that of the economy. That's really no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the emphasis in the campaigns on other, more "red meat" issues. We've seen the remaining candidates trying to out-conservative each other on immigration and that will probably continue. The same is true on defense issues, particularly on what to do about Iran's nuclear ambitions. It is this issue which continues to be inflated by all the candidates but Ron Paul. He's no pacifist, but he doesn't think the country should be spending the treasury down as Policeman For The World.

The rest of the candidates have all promised to stop Iran at all costs, up to and including war. "All options must remain on the table." "We must have a regime change." We will no doubt continue to hear such phrases and more like them. Apparently at least these gentlemen have forgotten the debacle of Iraq and what it cost this country.

Micah Zenko and Emma Welch have an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times which explores this campaign issue and notes that when it comes down to any kind of specific plans, all of the candidates are woefully inarticulate. None of them have any plan in mind, and with good reason. They, like most of the rest of the population haven't any real clue as to just where Iran is in the quest for a nuclear weapon, or even if the quest is real.

First, does the U.S. intelligence community know where every weapons-related nuclear facility is located? As demonstrated by the revelation of a potential hidden uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom in 2009, it is impossible to know whether Iran is concealing other nuclear facilities.

Second, can airstrikes alone eliminate all nuclear facilities? Even Gingrich acknowledged: "The idea that you're going to wage a bombing campaign that accurately takes out all the Iranian nuclear program … is a fantasy."

Last, but certainly not least, have senior leaders in Iran decided to pursue nuclear weapons? Last February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted: "We do not know … if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

None of this will stop the candidates, however. They will continue with the glib assertions of the need to flex our national muscle at whatever cost without ever detailing just what they would do. Zemko and Welch have a few cogent words of advice for voters and the press at this point:

Initiating a preemptive military strike against Iran to eliminate its suspected nuclear weapons capability would be an enormously significant — and potentially disastrous — foreign policy decision. As the Republican presidential campaign continues, the media and prospective voters must challenge the candidates for greater explanation on this application of military force. In Iraq, the U.S. discovered the enormous costs and consequences of trying to disarm a country through regime change. It is crucial, therefore, that we demand that those running for president clearly articulate a realistic strategy for preventing an Iranian bomb before placing "all options on the table."

Not a bad idea, that.

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