Steve Clemons is a serious and respected policy guy and a truly nice man. A lot of people I know trust him to tell it like it is, so when I read this, I was shocked at how vehement he is in condemning Obama’s Israel policy. Go read the rest:
But what Obama seems not to understand in the well-meaning description of his attempted Iran strategy is that he is actually creating a railroad track to disaster. He conveys in the interview a disinterest in containment, suggesting that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon changes the world and triggers a rampant and dangerous proliferation in an unstable part of the global neighborhood.
Not all nuclear bombs are the same. Israel’s 200 plus thermonuclear warheads are not simple fission devices and have a destructive capacity that could seriously end Iran as a functioning state. Iran, even if it were to produce a nuclear warhead tomorrow, would have none of the destructive capacity that Israel could rain down on the Islamic Republic of Iran. Anthony Cordesman, David Albright and others have done extremely important and useful, admittedly Stangelovian analyses of what a back-and-forth firing exchange of nuclear weapons would mean for both states. As Cordesman told me recently, Israel would survive fine — Iran would be devastated.
Many analysts believe that Iran’s appetite for either a nuclear weapons capacity or a Japan-like “near nuke” capacity (meaning it has the potential but does not actually build the systems) would help provide Iran with a shield behind which it could protect itself while then continuing to operate global, transnational terror networks with impunity. Perhaps this is true — or perhaps three decades of paranoia about American calls for regime change in Iran have hard-wired the place to want anything that solves its security dilemma. I see both tracks as having merit.
That said, what Obama is doing in this interview and in his needy solicitation of American Jewish community and Israeli citizen support is the opposite of where he started his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg: :”I…don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are.”
But he did. Obama essentially is saying in this interview that Iran is one of the top five foreign policy concerns of his since moving into the White House, that he is attempting to organize a pressure-based effort to cause pain for Iran’s leaders and move it to a different course, and that he won’t accept failure — that he will squeeze and surround and bomb (if needed) Iran to compel it never to acquire nuclear weapons. That’s not strategy. Obama is overplaying the endgame and creating expectations that if sanctions don’t work — which they often and usually don’t — that he will bomb the country. This is irresponsible and harmful to American and Israeli and broad Middle Eastern interests.