Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I've been emailing back and forth with a friend of mine who is an Obama supporter. I've got some general criticisms of Obama that I'd have for most candidates from the left, mostly summed by saying there is an over reliance on government. With Obama specifically, I think that he's very weak on foreign policy. My friend sent me some links to try and persuade me. The first was to his foreign policy page. The one that interests me most is the section on Iran.
The Problem: Iran has sought nuclear weapons, supports militias inside Iraq and terror across the region, and its leaders threaten Israel and deny the Holocaust. But Obama believes that we have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting this threat; in many ways, we have yet to try them. That's why Obama stood up to the Bush administration's warnings of war, just like he stood up to the war in Iraq.
Ok, with the first sentence we agree on the problems that Iran creates. The rest is kind of a strawman as no one thinks we've exhausted our non-military options. Also, and this is big, we may not have direct diplomatic meetings with Iran but it's false to suggest that we have no contact or communication with them. Lots of diplomacy goes on in the background.
Opposed Bush-Cheney Saber Rattling: Obama opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says we should use our military presence in Iraq to counter the threat from Iran. Obama believes that it was reckless for Congress to give George Bush any justification to extend the Iraq War or to attack Iran. Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress – including Kyl-Lieberman – gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran.
I think that's a bit too cynical but it's a perfectly defensible position. In other words, I disagree but have no large beef with him.
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.
What does 'tough, direct presidential diplomacy' mean? We'll meet without preconditions and then offer them nothing new? I say nothing new because the demands and incentives offered here are virtually identical to what Bush and McCain have been saying all along. Does Obama think that his personal presence will somehow push the Iranians into abandoning something important to them? And seriously, will more sanctions make them stop?
I agree with his last sentence here, that that kind of settlement is the best way to make progress. The problem is what happens if the Iranians disagree? What if they believe that nukes are important enough that a few more years of sanctions are worth them? What if they believe that a President Obama would never ever go to war with them? What if the official Iranian government can't control elements of the country that will continue to support terrorism? What happens then?
We certainly don't know from Obama. If diplomacy doesn't work he gives us no hint as to what he'd do. That troubles me. I know the Dems have had lots of fun for the last seven years pretending that Bush never talks to anyone. It's been cute as a debating point. Could they really believe it? Talking with enemies is usually a good thing and I'm open to convincing that the photo op we give up is worth an open line of dialogue. But diplomacy isn't a magic wand and this isn't couples counseling. Some kind of next step must be at least contemplated. I haven't seen anything from Obama to suggest that he has.


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