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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Iran, Barack Obama, and the Bush Doctrine

For the most part if ask a typical Democrat about the Bush Doctrine, at least the portion about pre emptive warfare, they will dismiss it wholesale. In fact, they will point to Iraq as evidence that the Bush doctrine doesn't work. Of course, dismissing the Bush doctrine out of hand is a theoretical exercise. I don't like theoretical exercises. Rather, I would much rather debate a situation much more firmly rooted in reality.

If ever there was a proving ground for the Bush doctrine, it is Iran. There are those like Barack Obama that are convinced that we can end the stand off over their nuclear program peacefully. But if diplomacy fails, then those folks must be asked this simple question: Will you got war before you allow Iran to get nuclear weapons? Now, if the answer is that someone is willing to go to war with Iran before the get nuclear weapons, then, implicitly, that politician, pundit, or other person supports the Bush Doctrine. There is no other way to look at it. Iran gaining nuclear weapons would then be seen as a threat that couldn't materialize.

That brings me back to Barack Obama. In his interview with Bill O'Reilly...

Barack Obama made several stipulations in this interview. The first stipulation is that the military option would always be on the table. Of course, he makes a greater point that he believes that diplomacy has failed and it would work under his administration. Still, he asserts that the military option would also always remain on the table. Here is how Obama responded to a question about the Bush Doctrine in a debate during the primary.

GIBSON: I'm going to go the others in a moment, but what you just outlined is essentially the Bush doctrine. We can attack if we want to, no matter the sovereignty of the Pakistanis.

OBAMA: No, that is not the same thing, because here we have a situation where Al Qaida, a sworn enemy of the United States, that killed 3,000 Americans and is currently plotting to do the same, is in the territory of Pakistan. We know that. . . .

Let me just pick up on a couple of things that have been said. And I think people are in broad agreement here. But I think one of the things that's been left out is Iraq. And part of the reason that we neglected Afghanistan, part of the reason that we didn't go after bin Laden as aggressively as we should have is we were distracted by a war of choice. And that's the flaw of the Bush doctrine. It wasn't that he went after those who attacked America. It was that he went after those who didn't.

So, how are we supposed to take this? O'Reilly's audience is certainly generally more hawkish than the audience at the Democratic debate. To say that he wouldn't take the military option off the table is the exact opposite of what he said in this debate. Iran didn't attack us on 9/11. Why would he confront Iran militarily if they don't attack us first? His answer in this debate implicitly takes the military option off the table.

Now, on some level I am playing some petty gotcha games, however there is more here. Any diplomatic action has no hope of failure unless the Iranians are convinced that if it fails there will be war. If the Iranians are convinced that diplomacy won't be backed up military force, there is no hope of diplomacy working. If Barack Obama dismisses the Bush Doctrine out of hand, as he did in the debate, he is implicitly telling the Iranians that their gaining a nuclear weapon is not enough for us to go to war. Given his shifting position on this issue, it is that much more difficult for Barack Obama to make it clear that he is willing to attack to stop them from getting nuclear weapons.

As such, Barack Obama will now be in a dubious position. If he is to hold out any hopes that diplomacy will succeed with Iran, the first thing he needs to do is embrace the Bush Doctrine. Without that embrace, diplomacy is not only fruitless but a counter productive waste of time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that the problem here is one of symantics. The Bush doctrine isn't about Iraq or Iran. It is a much broader instrument. There already exists something known as the Just War Doctrine and it provides for pre-emptive war. In fact, an example of such a pre-emptive strike is Israel's war in 1967. Their 'neighbors' had lined their borders with Israel with weapons of war and were threatening to invade. Israel jumped first and the result was one of the most amazing feats of war in modern times. The problem with the Bush war on Iraq is that there was no imminent threat of danger. As we now know, there was no credible evidence of capacity to deliver or even credible evidence of WMD. The administration referred to 'unaccounted for WMD'. One night I began to search to discover where those estimates originated. It seemed obvious that to have 'unaccounted for' figures, there was a subtraction problem in progress. We knew approximately how much WMD was used in the Iraq/Iran war. We knew approximately how much was used on the Kurds. We knew how much was found by weapons inspectors. But, from where did the top number in the equation originate? Much to my amazement. Despite all the Bush rhetoric about 'we won't trust the security of America to the word of a madman', that seems to be exactly what he did. It was from Saddam himself that we got the top number. We never asked, 'Did he have reason to lie about this number?" Obviously, he did. He had neighbors out to do him harm. Even if he truly believed he had what he reported, who gave him those numbers? Production managers in fear of losing more than a job if they didn't meet quota?
Iran is a whole different issue. We know that they have a facility capable of providing the materials for a nuke. We know they have the technology. We know they have the intent. But, what we also know is that before they announced that intent, they had UN inspectors onsite and were apparently following all requirements as laid down by the UN. Then came the announcement of Bush that they are one of three nations on the Axis of Evil. One of the others, Iraq, was about to be invaded. North Korea, who we know has WMD, was not. They seemingly chose to follow the lead of the nation that wasn't in the crosshairs of the US. Once Bush leaves office, there is an opportunity for our new President to reframe the debate. It is conceivable that this new President can renew the approach in Iran without going beyond diplomacy. BTW, diplomacy has never been tried by this administration. They categorically ruled out any possibility of such an approach at about the same time they devised their 'Axis' list.
Before we go to war with Iran, we better reinstate the draft. We are losing what armed services we have one limb at a time. Would America believe there is a need to go to war if it means reinstatement of the draft? I doubt it. And that really bothers me. I think that the Chinese could be marching down Main Street and the politicians would still not even consider raising the question for fear of losing the next election. I was a young man when Muhammed Ali won his case in the Supreme Court and the exemptions and deferments provisions of the draft were declared unconstitutional. The draft was still in force. We were still in Vietnam. But, Congress stopped drafting because they knew that the next number selected could send their own kids to the field of battle. That is when there was a sudden epiphany that we don't need a bunch of disgruntled draftees fighting for us, we need people who want to be there - volunteers. At the time I was elated. Although I served, I was glad there would be no more draft without everybody having a loved one at stake. Now I see the down side. Politicians will continue to pretend that we can do without a draft.
Tim Barry