Sarah Palin recently came out in support of my "bomb Iran" idea – namely, that Barack Obama could serve the country and his flailing presidency by taking out the Iranian nuclear installations. This weblog entry notes some other notable responses to my idea.
Dick Cheney was shown the above video clip of Sarah Palin and asked his opinion. Cheney replied:
I don't think a president can make a judgment like that on the basis of politics. The stakes are too high, the consequences too significant to be treating those as simple political calculations. When you begin to talk about war, talk about crossing international borders, you talk about committing American men and women to combat -- that takes place on a plane clear above any political consideration.
Of course, this is not what I proposed. Stopping the Iranian bomb is the priority; that it's good politics makes it easier to do. (February 15, 2010)
Ron Paul did not exactly endorse my idea - but neither did he understand it, thinking that I suggested bombing Iranian nuclear installations as a means to improve the U.S. economy (!). Here is the Q&A on an internet radio show yesterday called Southern Avenger (the segment concerning me begins at 8:06 and ends at 9:40):
Jack Hunter: You mentioned bombing Iran and we're talking about the economy, and no doubt the state of the economy is the primary reason Obama is unpopular right now. His poll numbers continue to plummet, that's always what gets people upset the most, and rightfully so. Daniel Pipes, neoconservative writer for the National Review, who I'm sure you're familiar with, wrote an article for National Review Online last week called "How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran." ... What do you think about that kind of politics? ...
Ron Paul: Well first, it's very, very stupid economics. And it's probably one of the most evil ideas conceivable - that people think that going to war is morally justified because it might help our economy. People say this all the time: that the depression ended with going into World War II, and there was no end of the depression in World War II, I remember World War II and things were every bit as bad if not slightly worse during World War II. "Yeah but everybody was employed." Everybody was employed because everybody was in the military getting shot and killed, but the country didn't get out of the depression until afterwards, so it's very, very bad economics and morally reprehensible to think you can justify going to war to try to improve your economy.
Comment: As computer progammers put it, garbage in, garbage out. ( February 16, 2010)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not respond to my analysis but he did offer its precise reverse today, arguing that Obama can only succeed if he decides "to accept and respect Iran and enter into cooperation."
Mr Obama has only one chance [to succeed] and that is Iran. This is not emotional talk but scientific. He has but one place to say that "I made a change and I turned over the world equation," and that is Iran. He has but one chance to stay as head of the state and succeed. Obama cannot do anything in Palestine. He has no chance. What can he do in Iraq? Nothing. And Afghanistan is too complicated. The best way for him is to accept and respect Iran and enter into cooperation. Many new opportunities will be created for him.
(April 13, 2010)
Fidel Castro seems to agree with my analysis, asking a rhetorical question that he does not answer:
Could Obama enjoy the emotions of a second presidential election without having the Pentagon or the State of Israel, whose conduct does not in the least obey the decisions of the United States, use nuclear weapons against Iran?"
(June 2, 2010)
Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations (and my friend from college days) goes beyond any one else on this subject and actually predicts that Obama will bomb Iranian nuclear sites:
Obama will, by all accounts, suffer a tremendous setback in November and may well be defeated in 2012. Should Iran acquire the Bomb in the next two years … Republicans will have an even stronger case that Obama has weakened our national security. The Obama who had struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one. Now, from my perspective that is no reason to stop Iran's nuclear program, but I'm a Republican. It's inevitable that as Iran creeps closer to the Bomb and Obama creeps closer to defeat, Democrats—above all, the ones in the White House—will start wondering exactly why striking that nuclear program is such a terrible idea. They'll start re-examining the likely Iranian reactions (they don't really want a war with us, do they? Regime survival and all all that?), the down-sides of an Israeli strike (hey, we're the leaders of the free world, after all), the military challenge (well, the Air Force isn't very busy, and it's just a few sites to hit). They will of course not tell themselves this re-assessment is related to politics; they will persuade themselves they are doing what's right for the security of our country. Watch.
(August 17, 2010)
George Friedman of STRATFOR revives my idea after a lull, seeing Obama's political salvation in an "Iranian Option." Here's a summary version of his nearly 1,300 words on the subject:
Iran is the one issue on which the president could galvanize public opinion. … If Obama were to use foreign policy to enhance his political standing through decisive action, and achieve some positive results in relations with foreign governments, the one place he could do it would be Iran. The issue is what he might have to do and what the risks would be. Nothing could, after all, hurt him more than an aggressive stance against Iran that failed to achieve its goals or turned into a military disaster for the United States. … Obama has avoided overt military action against Iran, so a confrontation with Iran would require a deliberate shift in the U.S. stance, which would require a justification. The most obvious justification would be to claim that Iran is about to construct a nuclear device. Whether or not this is true would be immaterial. …
a negotiation with Iran in the order of President Richard Nixon's reversal on China would be a lower-risk solution to the nuclear problem than the military option. But for Obama, this is politically difficult to do. Had Bush done this, he would have had the ideological credentials to deal with Iran, as Nixon had the ideological credentials to deal with China. But Obama does not. Negotiating an agreement with Iran in the wake of an electoral rout would open the floodgates to condemnation of Obama as an appeaser. In losing power, he loses the option for negotiation unless he is content to be a one-term president. …
Obama will be paralyzed on domestic policies by this election. He can craft a re-election campaign blaming the Republicans for gridlock. This has its advantages and disadvantages; the Republicans, charging that he refused to adjust to the electorate's wishes, can blame him for the gridlock. It can go either way. The other option for Obama is to look for triumph in foreign policy where he has a weak hand. The only obvious way to achieve success that would have a positive effect on the U.S. strategic position is to attack Iran. Such an attack would have substantial advantages and very real dangers. It could change the dynamics of the Middle East and it could be a military failure.
I am not claiming that Obama will decide to do this based on politics, although no U.S. president has ever engaged in foreign involvement without political considerations, nor should he. I am saying that, at this moment in history, given the domestic gridlock that appears to be in the offing, a shift to a foreign policy emphasis makes sense, Obama needs to be seen as an effective commander in chief and Iran is the logical target.
This is not a prediction. Obama does not share his thoughts with me. It is merely speculation on the options Obama will have after the midterm elections, not what he will choose to do.
(October 26, 2010)
David Broder, political columnist for the Washington Post, argues that Obama can win reelection in 2012 only if the economy improves and that his best route to achieve this is by going to war with Iran:
With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.
Comment: For the record, I reject this economic argument as absurd. But, obviously, I endorse the political one. (October 31, 2010)
Dominic Tierney, an assistant professor at Swarthmore College, is the first person to take on my idea in depth and argue against it. Drawing on historical patterns, he suggests that American opinion may follow five distinct phases, which he terms "division, rally, crusade, quagmire, and regret." He concludes his 1,800-word analysis on the subject with this warning:
Military failure against Iran would be politically catastrophic for Obama. At the same time, it's not clear that success on the battlefield would offer much of an enduring advantage. War could give a short-term boost to Obama's approval ratings, but in the long-term, it would be more likely to destroy his presidency than save it.
(November 9, 2010)
Michael Freund, a columnist at the Jerusalem Post, first establishes that "no one on the international stage is really taking Obama all that seriously anymore. All the shine and glitter have worn off," then goes on to propose that "one dramatic step that Obama can take that would have a transformative effect, not only on his standing in public opinion but on the world itself: Take aggressive action to stop Iran's nuclear program."
In a close repeat of my February 2010 article (which also appeared in the Jerusalem Post), Freund concludes that "if Obama wants to save his presidency, his reputation and the Western world, his road to salvation may just lie in aiming the crosshairs at a belligerent Teheran. Containing Iran, and bombing it if necessary, would have a dramatic impact not only on America's strategic standing, but on his own place in history." (November 24, 2010)
March 6, 2012 update: Dick Morris & Eileen McGann flip my argument on its head, seeing an attack on Iran as fatal to Obama's reelection prospects (because of the bump in energy prices) and argue that "Netanyahu Controls Obama's Fate." If the IDF attacks the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, they hold, "The resulting increase in the price of oil - and its impact on the American economy - will doom Obama's re-election chances. … Obama could never recover from the run-up of oil prices that would follow an Israeli attack. Obama would not be able to be re-elected amid the tidal wave of bad economic news he would face."