Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Balance Against Iran

In important commentary today, David Ignatius at Real Clear Politics buttresses Petraeus and Crocker pointed testimony about Iranian trouble-making in Iraq, and makes a sober assessment of what awaits the next President:

Fighting a war against Iran is a bad idea. But fighting a proxy war against them in Iraq, where many of our key allies are manipulated by Iranian networks of influence, may be even worse. The best argument for keeping American troops in Iraq is that it increases our leverage against Iran; but paradoxically, that's also a good argument for reducing U.S. troops to a level that's politically and militarily sustainable. It could give America greater freedom of maneuver in the tests with Iran that are ahead.

Somehow, the next president will have to fuse U.S. military and diplomatic power to both engage Iran and set limits on its activities. A U.S.-Iranian dialogue is a necessary condition for future stability in the Middle East. But the wrong deal, negotiated by a weak America with a cocky Iran that thinks it's on a roll, would be a disaster.

I think Ignatius has this just about right, but I’d take it to the next logical conclusion. John McCain certainly recognizes the threat posed by Al Qaeda, as well as Iranian proxy sponsorship of terror groups, terrorists, and militia adversaries of both US forces and Iraq (however often he stumbles around trying to correctly label all the players).

Obama, on the other hand, never reveals a thorough understanding of the threats we face, or how seriously they threaten. I have great certainty that Obama would be more than capable of serving as proximate cause of a “weak America” negotiating the “wrong deal” with a “cocky Iran that thinks it’s on a roll.”

If the Bush Administration can be plausibly accused of over-simplifying threats and enemies to the point of caricature, its critics and opposition should be likewise accountable for thinking they can dispatch them like cartoon villains. To foreign policy neophytes like Obama, our sworn enemies will always act rationally, behave in farsighted self-interest, deal honestly, and respect conventional norms. (Or be quickly beaten or bombed into submission, if only a Brilliant Democrat takes on the task.)

Fatally for such who harbor these illusions, enemies in the real world are not so easily vanquished. Pity, Sen. Obama’s first hand experience with NY’s junior Senator, doesn’t better inform his understanding of adversaries in conflict.

(Via Memeorandum)

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