"If I'm the president we will attack Iran"
by MBNYC, Mon Apr 21, 2008 at 05:37:11 PM EDT
Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on Good Morning America Tuesday, ABC News' Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.
"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president we will attack Iran," Clinton said."In the next ten years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
Good sweet Jesus, somebody please cut her mike. >>>
It's hard to even know where to begin on this refreshing bit of idiocy. To her scant credit, one probably shouldn't treat this as a policy directive; more appallingly, this is just a bit of saber-rattling before an election. But let's examine the fundamentals for a moment.
What Clinton just offered up is a unilateral guarantee to put Israel under the American nuclear umbrella. However, since Israel maintains its own nuclear deterrent, Clinton's guarantee does not measurably add to Israel's security. Moreover, it is unknown - and unknowable, since Israel has carefully maintained ambiguity over its nuclear forces - whether Clinton's guarantee is even something thought desirable in Jerusalem. Given that Israel has land, air and sea-based delivery capabilities, it is a safe bet that Israel has retaliatory capacities that would survive a first strike, rendering Clinton's new guarantee of no practical value.
Clinton fundamentally misunderstands - again, to the limited extent one should treat this as an honest statement on the day of an election she's waging on her 'toughness' - the situation inside Iran, the American national interest, Israeli security concerns and the tools available to American diplomacy.
Iran is a striking example of a disconnect between a people and its rulers probably not all that alien to Americans in the Bush era. A poll of Iran (.pdf) conducted in 2007 found the following:
Developing nuclear weapons was seen as a very important priority for the Iranian government by only 29% of Iranians. By contrast, 88% of Iranians considered improving the Iranian economy as a very important priority for their government.
Rather, 80% of Iranians favor Iran providing full inspections and a guarantee not to develop or possess nuclear weapons in return for outside aid. A majority of Iranians (52%) also favor the development of nuclear weapons and believe that the people of Iran would live in a safer world if Iran possessed nuclear weapons. However, support for nuclear weapons drops to below 17% if Iran were to receive outside assistance in return for full inspections and a guarantee not to have nuclear weapons.
68% of Iranians also favor normal relations and trade with the United States. In return for normal relations, a majority of Iranians favor recognizing Israel and Palestine as independent states, ending Iranian support for any armed groups inside Iraq, and full transparency by Iran to the United States to ensure there are no Iranian endeavors to develop nuclear weapons.
The polls most important finding is this:
Yet the most significant finding of our survey for Iran's present rulers may be the Iranian people's opposition to their current system of government.
61% of Iranians were willing to tell our pollsters over the phone that they oppose the current Iranian system of government, where the Supreme Leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be chosen or replaced by direct vote of the people.
The actual situation inside Iran makes clear that that country offers more opportunities for American engagement than to be bombed into a parking lot, opportunities that a Democratic administration would be well positioned to exploit.
Viewed from Israel's point of view - the ostensible benefactor of Clinton's plan - there really is no question that an outcome whereby the two countries have normal relations and Iran is non-nuclear is the most desirable scenario. This outcome could be achieved by a dual strategy of reciprocal trade agreements, aid to Iran and a security guarantee of some sort, combined with a push inside the country to empower the majority that sees economic development as their first national priority. It won't be achieved by a redundant nuclear guarantee - if anything, the reverse is probably more likely, given that Clinton just incented Iran to move ahead on its nuclear program. That's coincidentally not an argument from pacifism - it's one of effectiveness.
From the (to me all-important) perspective of the American national interest, Clinton's threats are absurd verging on the tragicomic. Neither America nor our ally Israel gain security from her proposal; quite the contrary. Nor will our other interests in the region - stability in Iraq, free shipping through the Gulf, stability in the Gulf monarchies - be positively affected. If anything, Iran's hardline government now has a fresh tool to convince its population that nuclear weapons are in that country's best interest, and an incentive to distract American policy-makers, probably by using their Iraqi, Lebanese, Shiite Arab and Palestinian proxies. It's worth pointing out that Iran borders two countries in which the United States is currently conducting military operations, and that Tehran has been very skillful at creating headaches for our foreign policy objectives. Clinton just clarified that American bellicosity towards Tehran is not just an aberration of the Bush years, but seemingly part of a bi-partisan consensus. That reduces the likelihood that a new Clinton administration, itself highly unlikely, might find cooperation from Iran as we withdraw our troops from Iraq, roughly to zero. Make no mistake: Iran is now invested in making things very difficult indeed for Clinton 3, and they have all the tools they need for that purpose.
Further abroad, in the capitals of our allies, it's a safe bet that Clinton's ideas will be received with horror. The Bush administration is not detested abroad only because of Iraq; it is also hated for its unilateralism and its lack of calculability. Clinton just promised to follow in Bush's footsteps on both; there won't be any consultation with allies, one supposes, before the rockets launch.
With regard to domestic politics, well, John McCain must be pleased. There goes the argument that he's too hawkish on Iran.
That's a pretty steep price to pay for some pre-election chest-thumping.