Monday, May 12, 2008

Bush, the Presidential Candidates and Iran

One of the primary differences between the presidential candidates is how they handle Iran. Unlike Iraq, where I think the difference between the candidates will be much less than one would expect given campaign trail rhetoric (more on this later), differences on Iran couldn't be starker. I will briefly summarize candidates positions and what I think of them, as well as that of the present administration.

Barack Obama I believe the best way to deal with Iran is through engagement. This is one reason that Obama's candidacy is appealing: he has moved away from the immoral and foolish American policies toward Iran as well as other place. That these steps have been tiny compared to what I'd like to see is somewhat disappointing (Obama's position on Israel is almost indistinguishable from the those of the other candidates, for example), and too often Obama has bought into the foreign-policy establishment line on Iran. Still, Obama's policy toward Iran is the wisest of the presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton While initially it appeared that Clinton might be will to thaw relations with Iran as well, there have lately been reasons to doubt this. First, the lack of an opening between Iran and the US during Bill Clinton's term (even though there was then a reformist government in Iran) was among the greatest missed opportunities of the era. Second, Hillary recently threatened to obliterate Iran should the nation attack Israel. Her comments were unforgivable, bloodthirsty and stupid. She didn't seem to realize that all intelligence points to Iran not having a nuclear weapon in the next 10 years, and even if the do, Israel has enough nuclear weapons to deter a strike.
The silver lining on this comment was that at least Hillary believes that Iran can be deterred, and hence is not like to launch a strike on Iran, which is more than can be said for the next candidate.

John McCain John McCain has made it abundantly clear that he would like to attack Iran, though if anyone puts this too him, he angrily denies it. Matt Yglesias writes
[John] Bolton wants war and he's not afraid to say it. Nor has he been afraid in months past to say that he loves John McCain because he thinks McCain agrees with him about the need to start a war with Iran. I think Bolton's right about this, but McCain's the kind of guy who'll want to start a war with Iran, and who'll say things that sort of indicate he wants to start a war with Iran, and who'll even joke about how eager he is to start a war with Iran, but then get pissed off if you suggest that's his policy.

My only hope if McCain becomes president is that his sounder headed advisors convince him that such a move would be strategically disastrous. Considering the kinds of advisors McCain surrounds himself with, I wouldn't bet on it.

George Bush One thing people have been trying to figure out for a long time is what, exactly are Bush's intentions when it come to Iran. This is a sort of modern Kremlinology. For a long time we speculated on whether Bush intended to attack Iran (he had plenty of advisors pulling in both directions). After a preemptive strike by the intelligence community in the form of the National Intelligence Estimate, Bush attacking Iran seems less likely.
Yet Bush is still remains bellicose toward Iran. Why?
Blaming Iran is the natural outcome of this failed war. All the time we spend blaming Iran for this debacle is time that distracts us from those truly at fault: Bush and his advisors. Obviously, this is exactly what the Bushies have in mind.
(Posted by Ewan)

No comments: