On Iran, Obama becomes more Warlike Than Bush?
On Iran, Obama Becomes More Warlike Than Bush?
Obama breaks new ground when it comes to war with Iran.
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cartoon ads that usually featured a man in trouble -- dangling by his
fingers, say, from an outdoor clock. There would always be people all
around him, but far too engrossed in the daily paper to notice. The
tagline was: “In Philadelphia, nearly everybody reads the Bulletin.”
ads came to mind recently when President Obama commented forcefully on
war, American-style, in ways that were remarkably radical. Although he
was trying to ward off a threatened Israeli preemptive air strike
against Iran, his comments should have shocked Americans -- but just about nobody noticed.
don’t mean, of course, that nobody noticed the president’s statements.
Quite the contrary: they were headlined, chewed over in the press and by
pundits. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich attacked them. Fox News highlighted their restraint. (“Obama calls for containing Iran, says ‘too much loose talk of war.’”) The Huffington Post highlighted the
support for Israel they represented. (“Obama Defends Policies Toward
Israel, Fends Off Partisan Critiques.”) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
pushed back against them in a potentially deadly U.S.-Israeli dance
that might bring new chaos to the Middle East. But somehow, amid all the
headlines, commentary, and analysis, few seemed to notice just what had
really changed in our world.
president had offered a new definition of “aggression” against this
country and a new war doctrine to go with it. He would, he insisted,
take the U.S. to war not to stop another nation from attacking us or
even threatening to do so, but simply to stop it from building a nuclear
weapon -- and he would act even if that country were incapable of
targeting the United States. That should have been news.
the most startling of his statements: just before the arrival of
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, the president
gave a 45-minute Oval Office interview to theAtlantic’sJeffrey
Goldberg. A prominent pro-Israeli writer, Goldberg had produced an
article in the September issue of that magazine headlined “The Point of No Return.”
In it, based on interviews with "roughly 40 current and past Israeli
decision makers about a military strike," he had given an Israeli air
attack on Iran a 50% chance of happening by this July. From the recent
interview, here are Obama’s key lines:
think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the
United States, I don't bluff. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy,
go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both
the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United
States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we
mean what we say.”
he added this chilling note: “I think it's fair to say that the last
three years, I've shown myself pretty clearly willing, when I believe it
is in the core national interest of the United States, to direct
military actions, even when they entail enormous risks.”
The next day, in a speech meant
to stop “loose talk about war” in front of a powerful pro-Israeli
lobbying outfit, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
the president offered an even stronger formula, worth quoting at length.
Speaking of seeing the consequences of his decisions to use force “in
the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded,” he said:
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