Thursday, April 24, 2008

Atomic Hillary

The "he said, she said" game that has taken over coverage of the Democratic Primary Campaign has done more than exhaust the spirit of good Americans looking for answers from their government and some sign that better days are ahead. Rather than taking on the issues of the economy, the Iraq Occupation, the Afghan Occupation, the environment, and healthcare we've been treated to flag pins, the Reverend Wright (while McCain's Reverend Hagee has had a free pass), and "bitter-gate."

One aside....can we please stop calling anything remotely controversial "something-gate?" The Watergate scandal was a historic moment in America and has been largely diluted by the repetitive use of that suffix to describe things like Barack Obama fumbling some words and looking silly in the process. Watergate led to the resignation of a president and transformed our political culture forever. Enough-gate. Now back to our regularly scheduled rant.

One of the important REAL developments that has received a more "under the radar" treatment in the media is the Hillary Clinton policy on the Middle East that includes massive nuclear retaliation against Iran should it attack Israel or any of its neighbors. This policy position first emerged on the infamous ABC debate amidst discussion of aliens and recipes for secret Muslim apple pie. In the days that have followed, all the attention has been focused on the Pennsylvania primary and why Obama can't win white, blue collar women with high school educations, making less than $50,000 a year, over the age of 50, who like peanuts better than cashews. Oh, and beer. And...bowling. Can't forget the beer and bowling voters.

Here's a clip that should raise the hair on the back of your neck. Comments to follow:

This is one of the most hawkish ideas I've ever heard from a Democrat. It's almost to the right of neoconservatives. It makes me wonder if her foreign policy adviser is Norman Podhoretz, on loan from the Rudy Giuliani campaign. The policy is problematic on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. In my opinion, there's only one place that's necessary. It comes in two parts.

1. Iran isn't really that close to weaponizing nuclear materials.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate(NIE) has shown that while Iran continues to pursue nuclear capabilities, it has not resumed its plan to transform materials into weapons systems. This NPR article and timeline help to follow the issue in a snapshot. The following development is particularly important to this discussion:

"November 2007: A final draft of the National Intelligence Estimate is presented to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. It concludes that Iran stopped its weapons program in late 2003 and since then has shown no signs of resuming it."

Let's not be too comfortable here. It's not prudent to assume that there isn't some behind-the-scenes work being done to at least keep the possibility open. It's the conservative thing to assume that Iran will eventually weaponize their nuclear material and lord it over Israel and the US as a threat. The problem is, our own best intelligence work has shown that the current climate is plainly calm. The time for saber-rattling isn't now. Hillary Clinton opening the idea of massive nuclear retaliation against Iran is more likely to inflame the situation, and if I were the Iranians, I'd start wringing my hands a bit more about getting that program back in motion. If the US is posturing hawkishly against me, and that position holds true across the Right and Left, I think I'd want to have a big club in my hand for when they come marching into my backyard (Iraq and Afghanistan). I think Clinton just played a huge blunder in our foreign relations, and she's not even in office yet. (slaps own forehead).

2. Massive nuclear retaliation kills millions of innocents.

If the crazy dictator of Iran decides to lob a nuke into Israel, does that make the appropriate response a nuclear war? What of Russia? What of Pakistan? Won't they retaliate? Then India has to get involved, right? Where does it go from there? This idea shows a fundamental lack of understanding of both Iran and nuclear deterrent strategy.

The Supreme Leader is given province over the armed forces in Iran. The president controls the ministers of defense and intelligence, but only at the discretion of the Supreme Leader. For all of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's lunacy regarding Israel and the Holocaust, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is not in favor of the rhetoric about either. He's a human rights violator and something of a dictator himself, but he's far from the monster the hawks would like to make him on the issue of mass destruction. For all the vitriol he's spewed about the United States, he has also said with respect to 9/11, "Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be." He refused to attend Ahmadinejad's disgusting conference on the Holocaust.

It's also important to note that the Khamenei isn't universally supported by the religious establishment in Iran. There are multiple prominent clerics who have called for a Supreme Council, questioning the logic of placing power in the hands of one man. Ahmadinejad is far from the universally loved president that the US media paint him. A good deal of dissent exists in Iran among the more moderate middle class. Iran has always been a more evenly distributed society than its neighbors along the economic and political spectrum. It has an infrastructure and a long, established history of development unlike its Middle Eastern cousins.

The idea that there is an impending danger of nuclear aggression from Iran is ridiculous in the first place, but assuming that a radical change occurs in a very short period of time that results in an attack on Israel, Hillary Clinton would be willing to kill millions of Iranians who no more support Ahmadinejad than I do George W. Bush. She'd be willing to engage in the most destructive act in US history by "obliterating them" when so many of the Iranian people only want peace and prosperity. Insane! She's playing a very hot game in a situation that calls for a cold one. The cold war wasn't about hot rhetoric. Every time the Soviets or the Americans shook their fists at one another the effectiveness of the cold strategy was compromised (remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?).

If this isn't enough to give Clinton supporters pause about where her head is at, and to whom her loyalties lie, I don't know what to say to you. Just something to think about.


mike's spot said...

I've been saying it for a long time Mike- The Clintons are about power- they have no allegiances to anyone, and don't feel they have to answer to anyone.

I support Israel (much to sammy's dismay)but Iran isn't about to go pissing off the biggest, baddest, kid in the Middle East.

Israel was born in war and tempered by war. The only thing lobbing bombs or even dirty bombs at them is going to do is make them turn the rest of the middle east into a massive kosher deli after they kick the crap out of everyone over there.

PS- why aren't we threatening North Korea like this? they at least are an actual threat that really wants to FU** with us.

William deB. Mills said...

Hillary’s attempt to match the rhetorical excesses of Ahmadinejad (not to say Netanyahu) is indeed deplorable. Americans in public life seem to think it is immoral to discuss Israeli behavior or security in rational, thoughtful terms. However, Israelis do not, as shown by many articles in the Israeli press, such as this commentary ( in the Jerusalem Post.

Although Israeli-Iranian relations is a difficult one, there actually is something Washington could do to help.

In both Iran and Israel, the ruling faction asserts the self-fulfilling nonsense that "they" only understand force. Bounds need to be placed on the increasingly irrational rhetorical war, a highly contagious virus, to pave the way for reasoned discussions of differences. At the moment every effort to resolve any specific regional disagreement, e.g., resolution of the Golan Heights dispute, is sabotaged by the understandable hypnotic focus on nuclear fears. The most logical way to create an atmosphere conducive to solving problems would be to erect a regional structure for minimizing the threat of a nuclear attack.

We need not obsess over the mechanics of making this work. Were Washington to announce a clear policy that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Mideast and that it would condemn without reservation any party that was the first to use them, that would open the door to devising a believable regional nuclear umbrella.

Mike Plugh said...

Well said Mike and William. Thanks for the comments.

yankz said...

I'm pretty sure she got the idea from Charles Krauthammer, who proposed the idea about a week before she did.

Don't forget that she wants to "massively expand our security umbrella" to more nations in the Middle East.

On a happier note, I'm thinking Hughes finally puts it together tonight.