If you didn’t see it, I recommend watching President Obama’s amazing press conference on Tuesday or reading the transcript. What he said about Iran and Syria and the GOP pretenders pretending their policies—often couched in hyper-militaristic rhetoric—will solve all the world’s problems was remarkably forthright.
I confess that I have been nervous about Mr. Obama’s rejection of any kind of containment strategy, should Iran get nukes. I worry that he has backed himself into a corner that could end up with the United States in another Middle East war.
Obama prefaced his position on this:
What we’ve been able to do over the last three years is mobilize unprecedented, crippling sanctions on Iran. Iran is feeling the bite of these sanctions in a substantial way. The world is unified; Iran is politically isolated.
Then he reiterated his policy and the reasons for it:
And what I have said is, is that we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon — because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists. And we’ve been in close consultation with all our allies, including Israel, in moving this strategy forward.
But Obama is cautious as ever:
At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view. That’s the view of our top intelligence officials; it’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials. And, as a consequence, we are going to continue to apply the pressure even as we provide a door for the Iranian regime to walk through where they could rejoin the community of nations by giving assurances to the international community that they’re meeting their obligations and they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Now, whatever one thinks of this strategy, it is sober and well thought out, and articulated by a man in control of his emotions. He will not be bullied into a war with Iran, or, as some people who were not elected president would have it, a war with Syria. I know I felt better after hearing his remarks.
And he had some words for his challengers, particularly Mitt Romney:
Now, what’s said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.
This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.
Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.
Contrast all that to Mitt Romney’s bluster and relative recklessness, as exhibited in his speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Tuesday. After lying about Obama’s “naive outreach to Iran” and his “current policy of procrastination,” Romney said:
I will make sure Iran knows of the very real peril that awaits if it becomes nuclear. I will engage Iran’s neighbors. I will station multiple carriers and warships at Iran’s door. I will stand with the Syrian people who are being mercilessly slaughtered. I know that the fall of Assad would not only be an important victory for liberty, but also a strategic blow to Tehran.
Blah, blah, blah. But most appallingly, Romney raised up Ronald Reagan from the dead for some self-serving love:
I believe the right course is what Ronald Reagan called “peace through strength.” There is a reason why the Iranians released the hostages on the same day and at the same hour that Reagan was sworn into office. As President, I will offer that kind of clarity, strength, and resolve.
The bottom line: Elect Mitt Romney as president and the ayatollahs’ resolve will melt in his presence; their theocratic minds will bend to the Mormon’s determination. It is just that easy, isn’t it?
Except there is a profound contradiction in Romney’s strategy. He previously said,
There are some in this administration who argue that Iran’s leaders are “rational,” and that we can do business with them. The President speaks of common interests. Let me be clear: we do not have common interests with a terrorist regime. Their interest is in the destruction of Israel and the domination of the Middle East. It is profoundly irrational to suggest that the ayatollahs think the way we do or share our values. They do not.
Let me see. The ayatollahs are not rational but rationally recognized that Ronald Reagan meant business and they let go of the hostages out of fear. And these same irrational ayatollahs will somehow rationally conclude that President Mittens will blow them home to Allah, should they not see the light.
How does that work? How do irrational folks we can’t do business with and with whom we have no common interests respond rationally and do business with us out of a common interest not to get blown up?