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October 15, 2007

Will Hillary Clinton Bomb Iran?

That certainly appears to be what she's saying in Foreign Affairs this month:

Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option.

There's not much ambiguity in this policy prescription. Serious diplomatic efforts will be undertaken to convince Iran to cease development of nuclear weapons. But Iran "must not" be allowed to have nuclear weapons, and so if our diplomatic efforts fail, force will be used.

Is there another way to read this that I'm not understanding? If not, shouldn't some other candidate, either a top tier contender like Edwards or Obama, or a second tier voice like Richardson or Dodd, actually take issue with this idea that America's response to a weaponized Iran should be war rather than deterrence?

October 15, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

Seriously?? WTF?

Is Hillary trying to give the nomination to Edwards or Obama? This is such stunningly bad politics that I have to think it's what she really believes. Which is all the scarier.

Posted by: DivGuy | Oct 15, 2007 12:18:09 PM

Didn't we go through this with Edwards already? It feels like exactly the same speech.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Oct 15, 2007 12:22:08 PM

There's a reason Murdoch gives Hillary money. She is the candidate of the oligarchy. Any thinking to the contrary is of the wishful kind.

Posted by: sparky | Oct 15, 2007 12:22:14 PM

Remember, it's crucially important to reference "the table," and what is "on" or "off" it, because if the military option is "off" the table, it means that all those personnel and ships and planes vanish temporarily into some unavailable netherworld, and if something is "on" the table it means those options are magically made to exist.

Posted by: El Cid | Oct 15, 2007 12:32:34 PM

Well, there is some ambiguity in the 'all options on the table' language. Unfortunately, all options has come to mean military attack (or worse, nuclear attack). This phrase is overdue for retirement.

Clearly, a rigid nuclear deterence posture, or a shipping embargo (with UN approval) would qualify as within the 'all options' approach.

If elected, she will regret having used these words, because anything less than a military attack will become bait for a GOP impeachment resolution or charges of liberal sellout. She is now captive to her own words - words written a place (Foreign Affairs that will be nearly impossible to explain away.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Way too much stick and way too little carrot to make anything like a positive contribution to bringing Iran into some kind of negotiated settlement.

On the other hand, with this policy statement, she's made it very hard for any of the GOP candidates to 'out-hawk' her on Iran.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Oct 15, 2007 12:35:30 PM


does she say these things to get elected?
to enlarge her base?
lots of "lie"alties,
where are her loyalties?
who knows the "real" bill or hillary?
only they do.

Posted by: jacqueline | Oct 15, 2007 1:02:01 PM

Can a nuclear Iran actually be deterred?

Can Israel be convinced that deterrence will work?

With Iran successfully thwarting the will of the international community (or at least the EU, US, and almost all of the Middle East), can their increased stature with their proxies be limited to a level where the region isn't catastrophically destabilized?

Can other states in the Middle East be dissuaded from defensive proliferation in the face of a nuclear Iran?

Can the other proliferating countries be deterred to the same extent that Iran is?

Can would-be proliferators in other parts of the world be shut down in the face of Iran successfully acquiring a nuke?

It's possible that the answer to all of these questions is "yes." But you'd better be awfully sure of your answer. If you can't do all of these things, you probably ought to red-line Iran going nuclear.

Meanwhile, I'm just overjoyed that we're all going to re-emphasize soft power. That's an area where Bushco has been obviously incompetent. But let's remember that soft power exercises are a lot more effective when there's hard power lurking in the wings. Why would you intentionally hamstring those efforts by tipping your hand?

Posted by: TheRadicalModerate | Oct 15, 2007 1:02:21 PM

Hardly this can be understood any other way. But she is not the first who said it. French minister of foreign affairs was even more explicit: "We must be ready to the worst. And the worst means war." By the way, this was also said in 2002 by Bush:
"We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons."
This one was about Iraq, but applies to Iran as well.

Posted by: Sergey | Oct 15, 2007 1:06:08 PM

If not, shouldn't some other candidate...actually take issue with this idea that America's response to a weaponized Iran should be war rather than deterrence?

Yes, indeed they should, if that's what Clinton actually said.

The problem is, she didn't!

Klein incorrectly summarizes Clinton's approach and inverts it in the process. Nowhere does Clinton advocate war before deterrence.

In fact, she says quite the opposite.

Very sloppy, Ezra!

Posted by: JoeCHI | Oct 15, 2007 1:10:07 PM

I thought the whole point of using such language was to make it so that even if you don't really intend to go to war over Iran's nuke program, you have a better bargaining position in any case when you do try to diplomatically achieve nonproliferation.

Posted by: HFS | Oct 15, 2007 1:13:17 PM

Hate to be contrarian, but isn't force the underlying issue in every single international negotiation between enemy states? Very rarely do countries just come together and try to find some common ground for the heck of it- there is either an economic reason (for allies) or some fear (enemies) about what the other state will do. If there is no fear on both sides, then there is absolutely no reason to talk. The fear on our side is a nuclear Iran threatening Israel and its neighbors. The fear on their side is that we will come in and blow them up, either personally or through Israel.

Anyway, there is always a violent subtext to international agreements. Do not hinder our trade or we will embargo you. Do not commit human rights violations or we will either sanction you or invade you (the UN). Do not invade that other country because it's our friend and if you do we'll totally go all Clint Eastwood on your ass.

That sort of thing. I think what it comes down to is whether or not you believe she would actually invade Iran, which unfortunately we do not have very good information regarding. But to say up front that we wouldn't would put a pretty severe crimp in that sweet, sweet diplomacy we all know and love. Force is just another bargaining chip, and you shouldn't just give them away.

Posted by: Fnor | Oct 15, 2007 1:16:53 PM

She emphasizes diplomacy before deterrence. Deterrence is generally understood to refer to the Cold War theory of creating various triggers and threats such that countries don't want to use the weapons they have. That, not preemptive war, would be the best way to handle a nuclear Iran.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 15, 2007 1:18:31 PM

The question at hand is not how to handle nuclear Iran (it can not be handled at all), but how to prevent it becoming nuclear. What Hillary said, let us try diplomacy first, and if it failed (it will), bomb these lunatics before they get a bomb. Sen. McCain said the same, and Joe Lieberman too. Her husband had even weaker case to bomb Yugoslavia, but he done it. Why she would not?

Posted by: Sergey | Oct 15, 2007 1:58:35 PM

She is not dumb, but very smart calculating bitch. She knows that after French chef diplomat said about getting ready to a war, Bush will certainly will do it, even before elections. He will not stay this issue unresolved to his successor. So she does not risk anything and feels that it is the time to triangulate.

Posted by: Sergey | Oct 15, 2007 2:15:27 PM

All this rhetoric sounds suspiciously like the rhetoric used to justify the invasion and wargasm in Iraq. They lied about Iraq's nuclear weapon program, and I see zero reason to believe the rhetoric this time around either. And that bit about "do you want the first warning to be a mushroom cloud over NYC?" Oh, give me a break. I'd suspect the US republican't party first before I'd suspect anyone else. Anyone who read Amerithrax would come to the exact same conclusion.

Posted by: Peter | Oct 15, 2007 2:17:19 PM

Actually I find her statement completely ambiguous. She says she'll be more aggressive than Bush, but at what? Diplomacy or military action? She says all options are on the table, but that's about as trite an expression as one can get. Its all bluster and no resolve. Just trying to make her look tough without actually committing to anything any of the other candidates haven't said. She's not for any particular policy. She's for toughness.

Posted by: dk | Oct 15, 2007 3:12:26 PM

I thought the whole point of using such language was to make it so that even if you don't really intend to go to war over Iran's nuke program, you have a better bargaining position in any case when you do try to diplomatically achieve nonproliferation.

On the Iraq war, the US was not interested in diplomatic solutions and only followed the motions. There was nothing that Iraq could do to stop the war.

Being a warmonger to bolster a diplomatic solution is nice, but if the opponent does not believe you are interested in a negotiation every "we will destroy you" won't make your position stronger, only weaker. If the US is really interested in a diplomatic solution, the best course right now is find an acceptable proposal that would potentially satisfy both parties (or at least one to work from). It would actually work wonders to advance the position.

And believe it or not, Iran already knows it can be bombed. Nobody needs to remind them every three days. It is counterproductive.

Posted by: aracne | Oct 15, 2007 3:21:18 PM

I do not see much a threat to USA in Iran.

Posted by: Floccina | Oct 15, 2007 3:32:56 PM

She emphasizes diplomacy before deterrence. Deterrence is generally understood to refer to the Cold War theory of creating various triggers and threats such that countries don't want to use the weapons they have. That, not preemptive war, would be the best way to handle a nuclear Iran.

While I am generally a fan of deterence, deterence has a limited effect when you're enemy uses asymmetrical(sp) warfare, IE terrorism. Also if deterence worked then Iran wouldn't be trying to acquire a bomb. Most importantly, deterence only works when you have a credible threat to back it up. And lets be honest, the vast majority of people who oppose bombing Iran would oppose bombing Iran under any circumstances.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 15, 2007 3:58:23 PM

Obama and Edwards said the exact same thing in the Foreign Affairs pieces. For example, here's Obama:

"The world must work to stop Iran's uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy."

and

"In confronting these threats, I will not take the military option off the table. But our first measure must be sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy -- the kind that the Bush administration has been unable and unwilling to use."

Your interpretation of Hillary's article would have to apply equally to both Obama's and Edwards's.

Posted by: Partially Impartial | Oct 15, 2007 4:00:53 PM

On the Iraq war, the US was not interested in diplomatic solutions and only followed the motions. There was nothing that Iraq could do to stop the war.

Contrary to popular belief, the US had a foreign policy before Iraq.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 15, 2007 4:00:56 PM

"On the Iraq war, the US was not interested in diplomatic solutions and only followed the motions. There was nothing that Iraq could do to stop the war."

Sorry, that's a bit heavy on the revisionist history for me. If Saddam had allowed the weapons inspectors to do their jobs, he would still be in power today.

Posted by: HFS | Oct 15, 2007 4:04:01 PM

(unless of course one of his own Baath party thugs would have killed him by now)

Posted by: HFS | Oct 15, 2007 4:04:44 PM

What is even more dangerous is that Iran (its leadership, anyway) has nothing against beeing bombed. They plead for it.

Posted by: Sergey | Oct 15, 2007 4:06:01 PM

Ezra, have you been listening to anything Wes Clark has been saying over the last several years? He says over and over that the US must get beyond the Cold War mentality. If you want to interpret Hillary's position based on a cold war mentality, fine. But at least be honest enough to recognize that she is not. I could explain the Clark paradigm, but if your too lazy to check it out on your own, you probably wouldn't if I pointed it.

I read the entire article and it was really, really hard to come to the same conclusion as you did when it is considered in the entirety. But I guess if you go into a discussion of Hillary looking for a "calculating bitch" who is looking to "triangulate" then you will probably construe things to find such a person. You should at least be a little honest with yourself about that. Anyone who thinks Wes Clark would be actively supporting a candidate who is planning on attacking Iran is pretty absurd.

Posted by: gq | Oct 15, 2007 4:08:04 PM

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