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November 09, 2007

My Commenters Is Smarter Than I: Options On The Table Edition

Jason C. writes:

Another stupid thing about the "no options off the table" rhetoric is that even those who spout it don't really mean it. There are, presumably, plenty of options that are off the table.

1. Suppose Khamenei, having just seen the last episode of South Park, offers to give up its nuclear program if President Bush agrees to suck his balls. Is that option on the table?

2. What if Iran offers to give up its nuclear program if the US agrees to remove all troops from the Middle East starting tomorrow. Is that option on the table?

3. Assume that Iran doesn't believe we would really attack them over this issue. To show them we are serious, we could drop a nuclear bomb on Syria. Is that option on the table?

Etc. etc. etc. etc. There are plenty of options that are off the table. What Hillary et al. really mean is that one particular option - attacking Iran - is very much on the table (even though it's as crazy or crazier than the options listed above).

Right, which is sort of what I'm getting at in the column. "All options on the table" is a meaningless phrase. It's purpose is, in the one case, to signal a willingness to go to war while retaining plausible deniability around what you're saying, and in the second, to signal a willingness to go to war while allowing you to imply that you wouldn't. In both cases, the point is to obscure the politicians actual intent on one of the most acute foreign policy challenges of our time. Some seem content with letting them do that, either for reasons of political expediency or diplomatic theory. I don't buy the underlying diplomatic theory, and I don't think we, as voters, should be so sanguine about our candidate's blithe unwillingness to hide critical information from us.

November 9, 2007 in Iran | Permalink

Comments

I don't think we, as voters, should be so sanguine about our candidate's blithe unwillingness to hide critical information from us.

Ezra, don't you mean either "blithe willingness to hide" or "blithe unwillingness to share...with...."?

Posted by: Herschel | Nov 9, 2007 11:07:19 AM

Jason C. writes:

Another stupid thing about the "no options off the table" rhetoric...

And Wikipedia writes...

Cant (language) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cant is an example of a cryptolect, a characteristic or secret language used only by members of a group,
often used to conceal the meaning from those ...

Clinton=?=Cant

Posted by: has_te | Nov 9, 2007 11:43:51 AM

Since Obama, Clinton, et al aren't actually President of the United States right now, it's not clear to me that it's such a big deal that they haven't committed to a 10 point plan for dealing with Iran that explicitly includes or excludes military force. By the time any of them attain office, Bush may well have already attacked Iran and the situation in any case will have changed from what it is today. It makes sense to keep "all options on the table."

Posted by: Ron | Nov 9, 2007 11:53:41 AM

It's the Rush Act all over again! "By any means necessary..."

(I will be impressed if anyone else gets that one.)

Posted by: ajay | Nov 9, 2007 12:23:53 PM

The option for me to comment on this blog post is now on the table. Two seconds later, it may be back on the table. I may vow to try and keep it off the table, but if the circumstances change we must be willing to consider allowing a comment option back on the table.

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 9, 2007 12:32:47 PM

"All options on the table" is a meaningless phrase.

But I believe the opposite is also true. Sure, they could say invading Iran is not an option, only to go on to say "but it could become an option as events change," which, of course, is true, even if they don't say it.

Posted by: Mark | Nov 9, 2007 1:09:33 PM

Just WOW! Waterboarding the English language.....AGAIN!

Posted by: El viajero | Nov 9, 2007 1:58:45 PM

The point of "no options off the table" is that it is meaningless. Yes, it can signal a willingness to go to war. But it can also be said by a candidate who has no intention of going to war, but fears losing votes for saying so. It is a semantic void.

Posted by: Richard Hershberger | Nov 9, 2007 2:19:02 PM

Nice to see the Bush-sucking-on-balls image front-paged.

The point of "no options off the table" is that it is meaningless. Yes, it can signal a willingness to go to war. But it can also be said by a candidate who has no intention of going to war, but fears losing votes for saying so. It is a semantic void.

And I hate having to sit here and guess and what candidates might be thinking. With some of them it's more or less obvious - I assume Rudy G. is itching to go after Iran. But what about Hillary, or Obama? Who knows?

They wouldn't get away with this on many other issues. Ask them about privatizing Social Security, and see if they say "all options are on the table."

Posted by: Jason C. | Nov 9, 2007 2:33:15 PM

'They wouldn't get away with this on many other issues. Ask them about privatizing Social Security, and see if they say "all options are on the table."'

Oh, I'm not defending the practice. I just don't think it can automatically be interpreted as code for "let's rock and roll!" It is code for "no comment". It is perfectly reasonable for a voter to hold a candidate's refusal to comment against that candidate.

Posted by: Richard Hershberger | Nov 9, 2007 3:26:34 PM

Jason C is a man after my own heart. I usually just suggest waterboarding the president of Exxon, (for fun, not because I think it would obtain any useful information), but this is much more clearly reasoned.

And yes, we all want to know much more about this Bush-sucking-Iranian-balls thing. Indeed, I can think of all sorts of things I'd like him to suck on. Provided we can get them on the table, of course.

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