Yesterday on Fox News, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, once John McCain’s sidekick and still for some reason considered a serious foreign policy mind by the media, said that with respect to talking to Iran about its nuclear program (with Iran now agreeing to talks), “the time for talking is over.”
Okay, but what then? If there shouldn’t be any talking, doesn’t that mean the only way to stop Iran is war? And that can’t just mean a few strategic air strikes. What it must mean is boots on the ground, a long, drawn-out campaign to destroy Iran’s nuclear program (and, needless to say, much of Iran with it).
Oh, Graham is too slippery to say that, of course. He talks instead about “demanding transparency and access to their nuclear program,” and about “talking to the Israelis” (as if that isn’t happening).
But why would Iran just give the U.S. unfettered access? And what exactly should we be discussing with Israel, in Graham’s view, if not military action?
This is the point Vice President Biden kept making in his debate with Ryan: You say you disagree with our policies towards Iran and yet you agree with everything we’ve done. So where’s the disagreement? What should we be doing instead?
The implication is clear: war. What else is there?
All this reckless Republican saber-rattling amounts to warmongering — except Romney and Ryan, like Graham and others, know they can’t come clean because war with Iran, and war in general given the Iraq debacle and the ongoing Afghan mission, wars started and grossly mismanaged by a Republican president with Republicans cheerleading at every step, is hugely unpopular with voters.
So they say, like Romney and Ryan in the debates, that Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon, when that’s a gross oversimplification of Iran’s nuclear program*, and so blame Obama for not doing enough apparently to stop Iran. (What’s more, dispite all the bluster, Iran and its nuclear program do not pose an existential threat to the U.S., nor even to Israel, at this point. Not even close.) And yet because Obama rebuilt America’s alliances he was able to put in place a severe sanctions program that, while not perfect (Iranians suffering when humanitarian aid can’t get through, for example), has essentially forced Tehran into talks with the U.S. without putting boots on the ground in Iran.
In that sense, Iran’s agreement to sitting down with the U.S. is a clear signal that current U.S. policy is working. Yes, of course, there is every reason to doubt the Iranians’ sincerity, but what exactly is the alternative at this point?
Again, Republicans won’t say, but it’s war.
There’s no doubt this will come up in tonight’s debate. The president, like the vice president, must not let Romney get away with spewing the same old rhetoric unchallenged.
In case after case, Obama’s foreign policy is working, with Republicans begrudgingly agreeing with it. Both Romney and Ryan are talking about the unravelling of that policy and yet offer nothing at all in its place, hoping simply that their reckless jingoism will be enough get them throught the election, with the details coming later.
President Obama must show clearly the alternative Romney, along with Republicans generally, offers. In Iran, as elsewhere, that alternative is war, more war, endless war.
* Think Progress: “Graham is right that Iran continues to enrich uranium, which is in violation of United Nations resolutions calling on the Islamic Republic to suspend enrichment. Iran is currently enriching uranium to up to 20 percent purity. But uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent purity to be used in a nuclear weapon, and according to U.S. and Israeli intelligence and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s leaders have yet to make the decision to build a nuclear weapon. Moreover, as experts and U.S. officials have said, the international community would know if Iran decides to enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity because its nuclear program is continuously monitored by the IAEA.”
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)