When Obama took office, many citizens of this nation (including me) let out a sigh of relief, comforted by the thought that a reckless fool had been replaced a calm and sometimes inspiring realist.
How can a year seem like such a long time ago?
Engagement turned out to a piece of campaign pap that fizzled out when the administration discovered that face-to-face contact with Americans does not in the eyes of America’s adversaries have the irresistible appeal it was supposed to have. When you come to the table a smile and a handshake turns out not to be enough.
So what’s Obama’s fallback plan when it comes to confronting Iran?
First we should note that Obama never really challenged the Bush/neocon paradigm in the first place: confrontation with Iran.
Now, since talks went nowhere we’re into the phase escalation: Obama ditched the European missile defense plans (which might have been a smart way of placating the Russians) but now he’s sending in Patriot missiles to be positioned right on Iran’s doorstep. The New York Times reports:
“Our first goal is to deter the Iranians,” said one senior administration official. “A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”
Adhmadinejad, on the other hand, promises a February 11 “telling blow to global powers.” What kind of blow? I predict it’ll be something symbolic and not quite as dramatic as his language suggests, but who knows.
Meanwhile, Gen James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, has warned that Iran might lash out at Israel through its surrogates, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Sorry, but this is exactly the kind of regurgitated conventional wisdom we should expect from a man who gives every appearance of functioning on autopilot.
Did Jones happen to hear Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri warn last week that an attack on Hezbollah by Israel would be viewed as an attack on Lebanon? This from the poster-boy of the Cedar Revolution which five years ago was taken by the Bush administration as the herald of democracy spreading across the Middle East.
What’s my point? Hariri, who might view Hezbollah warily nevertheless recognizes that it is not an Iranian surrogate waiting to be unleashed on Israel. The Islamist party’s primary focus is on its own domestic constituency and the wider interests of Lebanon.
If a war with Iran was to erupt, would Hezbollah and Hamas have a role? Quite likely, but that doesn’t mean that these groups are sitting around awaiting their commands from masters in Tehran. They have their own political agendas that are not subordinate to the interests of the Iranians.
And if my comments about Jones sound harsh, just watch his keynote address at the J Street conference in October last year where he said: “Of all the problems the administration faces globally, that if there was one problem that I would recommend to the president that if he could do anything he wanted, he could solve one problem, this [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] would be it.”
Ah, if only he was in a position to make such a recommendation. If only he had the president’s ear…
If only Obama’s push for Middle East peace hadn’t turned out to epitomize a wasted year in office.