Tony Karon writes: Have some members of the Obama Administration been quaffing a ten-year-old jug of Kool Aid left in a White House basement fridge by Bush Administration officials? That’s certainly an impression conveyed by one unnamed source briefing Foreign Policy magazine’s David Rothkopf on talks between the Administration and the Israeli government. According to Rothkopf’s sources, Washington is now considering plans for a limited U.S.-Israeli raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a strike so “surgical” that it could be over in a matter of hours. This ostensible military cakewalk would, according to “one advocate” cited by Rothkopf have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”
Both the language and the thinking in that quote are reminiscent of the giddiest fantasies of the Bush Administration’s Iraq-war zealots. It appears that for some, at least, the failure of the Iraq invasion to transform the Middle East and assure “American ascendancy” simply requires a shock-and-awe do-over.
Rothkopf’s piece on the ostensible emergence of a war-lite option on Iran begins from the premise that President Obama is vulnerable to political attacks from Mitt Romney over his handling of Iran, and might benefit from letting it be known that he’s considering a “surgical strike” on Iran — a scenario ostensibly more believable because it supposedly requires less of a military commitment. “It may be that the easiest way for the Obama team to defuse Romney’s critique on Iran is simply to communicate better what options they are in fact considering,” Rothkopf writes. “It’s not the size of the threatened attack, but the likelihood that it will actually be made, that makes a military threat a useful diplomatic tool. And perhaps a political one, too.”
But that assumes Obama faces a major political problem on Iran — an assumption unlikely to be shared by the president’s reelection team at this stage: In most mainstream campaign analyses, being branded “soft on Iran” doesn’t rank particularly prominently among the many reasons why Obama might lose his reelection bid, even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had once hoped to leverage campaign concerns to press Obama towards Israel’s positions on Iran. [Continue reading…]