by Eric S. Margolis
May 26, 2008
The Republican blitz unleashed against Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama last week showed just how bitter, dirty and ugly the 2008 presidential campaign is likely to be.
After Obama said he favored direct negotiations with Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, and dismissed any potential danger from Iran as ‘tiny,’ Republican candidate John McCain accused him of being ‘reckless’ and ‘inexperienced.’
‘The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny,’ thundered McCain – the very same supposedly experienced McCain who mistakenly claimed Iran was supporting Sunni fighters in Iraq.
During his recent speech to Israel’s Knesset, President George W. Bush also singled out Iran and insinuated that Obama resembled the British and French ‘appeasers’ of Nazi Germany at the 1938 Munch Pact for daring suggest talking to Iran.
The president’s speech was so filled with fulsome praise for Israel, and so lacking in reference to Palestinian suffering, one had the impression he was campaigning for one of Israel’s rightwing parties. Bush’s turgid, simplistic oration that was worthy of a Baptist Sunday school talk on the Mideast left, many worldly Israeli legislators rolling their eyes and looking embarrassed or bored.
Back in the US, neoconservatives blasted Obama as unpatriotic for not wearing an American flag on his lapel. The Israel lobby accused him of being insufficiently pro-Israel. Evangelical Christian groups flooded the internet with claims Obama was a closet Muslim.
Obama was so thrown off balance by these violent attacks, he foolishly flip-flopped on Iran and agreed that it was indeed a grave threat.
All this came as the danger of a US/Israeli attack on Iran to preserve Israel’s Mideast nuclear monopoly was growing. Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert just called for a US naval blockade of Iran, an open act of war. An Egyptian naval blockade of Israel’s access to the Red Sea served as a casus belli in 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Republicans just can’t seem to stop invoking both facts and myths of World War II to promote their foreign policy. If World War II must be dredged up, a more appropriate reference would be Nazi leader Hermann Goering’s famous formula for fascism:
“All you have to do is to tell them (the people) they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
That is what happened to Obama last week. In spite of the fact that most Americans want out of Iraq and are against attacking Iran, the Republican attack media is still able to tar anyone who opposes war-mongering as traitorous and cowardly.
McCain is an able, savvy domestic politician, but his absurd claims about Iran bring into question his understanding of foreign policy.
Iran has no long-ranged missiles, nuclear weapons, or bombers. Its decrepit air force barely flies. Iran’s so-called navy is a lightly-armed coast guard. Its ground forces are immobile and lack all forms of modern weapons. Tehran’s defense budget is the size of Poland’s or Norway’s, and 100 times smaller than US military spending.
It’s the Great Iraq scare all over. Republicans are again playing to the least educated Americans by frightening them with fairy tales and outright lies. Iranian mad mullahs determined to shower A-bombs on Memphis and Des Moines have replaced Saddam and his Drones of Death.
Should the US talk to enemies? Of course. Diplomacy is one of three primary tools of statecraft along with military and economic power. Only arrant fools do not make use of it. Just because the Bush administration largely relied on military power in foreign policy does not mean this Soviet-style approach need continue.
To whom does one negotiate if not with ones enemies and rivals? Refusing to talk to one’s foes is stupid, childish and counter-productive. World War I was sparked by the breakdown of diplomacy. It could have ended with a fair peace in 1917, and spared the world Stalin and Hitler, if the US had not foolishly entered the war, thus allowing Britain and France to reject negotiations with Germany,
War is waged to attain diplomatic objectives, not win military victories. The greatest threat to world peace is not Iran, Cuba or, even more laughably, Venezuela’s clownish Col. Hugo Chavez. It is the breakdown of normal diplomatic relations between nations.
As Democrats rightly noted, the US fruitfully negotiated with the Soviet Union and China when both powers threatened America with nuclear destruction. The Bush administration has been making progress in nuclear talks with ‘pariah’ North Korea, to which it refused to talk for years.
All sensible nations talk, either through normal or backdoor channels. Even Israel and old foe Syria just announced talks. Israel has maintained secret contacts with Iran for decades, even selling it $5 billion worth of US arms and spare parts in the 1980’s. When McCain and his new neoconservative Praetorian Guard scream ‘no negotiation’s,’ what they really mean is no talks between Washington and Israel’s principal foes, Iran and Syria.
McCain should be reminded that hysteria is not a viable foreign policy, even if it is election silly season. He is wrong to keep promoting the image of America as a spinster atop a chair, screaming in fear of a Muslim mouse called Iran. This is unworthy of the great United States.
If anyone is being reckless and inexperienced in foreign affairs, so far, it seems to be John McCain. His fear-mongering over Iran and publicly singing ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,’ and his plans to directly confront Russia and China at the same time while the US is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, should make Americans pause for a lot of thought.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2008
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