Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Obama on Iran, via 2004

This would seem to explain his fairly aggressive stance towards Iran. From a 2004 interview:

"In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in," he said.

"On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."

At least he recognizes that there would be problems with an attack on Iran. I'm sure he has an even better understanding of that now that he has the military at his disposal. But he falls into the conventional line of thinking that Iran with nukes would be worse than every other option, even the problems that could arise after a strike by the US or Israel.

Like many others, he doesn't explain why it would be the worst option. Does he think Iran would really use their nukes? The fact that he calls them a radical Muslim theocracy suggests that he is thinking along the same lines as neocons. In fact:

"With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don't want to be blown up, we don't want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain," Obama said. "I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don't make those same calculations.

That is pretty straightforward. He thinks that the Iranian leaders could be suicidal. And again, as with most others who make this argument, he doesn't give a reason why he thinks the mutually assured destruction theory wouldn't apply to Iran. What is it about Iran's leaders that makes Obama think they are suicidal? I'll grant you the crazy and offensive rhetoric, at least on the part of Ahmadenijad. But I am unaware of any statements that can be regarded as suicidal or even any actions that would suggest they are aggressive actors towards other countries. In fact, they have a history of being invaded, not of doing the invading.

These statements from Obama in 04 seem to match up pretty well with who he has been as president. He hasn't bombed Iran so far. But he keeps the option on the table, at least publicly. And he has used air strikes in Libya in order to advance a preference. So I'll take him for his word regarding it being on the table until I see evidence that suggests he really wouldn't do it. And aside air strikes, he has helped impose strict sanctions on Iran. I regard that as an aggressive approach because it hurts the people of Iran economically and hopes their suffering compels the gov't to act in accordance with our interests.

If you've followed me for a while you can probably guess that I don't share many of Obama's views on Iran's nuclear situation. I would prefer they don't obtain nukes. But I don't think they should be bombed if they decide to continue towards obtaining them. And I think that the more aggressive Obama, conservatives, and conservatives in Israel are towards Iran the more they are going to want to develop nukes.

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