Preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is the stated goal of the Obama administration, P5+1 nations and Israel. How the United States can best reach this goal while avoiding war seems to me to be a rather vital debate. So it’s a real shame we’re not having it.
So far, 59 senators, 16 Democrats, are co-sponsoring a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran and, perhaps, derail the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic efforts on that front. Really, it’s one of the only times we’ve seen any notable resistance to Barack Obama from people within his party. But, if I’m hearing the administration and punditry from the left correctly, even debating these approaches is a call for war to them.
Instead, we’re supposed to believe that those 16 Democratic senators (not to mention the entire GOP) are set to send Americans to die for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Jay Carney kicked off the shameful rhetoric by warning that anyone who disagrees with Obama’s Iranian position risks supporting a “march to war.” As USA Today put it, “the White House has suggested Washington opponents want negotiations to fail so the United States can attack Iran.”
To begin with, it seems an enormous stretch to assume that the Senate’s passage of tighter sanctions would inevitably lead to war with Iran. It’s at least as massive as believing that Obama’s diplomatic efforts are no better than the Munich Agreement. Yet the former is accepted as the basis for nearly every piece critical of the recent debate over Iranian sanctions.
Today supporting sanctions makes you a warmonger. And challenging the president’s efforts is tantamount to desiring war. It’s an inverted form of calling all war critics unpatriotic. It’s meant to stifle debate. Yet here are Joan Walsh, James Fallows and others, all allegedly good liberals, demanding that everyone fall in line with the president on foreign policy. Fortunately, that didn’t happen when Obama was pushing for a greater American presence in the Syrian civil war, and it certainly should not happen here.
As unhealthy as that kind of partisan lock-stepping can be, here’s Andrew Sullivan kicking it up a notch and offering up a list of “Democrats For War With Iran”: “Michael Bennet of Colorado — a key Obama supporter; Cory Booker of New Jersey (ditto); Mark Warner of Virginia; Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Ben Cardin of Maryland; and, of course, Chuck Schumer of New York. All of these Democrats are in favor of humiliating the president of the United States and refusing to allow him to pursue negotiations without being trumped by deliberate, pre-meditated sabotage.”
Does anyone really believe that Cardin and Bennet are driven by bloodlust? That Booker is willing to go to war to humiliate the president? That Warner wants to sabotage a chance at a meaningful peace agreement? That Schumer wants to — wait a second. What does Sullivan mean by “of course”? Schumer, as you may already have guessed, is a Hebrew. And let’s concede that Jewish politicians and their constituents tend to get a bit nervous when a bunch of belligerent oil-rich anti-Semites start pulling together a nuclear program. Does concern for an ally mean you are a member of a fifth column?
It’s just remarkable how regularly liberals will breezily call you a traitor these days for disagreeing with them. That’s exactly what Fallows does when he writes that “a striking number of Democrats have joined them, for no evident reason other than AIPAC’s whole-hearted, priority-one support for the sanctions bill.”
(Actually, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is arguing that Iran should be denied the capability to change course within a day. The interim deal signed over the weekend between Tehran and P5+1 reportedly allows Iran to retain its advanced nuclear centrifuge program, which gives it more than the capability; it basically gives it the keys. Seems like a reasonable concern for Israel, which, once this deal is done, will be unable to protect itself.)
Surely, there is some “evident reason” to support sanctions today. Not that long ago, the administration was bragging about their effectiveness. Perhaps — and I’m just speculating here — most of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s constituents would rather see Iran surrender its nuclear ambitions peacefully than see the U.S. engaged in a costly and futile conflict in the Middle East. Is it even conceivable to Fallows that someone could believe that tighter sanctions might help achieve this goal? Is it conceivable that the United States could extract more from the Iranians during these negotiations with the threat of more sanctions? Now, unlike all of these columnists, I’m no foreign policy expert, but I’d also probably want to wait and see what the president brings back before applying more pressure on Iran. With the disaster of Iraq still fresh, it probably would make the most sense. Still, the kind of reckless and politically motivated scaremongering Democrats are engaged in isn’t helping anyone.
David Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist.