Great Decision or Great Mistake?

Looking back in recent history, the George W Bush White House followed the “negotiate from strength” position.  The style holds that no matter what the issue, the other side is wrong.  Employing this option, one either ignores the other side’s request to negotiate, or presses its opinion with unreachable demands.  This approach makes little progress in resolving disputes, and as seen in Iraq, can get it terribly wrong.  It does, however, play well with domestic political realities.

President Obama has followed a much different foreign policy approach.  The Obama White House has steered carefully away from confrontations for which options would be most likely military force.  (Syria is one example where Obama almost got trapped into military action only to be saved by Russian intervention.)

Iran now presents a mighty challenge.  The Bush Administration stayed clear of any thing close to military action relying instead on unilateral (read not too effective) sanctions and name calling.  Bush acted tough but even chicken hawks like Dick Cheney had little stomach for another conflict after having had their lunch handed to them in Iraq.

Now a six month agreement has been negotiated with Iran by a coalition of countries.  This represents a small step forward… maybe.  To Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it represents a great mistake.  If you haven’t been keeping current with the news, tune in and listen to “friends of AIPAC and Israel” parrot Netanyahu’s words.

The gist of the agreement is that for 6 months, Iran will cease enriching uranium.  During this period negotiators will seek to find a more permanent arrangement where presumably the West is assured that Iran will no longer conduct work leading to nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu says “won’t happen”, “can’t happen”, because Iran’s never tell the truth.  Hmmm.

Just as with Saddam Hussein who said Iraq had no WMDs, Iran might be serious about reaching an agreement.  Iran may also just be buying time.  With Iraq the Bush “negotiators” went directly to war and subsequently found out Hussein had been telling the truth.  Following Netanyahu’s advice would have only one outcome… war.

The Iranian nuclear programs are a very serious matter.  On one hand it is highly unlikely that Iran would use a nuclear weapon as a first strike tool.  But most experts predict that other Middle East countries will panic and seek to acquire nukes for themselves.  With the instability we see today in the Middle East, the prospect of multiple nuclear capable countries is not a pretty picture.  No one can predict how such a situation might play out.

So why is Netanyahu acting so obstinate?

Like with “W”, he is playing what he thinks is his best domestic political hand.  Most Israelis do not trust Iran (for many good reasons).  But Netanyahu’s tactics also has the advantage that if this six month agreement does work, he wins too.  If negotiations go bad, Netanyahu can say “see I told you so”, and expect now more support for military action.

The take home message, since no one knows for sure how further negotiations will fair, is to give President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry some room.  If it is war we want, then the “great mistake” will lead us there too.  If it is the avoidance of war (at least for a while), then lets keep talking.

This is not a “peace in our time” speech.  This is a “we do not need a Middle East war at this time” speech.

 

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Explore posts in the same categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Iraq War, Politics, Republican Party

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