Open Zion

10.01.12

Let's Debate An Iran Attack

The Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Fox News yesterday, discussing President Obama's Iran policy:

When he puts the military option on the table, he does it in a way that doesn't have credibility because his administration sends out mixed signals such as, they are more worried about an Israeli attack than Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

What Ryan means is that Obama administration officials, at times, have elucidated possible consequences of launching a war with Iran. They think the combination of unprecedented pressure and diplomacy still have a chance to work, especially since Iran seems to them to have not made a decision to build a nuclear weapon—yet, at least. The Obama team seems to realize the gravity of taking advantage of this window, especially since attacking—in addition to myriad other consequences—could cause the international coalition for sanctions to crumble and spur Iran's head honchos into withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and actually hand down the order to produce a bomb.

"Now we have to speak with credibility," Ryan said. "That means a Romney/Ryan administration will be one of credibility where we don't establish daylight between our allies, especially Israel." But what if Israel is the one putting daylight between itself and America, as seems to be clearly happening with Benjamin Netanyahu's push for the U.S. to adopt a lower threshold for war? Obama, after all, remains steadfast in the same "red lines" he long ago set: Iranian bomb production. Are we talking about having no "credibility" or no debate?

The tensions here arise from the notion that democracies decide to go to war as nations, not by dint of decree. When another country's government—even a close ally—is calling for moving the U.S. toward war, the need for this debate shouldn't fall by the wayside. As Peter wrote, the debate should become more robust. Quiet, diplomatic machinations with allies have their place. This isn't one of them.