Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Full Jane Yell

Hillary Clinton got on the TV machine with Keith Olbermann the other night and tried to explain her comments about Iran. Somewhere along the line she sucked up the malevolent spirit of Holy Joe Lieberman and threatened the Iranians with obliteration if they even thought of nuking the Israelis.

Other than pleasing the Likudnicks and the AIPAC crowd exactly what was achieved here? Israel already has more than enough nukes to really ruin Iran’s day. Hillary did not even mention that fun little fact. Nowhere was a demand or offer to denuclearize Israel made. The whole idea of a shield for the region goes quickly into the dustbin on that small fact alone. Iran is trying to get a bomb to offset Israel’s arsenal. The only way Iran can feel comfortable in the region is if those Israeli nukes go away. Otherwise Israel can always launch a first strike against Tehran for what ever reasons they may deem sufficient.

Israel is not going to give up those nukes unless its neighbors finally recognize its right to exist. There used to be a way to do that before George W Bush stepped into office. It was called being an honest broker in the peace process. Thanks to Bush, Joe Lieberman and our government’s capture by the neo-cons we are totally in the tank to Likudnick aims. We have supported every wrong move of Ariel Sharon and his successors. We even pushed Israel into war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Thanks to that jolly little war Lebanon slipped back into the Syrian fold, Hezbollah ended up stronger and the US lost any credibility it had in the region.

Hillary’s defenders will bring up how “rational” and “smart” a policy of containment is. There is small merit here. The Mideast is not post WWII Europe. The area is much less stable and there are far too many independent actors. There are the Gulf States themselves most prominently Saudi Arabia, then there are Iranians, then there is Syria and finally there are the Palestinians. Mix this in with radical jihadists, unstable authoritarian governments and add a dash of Pakistani proliferation and there is one very dangerous mix.

Stealing a quote from Emptywheel “If Hillary or anyone else is serious about using a security umbrella to foster peace in the Middle East, they're going to have to convince the US to cede at least part of its hegemonic position in the Middle East to a credible security guarantor, France or China. Which, of course, means the US is going to have to free itself from its dependence on oil. So long as we are utterly dependent on oil, nukes will continue to be a going concern in the Middle East.”

Nowhere in her debate with Obama nor with her interview with Olbermann did Hillary even begin to wrestle with that salient fact. Nowhere did Clinton begin to outline what a true policy of non-proliferation would start. No Hillary went straight to saber-rattling, she did not pass go, she did not collect $200.00.

If Hillary partisans want to know why so many people go absolutely manic about “their gal” look no farther; this is exhibit A. She has consistently pandered to the reptile brain of the American electorate. She gave full throated support to George W’s excellent little war and then signed on for Joe Lieberman’s extension. She has consistently gone out of her way to prove what a rough and tough dude she is. She is at best overcompensating for being a woman; she is trying to kill off the “soft on security” meme that is dragged out on every female who runs for high office especially when that woman is a Democrat.

Hillary’s default of going into full Jane yell when national security issues are discussed just rubs many Democrats the wrong way. These people want a total re-think of what national security means. They are sick and tiered of Military action being the default setting for national policy. Hillary’s tendency to speak loudly and carry a big stick wins no friends in the Anti-War crowd. With a disastrous war in Iraq and with Afghanistan going south these partisans see a golden opportunity to rethink American foreign policy. Instead Hillary seems to be going out of her way to continue the same old hegemonic policies we have pursued since the fall of the iron curtain. There seems to be a real lack of seriousness on Hillary’s part; a lack of curiousness; an acceptance of beltway orthodoxy and conventional wisdom. Maybe that is why she has the support of so many Generals and Admirals.

If she was truly serious about non-proliferation she would have offered her support for a new test ban treaty. If she was serious she would have staked out a claim for unilateral disarmament of most of our strategic nukes, she would have definitely would stake out a position banning the use of tactical nukes. If she were serious about non-proliferation she would come out against the missile defense deployment and against Star Wars. If she were serious she about de-nuking the Middle East she would have to speak the truth about Israel’s nuclear stock-piles and how she proposed to get rid of them. Instead she came out and shook her fist at the Iranians; she threatened them with annihilation.

The people and the leadership of Iran know the score; they are not stupid. They know what the results of a first strike against Israel would be. If they are pursuing a weapon the main reason they are doing so is to prevent a first strike by Israel, not to initiate one on Israel. Remember the US is still advocating regime change in Iran. Iran is not stupid; they saw in Iraq what the words “regime change” meant. The challenge here is how we make Iran feel secure in its surrounding so they no longer feel that they need nuclear weapons. This does not mean we acquiesce to Shiite hegemony in the region, it does mean that we find ways for Iran to participate in regional security. This means we have to find a way to really talk to the Iranians. Clinton has failed here; she has let domestic politicking supersede international diplomacy. Bashing the Ayatollahs may help her Scranton but it offers no comfort for the people in Isfahan.

The question Clinton has studiously avoided is; how do we bring about true peace and stability in the Middle East? The corollary is, how do we undo the damage of the Bush years? We are no longer an honest broker. Our policy seems to be tailored more to the needs of Tel Aviv than to Altoona. We have become wedded to the far-right Likud definition of what is good for Israel. The extension being what is good for Israel is good for America. But the USA will not benefit from a weakened Iran any more than it benefited form a weakened Iraq. More to the point were does the USA get off on deciding what governments people in other countries should have? Our meddling in Iran was what started the conflict with that nation in the first place.

It is highly debatable that Hillary really understands the limits of our power. There really seems to be a natural gravitational attraction to military solutions and muscle flexing. NATO is mentioned only as proxy for American power not as independent entity. Hillary just assumes that our partners will step on board and follow our lead. She fails to note that Russia is back as a player in international politics. She fails to note that Europe’s interest and ours no longer are the same. She really seems to miss how power has shifted away from the USA during W’s term in office. Her campaign bombast had to have totally unnerved both the European people and their leadership.

Hillary’s Hawkishness whether real or contrived has been a minus in her account. She has been far too willing to advocate force over diplomacy. For a woman she seems blessedly ill prepared to use a compromising approach. She is far too much like Margaret Thatcher mixed in with Joan of Arc; far too belligerent and ideological to trust. Maybe it is because she is a woman in a man’s world. Maybe it is because she is constantly pressured to show how tough she is. On some deep level she just might have bought into that macho ideology. She might really believe in the hard-ball realpolitik. If that is so we really need to re-think her candidacy. We need to re-think it on Iraq especially. She could easily be made to stick it out in Iraq, to keep the troops in, in order not to look “soft on terrorism.” There are plenty of hard nose realpolitik ways she can justify keeping upward of 90,000 troops in Iraq until 2012. Tear away the words and what you will hear loud and clear is Hillary in full Jane yell.
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