David Broder, the "dean" of the Washington press corps (I'm just repeating the cliche, not endorsing it), in a column about President Obama's 2012 reelection chances, says that a resurgent economy would obviously help lift the President's approval numbers, and what would really help the economy surge may be an armed confrontation with Iran:
Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.
Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.
I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.
And they call me a warmonger!
Andrew argues that Broder's column is "clinically nuts." I have to agree. Part of the reason it's nuts is that it is so obviously wrong on the alleged economic merits of armed confrontation with Iran. How would war in the Persian Gulf possibly help the American economy? Or, to ask the question another way, are there any economists out there who are arguing that eight-dollar-a-gallon gasoline is the key to lowering the unemployment rate? Via Andrew, Blake Hounsell notes that:
...World War II brought the United States out of the Great Depression because it was a massive economic stimulus program that mobilized entire sectors of society. Today's American military has all the tools it needs to fight Iran, and there isn't going to be any sort of buildup.
I see a different challenge to Obama on Iran in the coming months: Agitation by Republicans to speed up the confrontation clock. Obama is proceeding at a deliberate pace on Iran, offering incentives to negotiate, and backing-up these incentives with credible, broad-based sanctions. I don't know that the Obama approach will ultimately work, and it is true that he may ultimately find himself choosing between two unpleasant options -- containment, or military strike -- but for now he is on the right path. Even Benjamin Netanyahu understands this. So why doesn't David Broder?