Romney and Obama: No Real Difference on Iran Rhetoric
A few quick observations, since I'm on the road:
1) Tom Friedman's column today: I agree with much (or most) of what he says (except for his calling the Western Wall the "Wailing Wall," which I find inexplicable coming from Tom), but I wish Tom would express his anger at his fellow Jews with slightly more calibration and coolness. I understand the heat, but I don't think it's helpful -- it's actually harmful to the cause of convincing the mass of mainstream Jewry that certain Israeli policies are ultimately self-destructive;
2) Gore Vidal: Speaking of the Times, if you want to understand Vidal's relationship with Jews, don't bother reading the Times's obituary -- it elides all the nasty parts. This post will give you a fuller understanding of Vidal's special relationship.
3) I know the conventional wisdom casts the Romney visit to Great Britain, Israel and Poland as a disaster, but it seems as if the people who think it's a disaster aren't people who would vote for Romney in any case. On Romney and Iran, Blake Hounshell, of Foreign Policy magazine, has a smart piece up about the scant difference between the two candidates's positions on Iran. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's an excerpt that has to do with the growing feeling that confrontation is inevitable:
Washington reporters and policy wonks have been playing the "will they or won't they?" game on Iran for years. And until recently, the consensus was that Israel and the United States were, in fact, bluffing -- that to get other big powers to go along with tougher sanctions, they had to persuade them that they might indeed attack.
But now, that consensus seems to be shifting as Iran nears what Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak calls the "zone of immunity" -- when Iran has enough enrichment capability buried safely beyond the reach of Israeli bombs that its program will be impossible for the Jewish state to stop on its own
U.S. military leaders have hinted that the United States has a bit more time; American B-52s and massive bunker-busters can still do the job if it looks like Iran really is about to get the bomb. And given that the International Atomic Energy Agency, for all its doubts about Iran's intentions, has never conclusively determined that Iran wants the weapon, it may be years before we reach that point, if ever.
Still, diplomacy and sanctions have yet to show that they can change the calculus of Iran's leaders. The Islamic republic has been isolated from the world economy for three decades. It suffered through a devastating war with Iraq in which it sent unarmed children barefoot across landmines. This is not a country that buckles easily under pressure.
And at this point, given how politicized this showdown has become, it's hard to imagine a deal that both sides can accept. Here, again, the differences between Romney and Obama don't really matter -- Romney has ruled out any enrichment whatsoever, while Obama will accept some -- because neither is good enough to pass muster in Tehran.
One more thing: Jonah Goldberg makes some interesting points about the greatest threats facing the U.S., in reference to my recent exchange with Conor Friedersdorf. Jonah's basic point: There are theoretical threats, and then there are real threats. There are, of course, theoretical threats that seem more dangerous than the threat of a nuclear Iran, but they are just that: Theoretical.