Only Richard Nixon, whose political career was launched and sustained by an ostensibly militant anti-communism, could have traveled to China, and — with conservative support — effected a de facto strategic alliance with a country long considered an implacable enemy. This Nixon-to-China meme is regularly invoked as aphoristic evidence that we must expect the unexpected, and it comes to mind when considering the prospects of an impending military conflict with Iran: it occurs to me that only Barack Obama, who won the White House in large part due to his opposition to the Iraq war, could take us to war with Iran, and rally liberals and much of the left behind it.
Oh, I can hear the outraged howls of protest from the Obama cult, but consider:
The president has already set a September deadline for Iran to respond to our as-yet-informal proposal to negotiate over the completely phony nuclear issue — an oddly confrontational approach to opening the first on-the-record high level talks with the Islamic Republic since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.
The nuke issue is phony because our own intelligence community, speaking through the CIA, determined "with high confidence" the Iranians gave up their nuclear weapons program in 2003. Yet Obama has repeatedly said Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. The great sigh of relief we all breathed when the CIA assessment was made public last year — effectively blocking any last-minute attempt by the Bushies to strike Iran in the waning days of Dubya’s reign — gives way to new anxieties.
The evidence that Obama is ramping up the US effort to encircle and eventually strike at Iran is building: added deployments to Afghanistan and our increasing intervention in Pakistan can always be attributed to the vagaries of the Af-pak front, but one can’t blame the Iranians from looking at it differently. The US military presence, to the south and the east, is looming larger. This, in tandem with an apparent hardening of the US stance — e.g. the "muscularity" of Hillary Clinton’s most recent peroration — can only be seen by Tehran as prefiguring war.
The spin prior to delivering her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations was that this was going to be a "muscular" speech, and indeed it was: threatening to use the military to "defend our interests, our allies, and our people" when it comes to Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, she declared, with typical Clintonian glibness: "this is not an option we seek nor is it a threat; it is a promise."
With those words, the first rhetorical shots of the third Middle Eastern war — and potentially the most devastating, both to the region and our national interests — have been fired. The phraseology is almost Bushian in its studied belligerence, and it is most certainly not a précis to a rapprochement with Tehran.
This is just about what any observer of the scene would have expected from our Secretary of State, given her past statements — the most recent being her threat to launch a "first strike" (her words) on Iran — and her ongoing refusal to retract her enthusiasm for the Iraq war. Indeed, in her comments to George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," she held up the invasion of Iraq as a model for how to deal with the Iranians.
As I pointed out on the occasion of her appointment, the State Department is going to serve as the War Party’s operational command post in this administration, and Hillary’s war cry delivered in the form of a speech is the signal that the push for war has begun. The CFR speech was widely touted as auguring Hillary’s great comeback, after taking a nasty fall, and her rising prominence and visibility puts an all-too-familiar face on American foreign policy, one that hasn’t changed in any but a cosmetic sense, at least as far as Iran is concerned.
Obama, consumed with the rapidly deteriorating US economy, will let Hillary define the terrain on which the conflict with Iran will unfold: the stage is being set. The actors take their places, and, amid frantic preparations taking place behind the curtains, hardly suspected by the audience, the drama takes its preordained course.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.