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April 22, 2008

Nuclear War
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I do agree with Matt.  Hillary Clinton made a mess of the whole nuking Iran question.  From a reality perspective, the idea of Iran actually launching a nuclear attack against Israel is far-fetched.  And Israel has a nuclear arsenal that is perfectly capable of deterring Iranian aggression.  But there are some things that  Presidential candidates shouldn't be speculating about, precisely because they send mixed messages to allies and adversaries and create strategic confusion.  We shouldn't be having discussions of nuclear umbrellas for the entire Middle East right now.  It's just unnecessary and does no one any good.

Hillary should have taken the same position she did in the October debate.

Williams: Respectfully, Senator, same question though: Do you have a threshold, a red line beyond which...

Clinton: I want to start diplomacy. I -- you know, I am not going to speculate about when or if they get nuclear weapons.

We're trying to prevent them from getting so. We're not, in my view, rushing to war. We should not be doing that, but we shouldn't be doing nothing, and that means we should not let them acquire nuclear weapons. And the best way to prevent that is a full court press on the diplomatic front.

It's an annoying answer.  It seems evasive.  I still prefer Obama's approach of more direct talks with Iran.  But seriously, Presidential candidates should probably just refrain from talking about hypothetical nuclear war.


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Hillary it seems has always been a hawk. She did start off of as a Goldwater girl, and Goldwater wanted to use nulcear weapons against North Vietnam. She has continued hier hawkish trend by not only voting for the war in Iraq, but also for a resolution supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and finally the Kyl-Lieberman bill. I'm beginning to wonder if her foreign policy is that much different from that of John McCain.

We shouldn't be having discussions of nuclear umbrellas for the entire Middle East right now. It's just unnecessary and does no one any good.

Exactly. Momentous strategic decisions about the employment of the US nuclear arsenal should not be made on the fly in the course of a Presidential campaign.

But the most worrisome thing about Clinton's answer, to my mind, is not that she would contemplate offering a nuclear umbrella to Israel to deter Iranian attack. I actually welcome these discussions, because they underline the fact that, whatever ones views of Iran's nuclear intentions, Iran can and should be treated as a normal state that can be deterred from aggression in the ways states are always deterred from aggression. This is a big improvement over the Ledeenite neocon view that Iran is predominantly a deeply irrational country run by a bunch of fanatical, Mahdi-awaiting, suicide-bombing seekers of martyrdom who cannot be deterred in the conventional way.

The real problem with Clinton's answer is that she seems to have bought into the Bush-neocon plan to create a new sort of bipolar Cold War in the region, oragnized around the containment of Iran by an Israeli and Sunni Arab bloc. That's bad news.

US policy should be to help build a multilateral balance of power in the Middle East. This requires making an opening with Iran, encouraging Iran to participate in the stabilization of Iraq, and changing our outdated policy of putting all of our Middle East eggs in the Saudi and Israeli baskets.

Hi IIan,

Krauthammer was saying something very similiar just last week to what Clinton said today. Scaife will be pleased. But even the US military's own guide to the rules of war notes there's a case to be made that threatening nuclear attacks when one's own state (i.e. the US, not Israel) isn't under an actual and imminent existential threat is a crime under international law. My post is here, btw (in blatant blogwhoring style).

Regards, C

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