The President’s press conference wrapped up, and the focus was mostly on Iran, to the exclusion of even a single question about Eric Holder’s asserted right to kill American citizens without a trial. I still think that the President ran the risk of walking into a cul-de-sac by asserting that the Administration didn’t have a “containment policy” on Iran. But it’s fair to say that his focus has been on the near-term consequences of Israel acting along to strike at Iranian facilities. He also took aim at the amped-up rhetoric at home pushing the world into war over the issue; in his presser, he had some pretty strong words about that:
At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view — that’s the view of our top intelligence officials, it’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials. And as a consequence, we are going to continue to apply the pressure, even as we provide a door for the Iranian regime to walk through, where they could rejoin the community of nations, by giving assurances to the international community that they are meeting their obligations and they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon. That’s my track record.
Now, what’s said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not commander in chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded of the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.
This is not a game, and there’s nothing casual about it. And, you know, when I see some of these folks who had a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them, specifically, what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.
Now, the one thing that we have not done, is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.
Considering how seldom we ever open a public debate about the “costs of war” in America, I think that’s pretty refreshing. And I do think there’s been an emphasis on the consequences of “loose talk of war” on the part of the Administration, where there’s probably at least some divide on the issue. Obama specifically rejected the notion that there’s a fateful window of a week or a month to bring the Iranian issue to a resolution. He’s trying to lower the temperature, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
I just think that’s an impossible task in the middle of the lion’s den at the AIPAC conference. And the most crucial actor in this whole debate is Benjamin Netanyahu, who does not give off the profile of a patient man. And this is where the “no containment” rhetoric gets everyone into trouble. Netanyahu can merely say he’s adopting the same policy as the President of the United States, a policy of making sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. The red lines might be different – Netanyahu draws it at a capability – but he can muddy those waters. It’s not whether Obama will get trapped by his rhetoric so much as whether Netanyahu will. And try as he might, Obama has not been able to tone down Netanyahu’s rhetoric.