“Clintonizing” Perpetual War

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In the winter of 2002, a close friend, a liberal staffer on Capitol Hill, asked  me if I thought the crazy fulminations of the neocons and the tough-guy rantings of an insecure President [1] could result in a war with Iraq?   My answer was something like ‘read the Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and you will get a good idea of how these pressures can take on a life of their own and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.’

President Obama — perhaps inadvertently — is playing the same game with regard to Iran by trying neutralize his political opposition at home with a dangerous mutation of Bill Clinton’s cynical triangulation strategy.  In this case, the goal of the triangulation strategy is to pull the rug out from under the Republican warmongers like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  If he can co-opt the domestic political pressures for war against Iran, Mr. Obama may well think he can better position himself for the upcoming presidential election.

  But in so doing, he would be running a real risk of starting yet another ill-conceived war, whether he wants to or not. (Patrick Seal explains one way the march to war could spin out Obama’s control at this link.)  To make matters worse, Mr. Obama is a man who has demonstrated that he talks a good line but fails to deliver on his promises when under pressure — just ask the Arabs about his Cairo speech or progressives who believed his promises about health care reform and “change you can believe in.” Whether or not triangulating questions of war and peace is a question of Obama’s free will is quite beside the point:  a malleable man is playing with the most dangerous kind of fire.

My last post, Beating the War Drums in Versailles on the Potomac, described the buildup of domestic political pressures to launch an attack on Iran in the name of preempting Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, notwithstanding the fact that there is no solid intelligence proving the Iranians have embarked on a program to acquire those weapons.

This aim of this post is to alert interested readers to another analysis in the same vein, but analyzed from a different angle.  In The Winners and Losers of US Policy on Iran, an op-ed that appeared in Al Jazeera (English) on 23 December,  Jasmine Ramsey provides a useful insight in to the warmongering pressures on a president prone to appeasing his opposition for domestic political reasons.

The new year is shaping up to be a very dangerous one, because appeasing an external aggressor, like Adolf Hitler, is not the only kind of appeasement strategy that leads to war.


[1] Any president who feels it is necessary to brag about being “The Decider” is insecure by self-definition.