Saturday, July 31, 2010

will Obama bomb Iran?

Ah the 'Polls' and the fickelness of American public opinion ...WaPo/ here

".... Whatever progress Iran may make toward weapons of mass destruction, European diplomats and statesmen are likely to parade to Washington, concede America's concerns, affirm its intelligence findings -- and reject its policy recommendations. The United States would be advised to be patient and restock its economic sanctions kit for one more run at Tehran. In private, many strategists would summon their inner George Kennan and advise Washington that containment has worked with more powerful and unpredictable tyrants and can surely handle cautious mullahs and their rudimentary weapon. Washington would have to choose between an international coalition pledging rigorous containment of Iran, and the lonely, unpopular path of taking military action lacking allied consensus.

Domestic consensus would be critical as well. One of the tragedies of American history is that presidents have too often entangled the country in conflicts without forthright conversation with the public. Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson engaged in their share of measured mendacity as they plunged the United States into very different wars. More recently, Bush's decision to preemptively invade Iraq was characterized by exaggerated threats and faulty information.

Obama came into office pledging a new politics of accountability and responsibility, suggesting a predisposition to engage the public on the possibility that the United States may find itself in a prolonged war with a damaged but dangerous adversary. From town halls to college campuses, the president and his advisers would need to connect with civil society, clergy and university students -- not to mention Congress -- on this critical issue.

The direction such a debate would take is hard to predict. According to a February Gallup poll, about 90 percent of Americans believe Iran poses a serious threat to U.S. vital interests; 61 percent assessed the threat as "critical." A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted in April found that 65 percent of Americans favor military force as a way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Yet, if skepticism about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is any indication, Americans are also tired of war, while doubts about the accuracy of U.S. intelligence probably remain from the run-up to the Iraq war. A February CNN/Opinion Research poll indicated that only 23 percent of Americans agree with military action against Iran "now."...

The views and reactions of the Arab world would also be relevant....

There are plausible developments that could render this scenario moot. Iran has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is prepared to resume negotiations after Ramadan on the transfer of nuclear fuel to third countries for enrichment. And in the face of strong sanctions, the mullahs may well blink.

But to avoid the grim future postulated here, Iran would have to leave behind its peek-a-boo negotiating tactics and sign up for intrusive inspections and tight limits on its uranium enrichment activities. The record on this score is not encouraging, with decades of sanctions impeding but not blocking Iran's progress to nuclear weapons capability. Thus, the world imagined here may not constitute destiny -- but it will be hard to escape."

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