The debate over U.S. policy towards Iran has been strikingly consistent for months. As we talked about in July, the Obama administration has made lawmakers’ choices abundantly clear: members can allow the international, diplomatic agreement to move forward, or they can push us closer to yet another military conflict in the Middle East.
Republicans and their allies like to call this the “false choice.” U.S. conservatives don’t want a war, they insist, they just want a different diplomatic solution. What might that alternative policy look like? Republicans, at least for now, haven’t the foggiest idea, but they’re reluctant to endorse yet another military confrontation in the Middle East.
That is, at least most of them are reluctant to say so publicly. Some, as TPM reported yesterday, are a little more candid.
In a speech slamming President Obama’s Iran deal – which Congress is debating this week – former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that only the threat of military action could prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program.“As soon as President Obama went on Israeli TV and effectively ruled out the option of force, the Iranians knew that they had won,” Cheney said, speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute.
Let’s pause to note that, in our non-Cheney reality, President Obama never ruled out the use of force. In fact, in reality, President Obama did the opposite. Either Cheney is once again confused by the basics of current events or he’s once again deliberately trying to mislead the public.
But the failed former vice president “went on to outline previous circumstances when the U.S. and its allies used force to attack a country’s nuclear weapons program.”
Cheney added, “Iran will not be convinced to abandon its programs peacefully unless it knows it faces a military action if it refuses to do so.” (Let’s note for context that officials in the Bush/Cheney administration concluded that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “would be a bad idea – and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.” Cheney, in other words, couldn’t even convince members of his own team to follow his lead.)
Meanwhile, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton offered House Republicans advice on national security last night, and just two weeks ago, Bolton declared, “If the real objective is stopping Iran… preemptive military action is now inescapable.”
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have also both offered enthusiastic support when discussing the prospect of a war with Iran.
And in a way, that’s probably a good thing – not as a matter of foreign policy, but as a way of defining the terms of the debate.
When far-right politicians pursue a course that pushes the nation closer to an armed confrontation, but they do so while claiming they don’t necessarily want a war, there’s a misleading confrontation at the heart of their rhetoric.
Republicans insist that the White House is presenting a “false choice,” but it’s not nearly as false as they care to admit. GOP officials can’t have it both ways – they can’t credibly argue, “We don’t want a war with Iran, but wouldn’t a war with Iran be awesome?”