The Senate Armed Services Committee held its own hearing today on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, which regrettably went about as well as the other congressional hearings on the issue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Republican presidential candidate and one of his party's most unyielding hawks, got especially animated during an exchange with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter:
GRAHAM: Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins? CARTER: No, the United States... GRAHAM: We win!
The senator seemed pleased with himself, though this doesn't exactly help the Republican cause. For proponents of the agreement, the concern has long been that GOP lawmakers want to kill the diplomatic deal because they want a military confrontation with Iran. Republicans usually make a point to deny this, instead saying they prefer a "better" diplomatic solution.
Graham, however, is less subtle -- his line of questioning suggested the United States would win a war, which makes war an appealing alternative.
The administration's cabinet secretaries seemed visibly irritated with Graham's grandstanding, and they didn't make much of an effort to debate the South Carolina senator, but I would have enjoyed some additional debate on this. It's true, of course, that in a conventional conflict that pits the U.S. military against the Iranian military, the latter wouldn't stand much of a chance.
And while that may be the end of the conversation for Graham, responsible policymakers have to wonder: "win" at what cost? What are the security implications of the U.S. launching yet another Middle Eastern war? How long would the war last and with how many casualties? What happens after our "victory"?
"Do you have any doubt who wins?" No. Does Graham have any doubt that such a war would be incredibly costly?
If you watch the four-minute clip, and I'd recommend it just to see Graham's righteousness when he's in high dudgeon, note that the senator also claims, in reference to the Ayatollah Khomeini, "I know the man. I know what he wants."
Graham does not know the Ayatollah Khomeini.
And please don't miss the exchange at the 2:47 mark, when Graham asks Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about his Iranian counterpart, and when Moniz tried to respond to the question, the senator replied, "You don't have to answer." The look on Moniz's face at the 2:51 mark is perfect in every way.