Kevin Drum has an astute comment up at Political Animal about the brouhaha over Sy Hersh’s New Yorker piece on Pentagon planning for a possible nuclear air strike against Iran:”The United States military has contingency plans for everything, they say, so it’s hardly a surprise that the military has contingency plans for Iran. William Arkin even tells us their names: CONPLAN 8022 and CONPLAN 1025.”You’d think maybe the President of the United States would make this point, if he addressed the topic at all. But here’s what Bush actually said at an appearance at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS today:
… We hear in Washington, you know, “prevention means force.” It doesn’t mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you’re reading is wild speculation. Which is, kind of a — you know, happens quite frequently here in the nation’s capital.
Maybe it’s just me, but given the elaborate recent revelations of the extent to which the administration secretly and systematically planned its Iraq campaign, and its manipulation of Congress and the public to secure the right to pursue it, the “prevention doesn’t mean force” and “wild speculation” arguments, coming from George W. Bush, aren’t terribly credible, are they?But it gets worse the more you think about it. Kevin Drum raises the possibility that a little buzz about the possibility of military action might encourage the Iranians to take negotiations to rein in its nuclear program seriously, and observes: “A subtle and well orchestrated game of chicken might be appropriate here. But please raise your hands if you trust this crew to play a subtle and well orchestrated game of anything.”And that gets right to the heart of one of the great under-acknowledged blows to national security created by this administration’s behavior in going into and prosecuting the war in Iraq. Its mendacity, secrecy, recklessness, disregard for world or regional opinion; its defiance of military and diplomatic advice about the consequences of an undermanned invasion and a cavalier, let’s-make-some-money occupation; and its perverse, election-driven determination to divide the American people by deliberately misrepresenting almost every fact about its reasons for going into Iraq and for staying there: all these decisions have undermined this country’s credibility in facing future national security threats, including that posed by Iran.Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it becomes necessary a few years down the road to seriously rattle sabers at Iran. I don’t think there’s much doubt that a Democratic administration would have far more credibility and support in rattling those sabers convincingly, and in convincing others to rattle sabers as well.My colleague The Moose suggests today that the Bush administration’s reputation for impulsive international behavior might help deter Tehran. That’s one way of looking at it. But the other way of looking at it is that threats–especially empty threats–from this administration provide Iran with the comfortable assurance that any overt move towards military action under George W. Bush will meet a firestorm of protests not only throughout the Middle East and in Europe, but in the United States itself.These guys have blown the one opportunity they had to demonstrate that unilateral U.S. military force is the indispensable source of security and stability for a troubled world. I doubt they will be vouchsafed a second chance. The case for a regime change in Washington must include the argument that true national security requires different leadership.