The experienced former U.S. officials Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett had an important op-ed in Politico yesterday titled The Slippery Slope to Strikes on Iran. In it they warned that “there is a serious risk that President Barack Obama may eventually be maneuvered into ordering military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.”
The Leveretts note the key role that high-ranking National Security Council officials Tom Donilon and Dennis Ross have been playing in pushing the administration towards a more and more confrontational stance against Iran. They note that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been trying, with apparently mixed success, to push back against that pressure:
- Gates believes the United States does not need to go to war over Iran’s nuclear program. He is strongly supported by the senior uniformed military leadership, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
Dennis Ross, let us remember, joined the administration after a stint as the founding President of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Public Policy Institute. Prior to that he was the many-times-failing “czar” of Arab-Israeli peacemaking on behalf of the Clinton administration.
In the Politico piece the Leveretts write this about the strategy that has apparently been pursued inside the Obama administration by Ross, ever since he joined it:
- Ross told us before he returned to government service in the Obama administration, [that] President George W. Bush’s successor would probably need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.
Pursuing diplomatic initiatives early in Obama’s tenure, Ross said, would be necessary to justify potential military action to domestic and international constituencies.
I believe Ross also wrote that, quite clearly, in the book “Myths, Illusions, and Peace”, published last July, that he co-authored with David Makovsky.
Of course, Dennis Ross and Tom Donilon are far from the only influential members of the US policy elite who have been pushing for a U.S. military attack against Iran for some time now.
Indeed, we can see all those same actors now using exactly the same kinds of tactics that were used to “seduce” the U.S. public into supporting the aggression against Iraq, back in 2003, now being rolled out once again to “prepare” us for another act of military aggression, this time against Iran.
We U.S. citizens who want to halt this “slippery slope” slide into a new war need to start taking some much more focused action to prevent it.
In the Leveretts’ schema, “containment”, as advocated by Gates and Co., is presented as the path that is significantly less escalatory and risky than “crippling sanctions” and other moves toward escalation and a possible military action, such as are advocated by a growing chorus of political figures (ably orchestrated by AIPAC.)
But containment can also be seen as an approach embodying many very unhelpful– and also potentially escalatory– elements of coercive diplomacy. Especially if it is pursued hand-in-hand with actions intended to build up a “deterrent threat” to back it up.
Those deterrent threats were on full display in the Obama administration’s latest Nuclear Posture Review (PDF), which by clear inference exempted Iran (and South Korea) from the stated guarantee that U.S. nuclear weapons would not be used against non-nuclear-weapons states. (See the President’s own explanation of this policy, here.)
“Containment” can thus be seen as a pivot policy: It could be a gateway drug on the way towards either escalation or de-escalation. And thus far– as the Leveretts continually point out– Obama has done very little indeed to test what he might obtain in terms of furthering our country’s true interests by pursuing a determined policy of de-escalation toward Iran, through a smart and serious form of real diplomatic engagement with it.
Of course, the fact that he has Dennis Ross almost at his elbow there in the White House, now exerting reportedly ever-greater influence over both our country’s Iran policy and its Palestine policy, probably has a lot to do with Obama’s failure to fully test out the potential of diplomatic engagement with Iran.
But honestly, why should he trust Dennis Ross’s judgment on anything out there in the real world (as opposed to in the fevered imagination of longtime Israel-firsters)? Ross was a notable failure, in American terms (if not Israel’s), during his first long stint in Mideast diplomacy. And he’s shown no signs of having understood the world any better, since then.
Secretary Gates, by contrast, is someone who– along with Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mullen– bears direct line responsibility for the welfare of U.S. troops all around the world, including the hundreds of thousands of troops now deployed close to Iran, and in situations where they are deeply dependent on the goodwill of well-rooted Muslim countries.
Why on earth would the president even listen to Dennis Ross, rather than to the advice of those two extremely serious leaders over there in the Pentagon? Some friends suggest that this is due to considerations of domestic policy. I certainly hope not– though I fear this may be the case.
That just means that those of us– surely a strong majority– who do not want our country to get jerked by cynical Lobbyists into yet another war in which our service-members die needless deaths far from home while the military contractors get another big chance to raid our treasury, need to make our voices heard now. If there is a “domestic calculus” that Obama is in some way playing to in this matter, then evidently we need to change it.
Contact your members of Congress and tell them “No war or escalation against Iran! Get back to the diplomacy now!”