Omid Memarian

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hillary's Judgment Was Wrong About Iraq --And It's Wrong About Iran

(Published in Huffingtonpost)
During the past months Senator Clinton has tried to portray herself as a most capable potential president who will be ready to spring into action on day one, somebody who can wake up at 3 a.m., pick up the red phone, and make extraordinary decisions based on her experience in dealing with national security issues. She has a variety of qualities when it comes to her experience, but is dealing with national security issues one of them? It doesn't seem so.Buzz up!The idea of Clinton waking up at 3 a.m. and making an extraordinary decision -- probably on how to confront U.S. adversaries -- does not fit her experience, particularly on the two most crucial national security issues, if we can call them this: Iraq and Iran.

It does not need to be 3 a.m. to make a crucial decision. Clinton authorized the war with Iraq when she had enough time to think about the consequences of her decision for the United States and beyond. She was fully awake when deciding to launch a war that has taken the lives of hundred thousands of Iraqis and Americans and used up billion of dollars so far; a war that spread terrorism beyond Afghanistan's borders. No doubt there was no Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq before the U.S.'s invasion in 2003.

But this crucial war authorization was not her only major wrong decision. She voted yes on a Sept. 2007 Senate resolution calling on the administration to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. This was a resolution sponsored by Republican Senator Kyle and co-sponsored by Senator McCain.

For those familiar with the national security issues and particularly U.S.-Iran relations, this was seen as the most aggressive step toward military action against Iran by the Bush administration. This resolution basically calls a part of Iran's official army a terrorist organization and makes it legitimate to confront them with force, making them a target in the vague undefined "war on terror."

At the time the resolution was passed, U.S. officials repeatedly accused Iranians of involvement in the rise of insurgency and IEDs in Iraq, but presented no solid evidence. This resolution was the outcome of the administration's long-time campaign to sway public opinion in favor of war, a trick to secure authorization for another military attack.

The Bush administration was not successful in continuing down its warmongering path only because this resolution was shortly followed by the release of the National Intelligence Estimate (PDF), which basically said that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon program. This had the effect of throwing cold water on the fire-breathing atmosphere created by the Pentagon and the hawkish part of the administration. The NIE changed opinion dramatically, both domestically and internationally, for the administration to use military force only as the last option against Iran. But the question is why, and based on what intelligence and analysis, did Clinton line up with neoconservatives in support of the resolution?

During the past days, she has blamed Senator Obama for "missing in action" when he "failed to show up for a vote dealing with Iran." Yet what Obama chose to do showed his superior sense of judgment on vital national security issues. I think these two examples are enough to illustrate why it scares me when I imagine the day Clinton wakes up at 3 a.m. wanting to make a decision on the most crucial of national security issues.

Sometimes when I listen to Clinton talk about her experience in national security, I think I am listening to Madeline Albright, secretary of state during her husband's administration. To make her resume long and heavy might grab attention in TV ads but does not work in action at 3 a.m. In politics, it really does not matter how many years somebody has occupied a seat in Congress, in the Senate or in the White House. Politics is a sphere of moments and right judgments, and there are many politicians who have lost their credibility, not over their long life service to their country, but for the few wrong decisions they have made in crucial times.

It doesn't matter it is 3 a.m. or 5 p.m., what matters is the right judgment at the right time.


At 6:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the September 24, 2004 edition of the Chicago Tribune:

September 25, 2004

U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama suggested Friday that the United States one day might have to launch surgical missile strikes into Iran and Pakistan to keep extremists from getting control of nuclear bombs.

Obama, a Democratic state senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood, made the remarks during a meeting Friday with the Tribune editorial board. Obama’s Republican opponent, Alan Keyes, was invited to attend the same session but declined.

Iran announced on Tuesday that it has begun converting tons of uranium into gas, a crucial step in making fuel for a nuclear reactor or a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency has called for Iran to suspend all such activities.

Obama said the United States must first address Iran’s attempt to gain nuclear capabilities by going before the United Nations Security Council and lobbying the international community to apply more pressure on Iran to cease nuclear activities. That pressure should come in the form of economic sanctions, he said.

But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.

“The big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures, including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point are we going to, if any, are we going to take military action?” Obama asked.

Given the continuing war in Iraq, the United States is not in a position to invade Iran, but missile strikes might be a viable option, he said. Obama conceded that such strikes might further strain relations between the U.S. and the Arab world.

“In light of the fact that we’re now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in,” he said.

“On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. … And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.”

As for Pakistan, Obama said that if President Pervez Musharraf were to lose power in a coup, the United States similarly might have to consider military action in that country to destroy nuclear weapons it already possesses. Musharraf’s troops are battling hundreds of well-armed foreign militants and Pakistani tribesmen in increasingly violent confrontations.

Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently.

“With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.

“… I think there are elements within Pakistan right now–if Musharraf is overthrown and they took over, I think we would have to consider going in and taking those bombs out, because I don’t think we can make the same assumptions about how they calculate risks.”


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