"When Barack Obama strode on stage to scold Iran for its failure to disclose the existence of a second uranium-enrichment facility in the country, his message was timid and at times almost apologetic. When the tough language came, it was because French president Nicolas Sarkozy had taken the podium. Sarkozy excoriated the Iranians for their deception, saying that the revelations have caused "a very severe confidence crisis" and issued a time-specific warning about oft-threatened (but never implemented) sanctions. "We cannot let the Iranian leaders gain time while the centrifuges are spinning," he declared. "If by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be imposed."The above is one of several pieces I have seen since the UN meetings began that essentially says, "France's Sarkozy talks tougher than Obama" and the comparison is made to paint Obama as weak. Its trash talking foolishness. Lets bottomline it. If push comes to shove on Iran, the US is going to do the shoving. There won't be a frenchman anywhere to be found if the time comes to dance with Iran. Someone remind me: how many French combat troops are on the ground in Iraq? In Afghanistan they number about 2,000 or so mostly stationed in and around Kabul (not where the real heavy lifting is going down).
I really want to understand the logic of all these people who are so hot to mix it up with Iran and spend so much time trying to paint Obama as a coward. First off, Obama's diplomatic dance is actually Bush's diplomatic dance. This is the same policy people, for the same reasons. The consequences and unknown impacts of large scale military action against Iran are no joke. Bush hesitated to pull such a trigger and Obama isn't jumping to do it for the same reasons. Lets be clear about the realities of such an action and likely aftermath. George Friedman summarizes nicely:
First, a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be no one-day affair. Intelligence on precise locations has uncertainty built into it, and any strike would consist of multiple phases: destroying Iran’s air force and navy, destroying Iran’s anti-aircraft capability to guarantee total command of the skies, the attacks on the nuclear facilities themselves, analysis of the damage, perhaps a second wave, and of course additional attacks to deal with any attempted Iranian retaliation. The target set would be considerable, and would extend well beyond the targets directly related to the nuclear program, making such an operation no simple matter.
Israel could unilaterally draw the United States into an airstrike on Iran. Were Israel to strike Iran by any means, it most likely would lack the ability to conduct an extended air campaign. And the United States could not suffer the consequences of airstrikes without the benefits of taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Apart from the political consequences, the U.S. Navy would be drawn into the suppression of Iranian naval capabilities in the Persian Gulf whether it wanted to or not simply to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. Even if Iran didn’t act to close off the strait, Washington would have to assume that it might, an eventuality it could not afford. So an Israeli attack would likely draw in the United States against Iran one way or another. The United States has had no appetite for such an eventuality, particularly since it considers a deliverable Iranian nuclear weapon a ways off. The U.S. alternative — in both administrations — was diplomatic.
Second, Iran has the ability to respond in a number of ways. One is unleashing terrorist attacks worldwide via Hezbollah. But the most significant response would be blocking the Strait of Hormuz using either anti-ship missiles or naval mines. The latter are more threatening largely because the clearing operation could take a considerable period and it would be difficult to know when you had cleared all of the mines. Tankers and their loads are worth about $170 million at current prices, and that uncertainty could cause owners to refuse the trip. Oil exports could fall dramatically, and the effect on the global economy — particularly now amid the global financial crisis — could be absolutely devastating. Attacking Iran would be an air-sea battle, and could even include limited ground forces inserted to ensure that the nuclear facilities were destroyed.
This is what we're talking about people. Bush hesitated rightly to jump this off, and Obama is not doing anything different. There was a strategic rationale for doing Iraq, one I don't quibble with, but we're in Iraq 6+ years because we didn't think through some of the angles. What is it that these dweebs at the Weekly Standard and all those who want to make a game out of calling the President weak want to have happen? Are they really so cavalier about the costs and consequences of putting a hit on Iran? We're talking about jumping off open warfare with a regional power by severely bombing the place for at least a week, a country that we don't intend to occupy and couldn't if we wanted to. Its absolutely irresponsible.
I agree that their is some uncertainty about the character of Obama's cahones in these matters. As has been asked elsewhere, Obama is loved in many places, but does anyone fear him? Obama is aware of the sentiment at home and in foreign capitals that he is weak. The time may come that he's going to have to do something seriously unpleasant to someone to make his point. But there is no intellectual or patriotic honesty in goading the President into being some kind of cowboy with regard to Iran. The consequences of military action are serious and unforeseeable, particularly in a time when the global economy is still a fragile mess. The reality is that Iran is still some ways off from a viable nuclear weapon. If he can contain Iran's nuclear ambitions by getting Russia to deal on crippling sanctions and using diplomacy, that is preferred to the alternative and the unknowns that come with it.
For heaven's sake, cease and desist with the comparisons to Sarkozy for toughness. When it comes time to play globo-cop, that 911 is not going to ring at Sarkozy's desk. It is EASY for Sarkozy to talk tough, because when it comes down to it, he is not the one who's going to have to face off against Iran. That's going to be Obama's job. When France becomes the country that gets the call to kick butt and take names, then feel free to tell me all about how Sarkozy is such a badass. Until then, please shut the hell up.