Many of the jingoistic yahoos who have managed to get themselves elected to Congress in recent years would struggle to find Iran on a map, but they have no trouble declaring their willingness to start a war there. They are not waiting for the Obama administration to actually reach an agreement that would curb Iranian nuclear weapons development before they condemn the accord and call for a military attack.
Let’s face it, most of the Republican opposition to making a deal with Tehran is reflexive. If Barack Obama is for it, they are against it. Secretary of State John F. Kerry could bring home a treaty in which the Iranians promise to bake apple pies, play baseball and convert to Christianity and the GOP response would be the same: Obama has sold out Israel and betrayed America — let the bombing begin!
One guy who does know where Iran lies on a map — because he knows where all the oil in the world is buried — is former Vice President Dick Cheney. On a conservative radio talk show this week, Cheney condemned the yet-to-be-completed deal with Iran and appeared to buy into the right-wing meme that the president is not merely inept, but anti-American.
“I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing,” Cheney said.
Leaving aside the fact that “our allies,” the United Kingdom, France and Germany, are negotiating right alongside the United States to reach a diplomatic solution that would keep Iran from building nuclear weapons, and leaving aside the fact that Cheney is talking about the president who has overseen an escalation of drone strikes against terrorist targets and the killing of Osama bin Laden, what Cheney and the other neoconservative hawks really do not like is that Obama has a preference for talking before shooting.
Remember, these are the men who brought us the war in Iraq, who claimed American troops would be greeted as liberators in Baghdad and who said that fight would be over in a matter of months and come with negligible cost. Now, their newest champion, Arkansas’ GOP Sen. Tom Cotton, is saying much the same about Iran. Cotton claims it would take just “several days of air and naval bombing” to decimate Iranian nuclear facilities. Apparently, he believes it would all end there with no repercussions and no new tide of retribution unleashed. A number of American military leaders sharply disagree, but what do they know about war compared to Cotton, the youngest senator in Washington, who has been on the job for less than four months?
Cotton, at least, did military service in Iraq. That is unlike Cheney and other belligerent neocons who managed to avoid fighting in the various wars they have supported, from Vietnam on down. Even when the president is one of their own, the hawks start squawking when there is too much talking. They went ballistic when Ronald Reagan came close to negotiating a complete elimination of nuclear weapons with Mikhail Gorbachev. They were deeply disappointed when George H.W. Bush failed to drive all the way to Baghdad to bring down Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.
In the present situation, Republicans can see no way short of bombing to keep Iran from cheating and getting nukes. They seem to forget the successful example of America’s Cold War containment policy. For half a century, the United States faced an enemy vastly more powerful than Iran without coming into direct military conflict. Presidents of both parties reached a series of pacts with the Soviets to keep nuclear weapons in check. Eventually, the Soviet Union collapsed and everyone cheered.