Tom Hayden: It's About War and Peace, Not Simply Race and Gender
The decisive issue in this election is about war and peace, between Barack Obama's proposed diplomacy with Iran to end the war in Iraq, and the hawkish stance of his two rivals, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who favor an escalating the tensions with Tehran even to the point of war.The mainstream media, and some of the blogosphere, continue to miss the danger of an escalated war as they blog and dabble over race, gender and numbers of pledged delegates.
The anti-war movement and most Democrats have been fairly silent about these differences as well.
The facts, however, are simple, as follows:
The Bush administration, many neo-conservatives, and Israeli officials have busily built the case that Iran is an "existential threat," and that the coming months represent a "now or never" moment to attack Iran before a new president takes office.
With sufficient US political and military backing, the Israelis seem set to go.
Clinton has voted to identify Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist organization." The White House and Gen. Petraeus have asserted that Iran is directly and indirectly responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq. Those two elements are a sufficient cause to go to war.
Clinton has said the US could "obliterate" Iran if they attacked Israel, and threatens "massive retaliation" to protect Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran. There has been virtually no media discussion of this NATO-like proposal for the Middle East.
Both Clinton and McCain deride Obama's offer to open unconditional talks with Iran. Obama himself appears to be adjusting, or backing away, from his original straightforward proposal. He needs to stiffen, realize this is what the election is about, and fight back, with allies at his side.
Instead of stumbling over the nature of direct diplomacy [with whom, where, with what preparations], Obama should rely on his strongest arguments.
The bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Study Group proposed US-Iran negotiations as essential to finding a political solution in Iraq. Former CIA chief John Deutch says the same thing. Iraq needs a non-aggression agreement and trade with the US; in return, the US needs Iran's acceptance of an orderly withdrawal from Iraq without the country falling into greater civil war. The issue of nuclear power needs to be negotiated on a separate track, according to Baker-Hamilton.
Barack should not seem to over-promise the results of diplomacy, which could provoke more attacks on his resolve and experience. But he can easily remain assertive against the failed and obviously hypocritical notion of never talking to our adversaries.
It's more simple than he says.
John Kennedy talked with Nikita Khrushchev, and nuclear war was averted.
Richard Nixon talked with Mao tse-Tung, and commercial competition replaced a military confrontation.
Look where non-talking gets us. We refuse to talk to Cuba, leaving us diplomatically and commercially isolated from the continent and world.
As for rank hypocrisy, the Bush administration is already talking with North Korea and, in a limited way, with Iran.
The possibility of avoiding a broader war may rest on whether Obama wins this debate.