I was somewhat horrified to find out that a possible source for David Broder's article advocating that President Obama bomb Iran to shore up the economy and ensure his re-election in 2012 may have been George Friedman's recent STRATFOR column. Here are the startling paragraphs in Friedman's analysis.
If Obama were to use foreign policy to enhance his political standing through decisive action, and achieve some positive results in relations with foreign governments, the one place he could do it would be Iran. The issue is what he might have to do and what the risks would be. Nothing could, after all, hurt him more than an aggressive stance against Iran that failed to achieve its goals or turned into a military disaster for the United States.
So far, Obama’s policy toward Iran has been to incrementally increase sanctions by building a weak coalition and allow the sanctions to create shifts in Iran’s domestic political situation. The idea is to weaken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and strengthen his enemies, who are assumed to be more moderate and less inclined to pursue nuclear weapons. Obama has avoided overt military action against Iran, so a confrontation with Iran would require a deliberate shift in the U.S. stance, which would require a justification.
The most obvious justification would be to claim that Iran is about to construct a nuclear device. Whether or not this is true would be immaterial. First, no one would be in a position to challenge the claim, and, second, Obama’s credibility in making the assertion would be much greater than George W. Bush’s, given that Obama does not have the 2003 weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle to deal with and has the advantage of not having made such a claim before. Coming from Obama, the claim would confirm the views of the Republicans, while the Democrats would be hard-pressed to challenge him. In the face of this assertion, Obama would be forced to take action. He could appear reluctant to his base, decisive to the rest. The Republicans could not easily attack him. Nor would the claim be a lie. Defining what it means to almost possess nuclear weapons is nearly a metaphysical discussion. It requires merely a shift in definitions and assumptions. This is a cynical scenario, but it can be aligned with reasonable concerns.
My head is still swimming with the concept that any U.S. president, especially one so closely following the Bush 43 administration, would even think to claim that he was justified in ordering an attack on Iran because that country was about to construct a nuclear weapon - regardless of whether it was a true statement. Now Friedman goes on to blithely say, sure, there are considerable risks, but there aren't any other real foreign policy success stories out there for Obama to claim and use toward his 2012 re-election campaign. I think he's completely wrong.
I'm not going to lay out a long article on what Obama's foreign policy options are and where he should go, but I'm betting that if he focuses on cleaning up Bush's wars in the Middle East, continues to push Israel toward the two-party state solution, works on China and Russia to be more cooperative partners in Asia, helps Europe through its financial crises and military malaise, and works on Mexico's tilt toward becoming a failed state, he'll have a full foreign policy agenda and one that would be viewed favorably by the US public if successfully concluded. I can't think of anything worse than to involve ourselves in another Middle East war before the 2012 election.
I have a lot of respect for Mr. Friedman and I enjoy his books. But in this case, I really have to say, what the hell were you thinking? Or more obviously, were you thinking only with the neocon side of your brain?