“Iran becomes an issue in Democratic contest,” today’s Washington Post informs us. But it turns out that the issue, from a Democratic perspective, is not whether we should do anything serious to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. All of the Democratic presidential contenders agree that we shouldn’t use force against Iran, but should instead try to talk Iran out of taking the course of action that will guarantee its regional dominance and help protect it from regime change. Instead, the great debate among Democrats is whether we should dare speak candidly about Iran.
The debate centers around a resolution passed by the Senate that urged President Bush to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. There’s no genuine dispute that the IRGC fits this description, and none of the serious Democratic candidates denies it. Moreover, unlike the question of whether Turkey committed genocide 90 years ago, the status of the IRGC is relevant to today’s world. Finally, unlike Turkey, Iran is an enemy of the U.S., not its ally.
Accordingly, Hillary Clinton voted for the resolution. That vote has produced harsh criticism from Barack Obama (even though he skipped the vote), John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson. They argue that the designation of the IRGC as terrorists could embolden Bush to take unilateral military action against Iran.
The argument is absurd. If Bush decides to attack Iran, he’ll either seek congressional approval (as he did with Iraq) or he won’t. If he does, the prior vote on the status of the IRGC will be of no consequence when it comes to the separate issue of whether to wage war on Iran. If, on the other hand, Bush thinks taking on Iran is so imperative that he needs to bypass Congress, it will hardly be because of any congressional vote about the status of the IRGC. Surely, the Democrats understand by now that Bush does not take his cue from Congress when he forms his judgments about the world and how to deal with it.
Even so, it’s difficult to blame Obama and the others from seizing upon Hillary’s vote. The Democratic base is so stridently pacifist and so paranoid about Bush that even a non-issue like this one has the potential to generate heat. Clinton certainly sees this danger. According to the Post, she has “flooded Iowa with a mailer that included a lengthy letter from the candidate explaining why she supported [the IRGC] measure.”
It’s not easy being a semi-serious figure seeking the nomination of a frivolous party.
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