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Tonight's debate: What Obama can't say about Romney, Bibi and Iran

Americans should be scared to vote for Romney, but they’re too scared and antagonistic toward Muslims for Obama to tell them why. 

Tonight’s Obama-Romney foreign policy debate is no doubt going to go heavy on the issues of Iran and Israel. By rights, Obama has a powerful argument to make against his opponent, one that, in a more perfect America, could scare a lot of those “floating voters” who’ve deserted him into floating back to his corner. And it wouldn’t be demagoguery – it would be taking a legitimate fear of a Romney presidency, one that’s based strictly on the candidate’s own words, and focusing in on it. In a more perfect America, Obama could do that tonight; in America such as it is, he can’t.

The argument to be made is that if Romney gets elected, there’s a much greater chance America will go to war in Iran, because when it comes to Iran – or anything else having to do with Israel and the Middle East – Romney swears by everything Bibi Netanyahu says. He keeps stressing that there must be “no daylight” between America’s policy and Israel’s. Well, Israel’s policy on Iran, as laid out for a decade or more by Netanyahu, is that America should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to rubble, and that if America won’t do it, Israel must.

While Romney hasn’t committed himself to attacking Iran, he has very publicly agreed with Netanyahu that the bar for American military action should be set much lower that where Obama has put it. According to Obama’s strategy, which calls for attack if and when Iran starts weaponizing its nuclear program, war is not inevitable. According to Netanyahu’s strategy, which calls for an attack if Iran continues to refuse to dismantle its nuclear program, war is already overdue. From the New York Times story on Romney’s fundraising speech in Jerusalem at the end of July:

Mitt Romney said Sunday that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capability should be America’s “highest national security priority,” stressing that “no option should be excluded” in the effort. …

While the Obama administration typically talks about stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Mr. Romney adopted the language of Israel’s leaders, who say Tehran must be prevented from even having the capability to develop one. …

Mr. Netanyahu, whose relationship with Mr. Obama has been rocky, was generous in his praise of Mr. Romney. “Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think it’s important to do everything in our power to prevent the ayatollahs from possessing the capability” to develop a nuclear weapon, the prime minister said earlier in the day.

In case anyone missed Romney’s statement, he repeated it in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.

It’s bad enough that a candidate for president has emphatically and proudly enslaved much of America’s foreign policy to that of a foreign country and its leader. But on Iran, Romney is enslaving America’s policy to that of a foreign leader who very plainly wants America to go to war – yesterday.

I believe this would scare a lot of independent or undecided voters out of voting for Romney – if they understood the importance of what he’s saying, which Obama could certainly explain to them tonight. But Obama won’t, or at any rate he won’t do so bluntly enough to scare people, because it would backfire terribly. If the president were to attack Israel’s policy toward the Iranians, the Palestinians or anybody else, it would immediately translate in the current American political environment as support for terror. If you oppose Israeli policy, you support Israel’s enemies, and Israel’s enemies are America’s enemies – the Islamic world, the terrorists. That, finally, is the Israeli war camp’s strongest card in the U.S. – not the Israel lobby, not evangelical Christians, but post-9/11 American Islamophobia, which spreads well beyond Israel’s right-wing American Jewish and Christian fans. 21st century American Islamophobia lets Bibi get away with anything. It’s going to be in Romney’s corner tonight, and if Romney wins on November 6, it will amplify Netanyahu’s calls for war.

For this reason alone, Americans ought to be scared of electing Romney. Unfortunately, they’re too scared and antagonistic toward Muslims to hear about it, especially from someone whose middle name is Hussein.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Mareli

      I hope that Americans are so sick of war that they vote against anyone who talks about involving the US in another one. With the unpopularity of the Afghan war this is a real possibility. Americans do not like the idea of being the dog wagged by an Israeli tail, especially when our own military experts question the feasibility of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities via bombing raids. Netanyahu may have overplayed his hand earlier and has backed off on his previous interference in the US election on Romney’s behalf. We’ll see how the debate on foreign policy and its fallout plays, but I expect Obama will outshine Romney unless there is a repeat of debate #1, which I doubt.

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      If Israeli apologists want to eliminate daylight between Israel and the US, they should tell Israel to move closer to the US, not the other way around.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jeff

      “For this reason alone, Americans ought to be scared of electing Romney. Unfortunately, they’re too scared and antagonistic toward Muslims to hear about it, especially from someone whose middle name is Hussein.”

      Yet they, myself included,overwhelmingly voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein 4 years ago. Hmmm. For someone who writes like a fear monger you sure spend a lot of time calling others scared.

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      What Derfner apparently can’t say: the root of the problem lies in the Lobby and its fellow-travelers who’ve been fomenting Islamophobia and Iranophobia on behalf of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        “the root of the problem lies in the Lobby and its fellow-travelers who’ve been fomenting Islamophobia and Iranophobia on behalf of Israel.”

        Not quite so.

        Muslims have managed to create conflicts anywhere they are present in relatively large numbers.

        During last couple decades Muslims waged wars in:
        Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kashmir, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Kuwait, Eritrea and Sudan.

        Muslims oppress indigenous population in Russia, France, Holland, Belgium and UK.

        Muslims have killed hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of their own kin in Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Syria, not even mentioning ongoing manslaughter of Kurds by Iranians, Turks and Iraqis.

        Anti-Islamist movements in Europe are not in rise due to the Lobby activity. Nah. People just got to know what really is the price of being neighbor of Muslims.

        P.S. Obviously not ALL Muslims are rapists and murderers, however lack of condemnation make one think that those who refrain from killing themselves at least secretly condone it.

        Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      And so we see the results of Islamophobic propaganda. Congratulations for helping to make the point.

      The killings in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, to take one set of your examples, can more accurately be attributed to Serbian genocide against, among others, Muslims.

      What you ignore in your zeal to spread hate speech is that Obama and Romney aren’t talking about Europe, they’re talking about the US. Where the large Muslim population engages in none of these activities. Terrorist acts in the US are more likely to be committed by white supremacists than Muslims.

      None of which has anything to do with the ongoing warmongering against Iran, which is where Derfner gets it wrong.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Aristeides,
        I’m afraid I did not help you to make a point just yet.

        1 – Your view on Balkan war is entirely incorrect. Product of EU/USA anti-Serb propaganda I suppose.

        Just one example: “In the prelude to the conflict in late 2000, groups of armed Albanians started opening fire on Macedonian police and security forces located on the border with Kosovo.”

        Albanians – Muslims, opened fire on Macedonians, Christians, who before gave refuge to more than quarter million Kosovars.
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurgency_in_the_Republic_of_Macedonia

        2.1 – US is not as far from Europe as you think, they are not sending newspapers by ocean ships, you know.
        2.2 – Large Muslim population? Are you kidding? There is mere 3 000 000 Muslims in USA, less than one percent.
        2.3 USA and some European countries happen to be members of certain organizations, such as NATO and others, which means that electoral changes in these countries are of great concern to USA.

        3 – All Iran has to do to once and for all get rid of all and any warmongering is provide IAEA access to it’s peaceful nuclear facilities, as they are obliged to do by international law, btw.

        It is foolish to think that Islam expansion to Europe and Iran’s non-compliance to the non-proliferation treaty are not concerning US politicians.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Nikki

      great analysis

      Reply to Comment

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