Can you believe that Joe Lieberman? Iran has gone to war with us, sending troops across its border with Iraq to kill perhaps as many as 200 of our soldiers, and Lieberman wants to stop them.
His gall doesn’t end with saying that Iran should be asked to quit it, which the administration has done. He has gone so far as to propose we take military action against the base where hostile soldiers are being trained.
He is not talking about a massive ground invasion. Some say that could be disastrous, and he figures it’s not necessary. Air power ought to do the trick, he says, adding that military strategists are the ones who actually ought to decide such things. Simply getting serious and telling Iran what’s coming and meaning it might do the trick, too, which is to say, Lieberman has gone much, much too far.
After all, no one likes tough talk. It makes our enemies nervous, and also many of those who are supposedly our friends, people of the appeasing type who worry more about diplomatic niceties than defending U.S. troops from harm.
Tough talk makes people nervous in this country, too, especially some Democrats. Lieberman is not one of those anymore. He used to be, even to the extent of running for vice president on a ticket with Al Gore. But his outrageous common sense about terrorism cost him a Democratic primary in his most recent run for the Senate. He had to make it back to that body as an independent.
The really irritating thing about Lieberman is not just that he thinks there really is a terrorist threat that must be thwarted, but that his arguments in this case are so hard to refute. Hitting back could be necessary, he says, to give the United States a chance of winning the Iraq war. Flub that, as we may eventually discover, and the terrorist threat on our own shores will be much greater.
There is another issue, too, that it seems to me resides behind this one. Showing some backbone against Iran in this way and others might give it some pause about its plans to develop nuclear weapons, the last thing we want to do, of course.
Imagine that the portion of the world we might reasonably call civilized stood up as one and said, no ifs, maybes or buts, Iran, know this: If you don’t quit your nuclear-development activities, we will encircle you economically, cut you off, let you shrink to a kind of nothingness. And if you nevertheless persist, if you keep strutting about with your insane rhetoric about destroying Israel while simultaneously devising the means to do just that and possibly blackmail Europe and even begin a monstrous nuclear conflagration that could engulf the Middle East and spread beyond it, we will take joint action to defang you — to destroy your nuclear facilities and neuter your armed forces.
The message might continue by reminding Iran that, if it will agree to give up its killer ambitions, the West stands ready to assist in peaceful nuclear development for energy purposes, in trade that will further enrich Iranians and in helping assure it of security from outside threat.
If the decent nations of the world really did that, and did it decisively with feet planted firmly and no more tiptoeing about, you might get Iran to start behaving reasonably on the nuclear front, just as Lieberman’s proposal might get Iran to back off in its military aggression against U.S. forces.
“We cannot let them get away with it,” the Connecticut senator is quoted as having said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” after a visit to Iraq. “If we do, they’ll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home.”
Words such as those — the light of reason and enlightened self-interest shining through them — are surely regrettable. Other ideas about standing up to Iran as if it matters — as if the risks of the moment are nowhere near the risks we might face in the future — should surely be put aside.
Or maybe not.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)