David Sanger of the New York Times has a new book out on Obama’s foreign policy. He was on Terry Gross’s show, Fresh Air when he made the statement in the headline. So, Iran is a threat to the U.S. on a par with the militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are at war with the U.S.? I’d have hoped that Terry Gross, the best broadcast interviewer, would have asked him why in the heck Iran is a direct threat to the U.S. But she didn’t.
I’ve included in the excerpt a question about what disclosures made him queasy. Again, Iran stuff. Why? Is this the new cold war? With a country of 70 million that as Steve Walt notes has launched no wars in a period in which Israel and the U.S. have launched a dozen?
GROSS: Tell us about President Obama’s use of power and his foreign policy.
SANGER: I found striking that when President Obama came to office and vowed to get the country out of its defensive crouch, he talked a lot about restoring traditional American engagement – that he, you know, would talk to our adversaries. And his supporters I think found in this a sort of moment where he was turning away from the sort of with us or against whites of the Bush years. And his critics, including some Democrats, including at one point Hillary Clinton, found naivete and softness.
And I think both sides have been surprised. I think the left has been surprised by his aggressiveness; the drone attacks, the bin Laden raid, Olympic Games [code for Israeli-U.S. computer initiative aimed at Iran]. I think that many others have been surprised that his use of American power has been very direct when there has been a direct threat to the U.S., but he has insisted that other countries take the lead when our interests are somewhat remote and theirs are direct. Think Libya, even think Syria, where he has demanded that the Arab League or NATO or others take the lead. And he's been very criticized about this by, among others, Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee - or I guess now the certain Republican nominee - for ceding American leadership. And I think that is the essence of the Obama doctrine, that he acts quite strongly and quite unilaterally whether the U.S. has direct interest. But he is trying to force the rest of the world to pay for it and take the price when it's not, and throughout he is quite insistent on very in and out U.S. action. No more long occupations. No more costly wars. And this is part of the limitations of living in this age of reckoning, where we simply can't afford to do what we've always done...
GROSS: re you queasy at all that anything you've revealed in this book is going to hurt our national security?
SANGER: You know, Terry, it's a subject I take very seriously, and the program that you described before, Olympic Games, the program against Iran, is something I was particularly concerned about in that case. And I went off and had some very serious conversations with members of the administration, where I described to them what I discovered.
And basically the way I ended up writing about this was that anything that was historical, anything the Iranians have already figured out about what they were being attacked with and who was attacking them, I felt perfectly free to publish and I describe in here some detail about the president's personal involvement in the program, which I suspect the Iranians didn't know but suspected.
Here, by the way, is Steve Walt's war tally. His post is called the arrogance of power. Once again, the realists are to the left of the left:
Since World War II, the United States has fought at least eight wars (Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq War I, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Gulf War II), and we've intervened in other countries countless times. Israel has fought at least six wars since independence (the 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six Day War, 1969-70 War of Attrition, 1973 October War, 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and 2006 war in Lebanon), and it started the wars in 1956, 1967, 1982, and 2006. It has also conducted innumerable cross-border raids and covert actions. Iran has fought one war during that same period -- against Iraq -- and only because Saddam Hussein attacked. It has also provided material support to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, but its overseas activities are paltry compared with ours.