Wright: Obama is ‘drifting toward war with Iran’ out of ‘pathetic’ fear of blowback from the lobby

Israel/Palestine
on 33 Comments

The best evidence of the new consensus is the presence of Robert Wright at the Atlantic. Here’s a very positive writer who did nothing on the Israel/Palestine question for years but who cares deeply about religious/political questions and he’s suddenly in it and up to the hub, because he recognizes the importance of this issue to our national security, our moral standing, and probably world peace too… And he’s not going to be intimidated. It’s thrilling in a Frank Capra kind of way. 

I’m excerpting the beginning of his big post on Obama, the lobby and Iran. The piece delivers on the promise of these paragraphs, and it ends with talk of Obama’s “slightly pathetic submission” to the lobby, and a dollop of Wright’s American optimism. Yes we can lick the lobby.

The most undercovered story in Washington is how President Obama, under the influence of election-year politics, is letting America drift toward war with Iran. This story is the unseen but ominous backdrop to next week’s Moscow round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

The basic story line, pretty well known inside the beltway, is simple: There are things Obama could do to greatly increase the chances of a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, but he seems to have decided that doing them would bring political blowback that would reduce his chances of re-election.

The good news is that Obama’s calculation may be wrong. The blowback he fears–largely from Bibi Netanyahu, AIPAC, and other “pro-Israel” voices–is probably less forbidding than he assumes. And the political upside of successful statesmanship may be greater than he realizes.

I believe this is a new consensus: outspoken Americans are actually building a new understanding in the global discourse, that the United States is hamstrung by the special relationship with Israel.

More evidence. Steve Walt has been smeared countless ways by the neoconservatives, but if you get outside their sphere, he’s a leader. He’s in Tokyo; Japanese academics and a Japanese thinktank invited him over to tell them about the Israel lobby!

I had a lengthy meeting with a group of Japanese scholars yesterday morning and delivered a lecture on the impact of the Israel lobby on Obama’s Middle East policy yesterday afternoon.

Dershowitz is in the White House, but Rob’t Wright is in the Atlantic and Walt is in Tokyo. We’re going to win.

P.S. David Bromwich beat Wright with the same title in Huffington Post last week four months back: Obama’s Drift Toward War With Iran. And he made some of the same points. “To whom has he delegated the matter of Iran? Dennis Ross above all — the member of the DC permanent establishment who is most reliably associated with the Israel lobby.” More to come.

33 Responses

  1. Ira Glunts
    June 15, 2012, 11:29 am

    Good catch Phil. The Wright article is well worth a complete read.

    He points to the insanity of demanding a complete halt to Iranian enrichment, which of course is guaranteed by the NPT. There is a link to the Clinton testimony in the article.

    Everyone who’s paying attention knows this. Indeed, that Iran could eventually enjoy the right to enrich uranium, so long as tight monitoring was in place, is ‘the position of the international community, along with the United States,’ Hillary Clinton said last year in congressional testimony.

    Here is one quote from the article that struck me. It is the conclusion.

    In any event, what we’re seeing now–a grim, uncreative, and slightly pathetic submission to the winds of war–is not what I expected from the man who got people chanting, “Yes, we can.”

    It is difficult to believe that only a few years ago it was verboten to mention the lobby in the mainstream media. The Iran story has totally shattered what was left of that taboo. The problem is that the increased exposure does not seem to have weakened the lobby’s power.

    • snowdrift
      June 15, 2012, 3:21 pm

      It is difficult to believe that only a few years ago it was verboten to mention the lobby in the mainstream media. The Iran story has totally shattered what was left of that taboo. The problem is that the increased exposure does not seem to have weakened the lobby’s power.

      That’s because there are subjects which are Serious, and subjects that are unSerious. Talking about the lobby is now more or less allowed, but it’s still rather unSerious.

      What I do like about this article is that it goes further than just talking about the lobby; it has an adversarial slant and says outright, “the lobby can be defeated.”

      But I don’t share the now-reflexive assumption that the Israel lobby is an awesome force that renders resistance futile. (Only last week the vaunted AIPAC machine faltered, as a congressional candidate strongly opposed by AIPAC defeated the AIPAC-approved candidate.)

      So the author is one step ahead — he’s not just saying there’s a lobby, he’s also saying that you can drive a stake in it. And for politicians, it’s more of the latter message that’s needed. Everyone that matters knows full well there’s a lobby, it’s the perception that they’re unavoidable kingmakers that has to be shattered.

      But I think talking about the lobby will only become a Serious topic that might eventually gel into conventional wisdom when they’re regularly talking about it on the TV networks.

      • Philip Weiss
        June 15, 2012, 4:14 pm

        when you can talk about it, it will start to back away into the forest in shame

      • lysias
        June 15, 2012, 5:05 pm

        Only last week the vaunted AIPAC machine faltered, as a congressional candidate strongly opposed by AIPAC defeated the AIPAC-approved candidate.

        Not only defeated. Slaughtered. Over 60%. And in a heavily Jewish district that includes, for example, Fair Lawn.

      • American
        June 15, 2012, 6:59 pm

        “But I don’t share the now-reflexive assumption that the Israel lobby is an awesome force that renders resistance futile.”

        I never have believed that the lobby is undeafeatable.
        The lobby can be defeated the same way they got so much control….by messenging the public to influence them.
        Articles like this, books, the net, MW, ect…it’s growing and growing.

        There is one thing that has protected the Lobby from being attacked and exposed long ago except by a brave few and that is the Jews and the Holocuast and Anti semitism connection…that has been the lobby’s/Zionist most powerful weapon….the ‘Israel is for the Holocaust Jews’ premise. No one wanted to go there and attack them because of that for a long time but the aggression of the zionist themselves has made it necessary, and easier, to go there now. So in a way the Zionist are contributing to their own demise with their very loud mouthpieces for Israel and very public presence in our government and the bizarre importance political candidates put on Israel in public speechs and campaigns.

  2. Theo
    June 15, 2012, 11:54 am

    One must ask: how many dead americans and iranians must we have to guarantee Obama his 2nd term?

    • German Lefty
      June 15, 2012, 12:30 pm

      how many dead americans and iranians must we have to guarantee Obama his 2nd term?
      Personally, I don’t care about how many dead American soldiers there would be. If they voluntarily participate in the attack of yet another country, then their death would be their own fault. No sympathy for the perpetrators. Iranians have the right to defend themselves if they are attacked.

      • Theo
        June 16, 2012, 8:40 am

        Lefty

        You are not being fair! The german government has a small army in Afghanistan and during the past 10 years over 100 german soldiers were killed and they killed probably a lot more afghans. Remember Colonel Klein who alone have over 70 of them killed? Do you care for any of them?

        I personally feel sorry for any human being perished and only wish the politicians and the generals would be up front! Their death would not be a loss.

      • German Lefty
        June 16, 2012, 2:27 pm

        @ Theo:
        What makes you think that I am not fair? Soldiers who start wars (or assist in starting wars) don’t deserve sympathy if they get killed or wounded. Their nationality doesn’t make any difference to me. They are contract killers, who make a living by taking lives. The attacked nation has a right to defend itself from these perpetrators.
        Nowadays, the military consists of volunteers. This means that soldiers are NOT sent to war. They participate in it, because they choose to. If they collectively rejected the politicians’ call for war, then there wouldn’t be any wars. It’s the soldiers who make war a reality by voluntarily implementing the politicians’ decision. It’s the soldiers who are responsible for all the death and destruction in war zones. People must NOT blindly follow the “orders” of their politicians.
        Regarding the Afghan people: They are the victims here, because they didn’t choose to participate in this war. The war was forced on them.
        Now, do you still think that I am unfair?

    • Denis
      June 15, 2012, 12:41 pm

      Now there is a fascinating, albeit macabre, thought.

      All the talking heads, and each voter, should be doing that sort of analysis. Here’s how to choose a candidate:

      1. For each candidate estimate how many Americans will die in combat and terrorist attacks over 4 years of that candidate’s presidency.

      2. For each candidate estimate the number the innocent civilians that will be killed by Americans during that same period, including by drone-hits and by flipped-out soldiers on mid-night shooting sprees who will later plead PTSD.

      3. Divide the number of dead innocent civilians from Step 2 by at least 2 b/c Americans don’t really care about them anyway.

      4. Add the numbers from Step 1 to the numbers from Step 3 and compare the total estimated carnage (TEC) for each candidate.

      If you are a hawk or a Northrop Grumman share-holder, vote for the candidate with the largest TEC. If you are a dove, vote for the candidate with the smallest. If you are Iranian, put the calculator down and start digging your bunker deeper b/c time’s running out.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    June 15, 2012, 12:27 pm

    RE: “There are things Obama could do to greatly increase the chances of a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, but he seems to have decided that doing them would bring political blowback that would reduce his chances of re-election.” ~ Wright

    MY COMMENT: I have decided that come hell or high water I will not be voting for Obama this November!
    Jill Stein for President – link to jillstein.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      June 15, 2012, 12:42 pm

      P.S. I’m through with being a battered wife voter!

    • Keith
      June 16, 2012, 1:36 pm

      DICKERSON3870- “Jill Stein for President”

      She gets my vote!

    • German Lefty
      June 16, 2012, 2:39 pm

      I have decided that come hell or high water I will not be voting for Obama this November! Jill Stein for President
      Good decision! What pisses me off is that the US mainstream media totally ignore the existence of third parties. MSNBC, for example, constantly praises Obama as the lesser of two evils, as if there were no other alternatives.

      • Keith
        June 16, 2012, 7:21 pm

        GERMAN LEFTY- “What pisses me off is that the US mainstream media totally ignore the existence of third parties.”

        What do you expect them to do? Publicize a potential threat to their power and privilege? The mainstream media are part of the propaganda system which manufactures consent. Those that go along can make money, those that don’t go out of business. Responsible journalism is a myth. As long as the citizenry goes along with this and votes against their own interests, nothing will change. The way things look now, nothing is going to change, except to get worse. Come November, the majority of Mondoweiss liberals are going to vote for Obama. Count on it.

  4. MHughes976
    June 15, 2012, 2:11 pm

    Well, I’m still hard to persuade about this. I’d suggest that if Obama wanted war with Iran he would have cried havoc and released the dogs already so that the immediate economic damage (which he must consider and fear) would be safely behind him amid a glow of real or apparent victory before the voting machines whirred into life. There are no major speeches making thunderous threats. The other western nations, which this time would all be highly reluctant, are not being prepared. In the ME, at least the wider beyond-Palestine ME, we have evidence that there is, but for American intervention, a rough balance of power between Israel and Iran, which was why the Battle of the Tree a couple of years ago, ideal pretext that it was, was rapidly calmed down by both sides. Has the balance really swung in favour of Israel since then?
    Well, I could be proved wrong at a week’s or a moment’s notice. Really hope I’m not.

    • American
      June 15, 2012, 2:45 pm

      I have given up trying to figure Obama out.
      I am tempted to vote for him as the lesser evil but not sure how much ‘lesser’ evil in this election.

      However I agree he doesn’t want a Iran war and in a second term he would harder to push into it so I probably will have to vote for him with fingers crossed.
      Overall I am disgusted with the Dem liberals and repulsed by the Republicans.
      No where for most Americans to go. The fringes have both parties.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 15, 2012, 4:29 pm

        He’s not a lesser evil on the crimes against the Palestinians. He’s the same evil, and maybe worse. We expect reactionaries to take the side of the devil. There’s no excuse for Democrats to do that, simply because they don’t want to tell a part of their party to stop supporting evil.

      • American
        June 15, 2012, 7:01 pm

        You could be right Woody, I don’t know any more..it’s all a crap shoot.

      • Theo
        June 16, 2012, 8:45 am

        Woody, you are right!

        Obama is a slimy little liar, bends with a nice warm wind if it carries a lot of cash. With Bush we knew what we had, with this Uncle Tom the future is wide open, all the way to a WWIII.

    • ToivoS
      June 15, 2012, 2:55 pm

      Hughs I think you misunderstand Bromwich’s and Wright’s message. I agree with them that Obama does not want a war with Iran. They are arguing that Obama’s passivity in the face of lobby and Israeli pressure is allowing a very dangerous situation fester and unforeseen circumstances could result in war. I think that Obama is trying to use the negotiations with Iran as a means to continue a cease fire at least until November. Once the election is past (and if Obama wins) he can sign a deal with the Iranians. It might work. But for sure Israel and her allies will not be sitting still during the next 5 months.

      • MHughes976
        June 15, 2012, 6:29 pm

        Maybe I was a bit unfair to them – will re-read!

    • Keith
      June 16, 2012, 7:57 pm

      MHUGHES976- “I’d suggest that if Obama wanted war with Iran he would have cried havoc and released the dogs already …”

      No, much too early for an October surprise. Or, perhaps after the election. No need for an invasion. A bombing campaign which does extensive damage to their oil fields would demonstrate to them their vulnerability and to the Chinese that the US has the power to interdict their oil supplies, hence, China has no hope of securing oil/gas safe from potential US disruption, oil and gas pipelines notwithstanding. This is bigger than AIPAC, the future of empire could be at stake. US/NATO are on a military offensive. All of the countries identified by General Wesley Clark for regime change, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan, have been defeated or are under attack. Both Syria and Iran are under ‘low intensity’ attack by special operations forces. Obama’s public reticence is pure political theater.

      • Keith
        June 16, 2012, 7:58 pm

        In a possibly related event, I recently saw a trailer for a new movie depicting the successful escape and rescue of a few of the American civilians from the American embassy in Iran from when that was taken over by Iranian ‘mobs.’ Coming soon, the story of innocent Americans escaping Muslim terror. Interesting timing. Hollywood always glad to do its part to demonize ‘enemies. We have got to defend ourselves, don’t we? My God, you want these fanatics to get nuclear weapons, etc, etc.?

  5. American
    June 15, 2012, 2:17 pm

    “I believe this is a new consensus: outspoken Americans are actually building a new understanding in the global discourse, that the United States is hamstrung by the special relationship with Israel.”

    This reminds of something Steve Clemons wrote on TWN a long time ago. It was a sort of ‘ cryptic’ piece, actually it was very cryptic, about a unnamed group of Americans who were becoming ‘ a loose confederation’ (as Walt describes the Israel lobby) of people opposed to the Israel influence in America. He was also bemoaning the fact in that piece that WASP don’t encourage their children to go into politics or government careers, said they were shirking their duty by not being more involved in their country’s governance.
    This article at TWN was before Carter’s book and people like, Freeman, Hagel, W&M and etc. started coming out on Israel and the Lobby and I have wondered since as we have seen more ‘coming outs’ on Israel if there was some initial agreement or ‘connection’ among the Israel -US critics, some communication or support going on. It would stand to reason that like minded people would form some connection with each other for support, particularly in a cause where they are going to be breaking thru something like the Israel taboo. It also stands to reason that unlike the Zionist, they wouldn’t want to be seen as a organized or public group because of the Jewish relationship to Israel and anti semite accusations around Israel criticism.
    However I think now the Israel issue is becoming more like open warfare between the pro and con Israel camps because the zios pushed it to that level with all their character assassinations and trying to lay all Israel criticism off on anti semitism.

    Also I wonder who established the topic of the Israel Lobby for Walt’s presentation to the Japanese academics. Was this a academic lecture circuit type appearance and just tied to his book or did the Japanese specifically request he speak about the Israel Lobby influence in the US?
    It was common back in the run to Iraq to hear Arab leaders and other national officials make statements about ‘the Jews controlling the US’ but they were regarded as anti semitic rants. I am sure Walt isn’t going to present the Lobby as Jewish control of the US, he will take great pains not to, I doubt he will even refer to Zionism, but someone of his stature speaking about Israel’s influence on US policy to ‘foreign audiences’ does take the US Israel problem/discussion to a new level. Does he hope that academics understanding the Israel web in US politics will influence or reinforce what foreign government’s officials no doubt already understand about it and influence their reactions to or cooperation with the US?

  6. American
    June 15, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Hummm….
    MSNBC news reports that Russia just sent some Russian troops to the Syria ‘region’…”to protect Russian interest”.
    I guess everyone knows this has the potential to get out of hand.

    Pat Buchanan (who is a excellent historian) says events and US positioning getting too, too similar to the run up of other wars. Maybe he’s slighty alarmist, then again there are neo’s in DC who would love to see WWIII and are working on starting it.

  7. American
    June 15, 2012, 3:19 pm

    Another news piece on Russia sending some troops to Syria.

    link to abcnews.go.com

  8. seafoid
    June 15, 2012, 3:43 pm

    “However I think now the Israel issue is becoming more like open warfare between the pro and con Israel camps because the zios pushed it to that level with all their character assassinations and trying to lay all Israel criticism off on anti semitism”.

    Indeed. I think they have killed antisemitism by beating it too often off the head of anyone who points out that what they are doing is nuts.

    • American
      June 15, 2012, 7:24 pm

      “Indeed. I think they have killed antisemitism by beating it too often off the head of anyone who points out that what they are doing is nuts’..seafoid

      When I first started discussing and exploring the Israel-US and I/P problem years ago the replies to everything I said no matter what it was …..was anti semite, closet anti semite, etc..
      Even if my comment was a just a question, the reply was still ‘you must be a anti semite’…iow, to ‘even question’ any position of Israel or why US was supporting it was anti semitic.
      Things have changed a great deal since then. And where the Jews as a whole are concerned that change has been better for them… not worse as some think and fear…. because as the discussions got bigger and bigger it helped people see the differences among Jews regarding US-Israel-I/P.

      • Theo
        June 16, 2012, 8:31 am

        American

        I know the feeling!! In an other blog where I participated previously, I was called an anti-semite, a nazi, a troll, an israeli zionis shill, etc., although my opinions are always based on fact, as I know them, and on fairness. I never try to kiss anyone or any party on the behind.

        I have the feeling the zionist propaganda is wearing off and more americans start to see this world with open eyes, not through pink coloured glasses tainted with nationalism and the daily dose of propaganda dished out by our MSM.
        Perhaps AlJazeera, RT and other international TVs are doing a good job.

      • seafoid
        June 18, 2012, 5:55 am

        I use to feel insulted if someone called me an antisemite for standing up for the Palestinians. The more I learn about Israel and Zionism , the more I see it’s all about silencing dissent.

  9. Sin Nombre
    June 15, 2012, 3:50 pm

    I loved that tidbit in Wright’s piece about how, at the conclusion of the Baghdad talks with Iran, our chief negotiator flew not back to Washington first to report on same, but instead to Tel Aviv.

    And then us gentile Americans being set up to send our young men and women into war with Iran are supposed to be moderate moderate moderate with our judgments and language, you know. Presumably after we all are required by law to genuflect twice a day towards Tel Aviv too.

  10. gazacalling
    June 15, 2012, 6:30 pm

    Whoo hoo! I love posts like this.

    Obama was elected as the anti-war candidate. Now he drifts towards war as President due to the Lobby. In Beinart’s book it’s almost poignant how Obama is portrayed as going against his instincts on I/P out of weakness, the inability to use political strength and back up his fine words with actions.

    We need a strong President to resist the warmongers. Too bad Obama has not turned out to be strong.

Leave a Reply