U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's administration will offer Israel a "nuclear umbrella" against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.Assuming this story is true (which is not confirmed), Obama would seem to be doing this either because he actually believes Iran may soon get a nuclear weapon -- and, presumably, that Iran's leadership would be suicidal enough to use them against the very well-armed Israel -- or he is trying to alleviate fears that he is actually some sort of closeted Marxist-who-wants-to-surrender-to-the-terrorists, and not the conventional liberal interventionist that he actually is.
Alternatively, the story could also be read as signaling that Obama may see a nuclear-armed Iran as something which the world can live with, and that Iran's leadership could be deterred from using nukes based on the same doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" that was maintained with respect to the Soviet Union.
But would Barack Obama actually nuke Iran? Well, no. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, according the IAEA, and it would have to kick out the inspectors monitoring its nuclear facilities in order to enrich uranium to the level necessary to make a nuke. In other words, Iran can't make a nuclear weapon without the whole world knowing, and even if Iran should develop one, there's no evidence that its leadership would be so irrational as to actually launch a nuclear first-strike against Israel knowing they would be annihilated in return (fears in some segments of the right that Iran's government wants to start the apocalypse to the contrary). Iran's government had no qualms buying weapons from Israel and the "Great Satan" during its war with Iraq in the 1980s, after all, so one shouldn't confuse nasty rhetoric with a desire to end life as we know it.
Now for those who still inexplicably believe Obama will significantly change the course of U.S. foreign policy, cherish the fact that his (alleged) proposal to extend the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" to Israel makes the Bush administration sound reasonable:
A senior Bush administration source said that the proposal for an American nuclear umbrella for Israel was ridiculous and lacked credibility. "Who will convince the citizen in Kansas that the U.S. needs to get mixed up in a nuclear war because Haifa was bombed? And what is the point of an American response, after Israel's cities are destroyed in an Iranian nuclear strike?"The National Review's Jim Geraghty points out that when Hillary Clinton proposed this very idea during the Democratic primaries, it was criticized as laughably hawkish posturing by Obama's liberal supporters. Now that it's their guy, of course, the story receives a "so what?" response from the committed partisans commenting at Daily Kos.
More disturbing than the reflexive, preemptive support for whatever Obama decides from the Kossacks, however, is that the idea of promising a retaliatory nuclear attack on Iran was first proposed by one of the Washington Post's many resident neoconservatives, columnist Charles Krauthammer. The fact that it was too out there for the Bush administration, but seemingly not Obama, should certainly give his anti-war supporters pause -- one would think.
Indeed, as Geraghty writes:
Hear that, netroots? From Krauthammer's column to Obama administration policy. Glad you put all that effort into beating McCain, huh?That Obama's foreign policy views are not actually all that different than the hawkish foreign policy establishment many of his supporters criticize has been readily apparent for quite awhile -- but you wouldn't know it from reading most liberal blogs, which no doubt are already gearing up for the next Most. Important. Election. Ever.