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In a commentary posted yesterday, Dr. Michael Brenner, Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, includes the following insightful observation:

A statesman’s effectiveness depends on keeping his mouth closed unless his words serve a dedicated policy objective beyond that of playing the vapid, distracting game of domestic image politics.


BRAVO!!  Exactly right! 

Imagine the potentially catastrophic situation we would be facing today if John McCain, rather than Barack Obama, were president of the United States and had been exhorting the oppositionists in Iran to continue their protest demonstrations in the face of the regime's overwhelming application of brute force.  Such overt encouragement from the Leader of the Free World, with its implicit commitment of American support, could only have disconcerted and divided the opposition movement itself --- no doubt inspiring many with pro-American inclinations, but angering many who are motivated solely by their own patriotism and desire for internal reform.  Aggressive and bombastic cheerleading from Washington would probably have intensified and prolonged futile violence and bloodshed --- while giving the regime the political and legal justification for brutal repression that (to their enduring shame) they have so far conspicuously lacked.   
Given that entirely credible scenario,  we might today be facing a Catch-22 situation where we had a choice between two equally unacceptable alternative options:  (1) humiliating the United States of America by shamelessly abandoning the brave people of Iran who had been risking their lives in the cause of freedom; or (2) trying desperately to assist them in some material way that would almost inevitably lead to military confrontation and another disastrous regional war. Given the circumstances leading to such an intervention, the ensuing conflict could not possibly be limited to surgical strikes against a few nuclear facilities, as the Israelis and their American neocon associates have been persistently advocating.  It would be a full-scale people-to-people war that would necessarily involve millions of Iranians and that would inevitably pose an existential challenge to that proud nation's traditional political, economic and cultural identity. Not a worthy ambition for any outsider to entertain ---  much less an American. 

A limited "surgical" military intervention in Iran is very clearly not an option. Alternatively, fighting a fullscale war to overthrow and replace the existing system of governance in Iran today would leave the United States with the task of managing (and paying for) the reorganization and reconstruction of the entire political and economic system of a large, diverse (and undoubtedly resentful) nation of almost seventy million people --- an adsurdly delusional "nation-building" strategy which, if I recall correctly, has been causing us some serious problems for a number of years in two other locations in the immediate vicinity of Iran --- like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Oh, I forgot Pakistan.  And Palestine.  Not to mention the world economic crisis.  And America's somewhat strained national budget.  And our dangerously overstretched military forces.  Details, details. )

Brilliant strategy, McCain and Company!  Keep up the macho posturing, if it makes you feel brave and patriotic.  But leave it to the rest of us to deal with the world like sensible adults.

Ray Close
(CIA Clandestine Service officer and Middle East specialist, retired)

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