Will Obama Go to War?

As we enter 2012, the question of whether our president is planning to go to war might seem far-fetched.  After all, all reports indicate that Obama doesn't feel comfortable with the military.  Going to war would fly in the face of his claim that he was going to finally use "smart" diplomacy instead of the saber-rattling of George W. Bush. 

Obama declared during the primary debates for the Democratic nomination that he would be glad to meet with any head of government without preconditions.  We can see that his policies and inclinations toward bilateral or multilateral negotiations to avoid conflict go back to at least 2007, well before he was elected.

The only time he initiated military action was against Moammar Gaddafi in Libya, and then only after France and Britain led the way.  He chose to "lead from behind" in that dust-up.

Yet suddenly, the Obama administration is talking tough about Iran.  Leon Panetta has spoken aloud the words "A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable."  Interviewed by CBS news anchor Scott Pelley, Panetta entered into this exchange:

Pelley: So are you saying that Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012?

Panetta: It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.

Pelley: So that they can develop a weapon even more quickly...

Panetta: On a faster track....

Pelley: Than we believe....

Panetta: That's correct.

Pelley: If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built, what sort of complications does that raise for you?

Panetta: Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it.

Pelley: You just said if we have to do it we will come and do it. What is it?

Panetta: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.

Pelley: Including military steps?

Panetta: There are no options off the table

Pelley: A nuclear weapon in Iran is...

Panetta: Unacceptable.

On December 29, 2011, MSNBC reported that the United States Navy, in response to Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off between 20% and 25% of the world's oil supply, released a statement by the area naval commander, which read in part:

5th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Rebecca Rebarich said, "Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."

The U.S. Navy is "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation," she said.

Rebarich declined to say whether the U.S. force had adjusted its presence or readiness in the Gulf in response to Iran's comments, but said the Navy "maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities, while safeguarding the region's vital links to the international community."

Meanwhile, according to NBC News, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little agreed that Iranian interference with passage of vessels through the strategic waterway "will not be tolerated."  Mr. Little also said that blocking naval traffic through the Strait represents "an important issue for security and stability in the region" and called the Strait "an economic lifeline."

Three separate news reports. 

Three separate news reports from media outlets that are the first to cheer Obama and genuflect before his ideas.  Three media outlets that are supported by a viewership made up largely of Liberal-Progressive-Democrats.  Three media outlets with staffs and on-air talent that also overwhelmingly support the president and the L-P-D agenda.  All three statements from official Obama administration spokespersons reported by the so-called mainstream media without comment.

One needs only a minimal amount of imagination to visualize the reactions of these same media outlets if a spokesperson representing the Bush administration had spoken exactly the same words in exactly the same context.

For someone dedicated to the idea that nations can just sit down and talk about their problems with each other over a beer, these official comments seem significantly out of keeping with the historical attitudes of Obama with regard to international exchanges. 

Perhaps Obama has finally realized that his initial assumptions about the uses of diplomacy were wrong.  Perhaps he has been seasoned as president for the past three years and now views the posturing of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as not just posturing after all.  Obama may have come to the same realization that most of the rest of the planet has come to: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might appear to be a clown, but he is deadly serious about acquiring nuclear weapons, and he is not the slightest bit interested in following the now-decades-old policy of "mutually assured destruction" that has kept the nuclear powers from turning the whole planet into a cinder.

All these suppositions might, in fact, actually be the real impetus behind Obama pushing back against the Iranian regime's litany of threats.

But there is one other motivational force that might lie behind the Obama administration's change in outlook -- namely, the fact that Obama does not exactly have a lock on re-election.  His poll numbers are down, and without a nearly miraculous turnaround in the economy and an enormous drop in unemployment, those poll numbers will almost certainly sink farther.  He has lost the unquestioning support of his own party -- an inference, to be sure, but when reports of potential primary challenges (and very vocal calls for challenges) to a sitting president start to percolate through the protective cordon of the mainstream media, one can safely assume that all is not well in paradise.

How do dropping poll numbers and saber-rattling relate to each other?  How often has this country ever defeated a president running for re-election during a war? 

Obama and his advisers do not seem to be particularly concerned with the deaths of anyone so long as their ideological goals are reached.  Witness the hundreds upon hundreds who have been killed as a result of this administration's innovative crime-prevention program referred to as "Fast and Furious," which was in reality an attempt achieve the ideological goal of gun control by creating a climate which would allow the imposition of onerous new regulations that would circumvent the 2nd Amendment and recent Supreme Court rulings.

Although the president's poll numbers have varied in the past few weeks, if they start to trend downward in a significant way, and if there is a simultaneous increase in the rather blunt (for this administration, at least) threats of retaliation for any attempt by Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz, or the threat of military action to preclude Iran's achieving its goal of a nuclear weapon, one can draw only one conclusion.  Obama and his minions plan to get themselves another four years by telling an already jittery nation that they should not consider changing leadership in the lead-up to, or the inception and execution of, a war.

For Obama, it appears that his signature political mantra has not changed since he first entered the Illinois legislature: "Hey, whatever works!  Someone else will pay the price."

Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller, Vietnam veteran and an independent voter. Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com, or he can be contacted directly at james.v.yardley@gmail.com.