Saturday, September 07, 2013

Good News From the New Iranian Leadership

My friend Ron Stockton posted these useful facts:

President Rohani, the new President of Iran, sent Rosh Hashana greetings to all Jews "but especially to Iranian Jews." The Foreign Minister of Iran sent his own greetings. The daughter of Nancy Pelosi, a filmmaker who knows the foreign minister, sent a message asking what this message meant given that Iran had denied the Holocaust. The Foreign Minister, who studied and lived in the US, responded that "Iran never denied the Holocaust. One man denied the Holocaust and he is gone. Happy Holidays."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Obama Takes a Centrist Approach to Syria

I think the president is following the right, careful path in Syria.

He is right that the whole international community can't let chemical weapons be used with impunity. Since the U.S. is the leading power in the international community, it falls to us to lead - and, if necessary, carry out - the response.

At the same time, he is right that the whole international system is endangered if countries respond to bad regimes, like Syria, by simply overthrowing them.  That is a cure worse than the disease.

Therefore, a measured response, targeted as far as possible at destroying the specific Syrian military units that carried out the poison gas attacks, is a good centrist path.

Moreover, the U.S. government works better when the president and Congress agree on military action. It has become easier and easier for presidents to make war and bypass Congress.  This is a dangerous practice.  Congressional leaders constantly push to be consulted and to debate and vote on military action.  Sometimes there is no time.  Syria is not one of those cases.

President Obama is right to propose a clear, limited military action that will not (in itself) overthrow the Syrian dictator, and he is right to ask Congress to vote to support this plan or explain why not.

One good outcome of this debate is that so many Republican leaders in Congress have insisted that the president must consult with them before making war.  I hope they will remember this the next time a Republican president wants to make war.

The bigger issue, though, is that I think there are always middle positions and calibrated steps that we can take in policy.  Granted, once an all-out war begins and fear takes over, it is hard to stick to limits.  But we have not had an all-out war in decades, and are not likely to soon.  The Syrian case is the right place for a measured, transparent, policy-driven response.