The Globe Gets it Wrong
The Boston Globe is owned by The New York Times Company, which acquired the paper--in 1993--at an over-inflated price. Consistently and overwhelmingly liberal in its editorial positions, the Globe meshes well with its sister publication in New York City, despising most things conservative and virtually all positions advocated by the Bush Administration.
Consider today's Globe editorial on recent "threats" from Mr. Bush and Vice-President Cheney towards Iran. Not surprisingly, the paper's editorial board considers those comments most unhelpful, threatening potential diplomacy with Tehran.
PRESIDENT BUSH and Vice President Cheney have been issuing public warnings both to Iran and to other major powers about Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. These unsubtle threats could be meant merely to persuade Iran's leaders to negotiate seriously with their European interlocutors, Britain, France, and Germany. But the threats might also be part of an administration buildup to an attack on Iran.
In either case, Bush and Cheney misunderstand the need to match means and ends. And there could hardly be a worse time for Bush to be berating needed European partners on the Iranian nuclear issue. Earlier this month in Tehran, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a proposal for resolving the nuclear issue directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some Iranian commentators even hinted that Putin delivered a sobering message that the American war threats need to be taken seriously.
Still, Bush last week warned world leaders, "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing" Iran "from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." At best, this was an unnecessary declaration.
From our perspective, it's the Globe that doesn't understand the means and ends of the Iranian equation. President Bush has waited patiently while the European 3--Great Britain, France and Germany--attempt to negotiate with Tehran. Those talks have dragged on for more than three years, and so far, the diplomats have nothing to show for it, aside from vague promises to keep on talking. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made it quite clear that his country has no intention of abandoning its nuclear program, which will almost certainly yield a weapon by 2015 (according to CIA estimates), and perhaps much, much sooner.
As for that sobering message from Mr. Putin, we seem to remember that he also vowed to continue assistance for Iran's nuclear program, specifically the reactor at Bushehr which is being completed by Russian contractors. If Russia were genuinely serious about deterring Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Mr. Putin might have linked the Bushehr project to Iran's abandonment of its weapons program, complete with rigorous, no-notice inspections and full transparency. But the Russian leader has placed no such demands on Iran. Seems that his "sobering" message was more of a wink and a nod, assuring Ahmadeinjad that Moscow remains in his corner, and will oppose more serious efforts at sanctions in the U.N. Security Council.
The same holds true for China, which is heavily invested in developing Iran's oil reserves, and depends on Iranian energy exports to fuel its economic growth. Beijing also values Tehran as a customer for its arms industry; just yesterday, it was reported that China will sell at least 24 of its advanced J-10 fighters to Iran over the next three years, and Beijing's past sales of radars, surface-to-air missile and air defense computers have earned billions in hard currency.
Indeed, as Victor Davis Hanson observes, virtually everyone claims to oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, but when push comes to shove, no one seems to be doing much about it. Moscow and Beijing have their own agendas; the Arab states fear the reaction of their own populations if they support military action against Iran, and the Europeans seem to believe that diplomacy can always carry the day.
Against that backdrop, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have suggested that Iran needs to get serious in its talks with the EU-3, or face potential military consequences. And despite hand-wringing from the Globe and its friends on the left, there are no firm indications that the administration is actively preparing for war against Tehran. Talk about military planning is just that--talk. The U.S. has maintained operational plans for Iran (and other countries) for decades; the ominous articles published in recent months reflect the only the periodic revision of those plans, and not the implementation of new strategies to attack Tehran.
Likewise, U.S. military deployments to the Persian Gulf remain routine. Any strike against Iran would be preceded by a build-up of American and allied forces in the region, a move that clearly hasn't happened (so far). For now, the Pentagon is preoccupied with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That widely-touted air and sea campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities doesn't appear to be in the offing, at least for now.
In fact, a final decision about military action against Iran will likely be made by the next commander-in-chief--quite possibly, a Democrat. We can only wonder what the Globe's position would be if Mr. Bush's successor, say Hillary Rodham Clinton, issues the same sort or warnings against Iran, or ups the ante with increased force deployments and clearly-stated "red lines" for conflict. Knowing the Globe (and its parent company), they would probably applaud a Democratic president for a "forceful" foreign policy, while condemning Mr. Bush for "ignoring" the Iranian threat.