FT columnist: generals prefer Obama to McCain on Iran

Explosive, if true. And you have to love the headline: “Obama for Commander-in-Chief.”

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times had a column in yesterday’s paper headlined “Obama for Commander in Chief.”

Rachman argues that McCain’s announced preference for attacking Iran over letting Iran acquire nuclear weapons amounts to a commitment to go to war with Iran before the end of his first term. By contrast, Rachman says, Obama’s advisers believe in the power of deterrence.

Here’s the kicker:

While the armchair generals in Washington will denounce Mr Obama for weakness on Iran, the real generals support his position. The great constraint on the radicals in the Bush administration is that the US’s top brass has made it clear that it has no appetite for launching yet another war in the Middle East. Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the last thing the American military needs is a third front.

The generals know that the idea of a surgical strike to “take out” Iran’s nuclear facilities is a fantasy. The Americans would need to undertake a bombing campaign that lasted many weeks. Iran would certainly retaliate. It might seek to provoke a broader Middle Eastern war, by launching missiles at Israel. It would certainly unleash its surrogates against American troops in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. It might attack desalination plants and oil installations in Gulf states allied to the US. The price of oil would swiftly shoot through $200 a barrel.

Rachman may be right or wrong about the consequences of attacking, or not attacking, Iran; only time will tell. But what strikes me is his firm assertions about what “the generals” believe; that is more or less checkable fact.

Is it true that the brass prefers Obama’s Iran policy to McCain’s? If so, I wish some reporter for a U.S. news outlet would report and write that story.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com