International Affairs

Lindsey Graham’s war

I should have realized, when our pilot warned of “moderate turbulence” as we flew
into Halifax, Nova Scotia, for an international security conference, that our white-knuckle
flight was only the beginning.

That was on Friday. On Saturday, a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators flew into
town, having been forced to spend the night in Bangor, Maine, because of the strong
winds buffeting Halifax. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) marched into the first panel
of the day and kicked up his own storm by urging President Obama to “neuter the
regime” in Iran.

“If you take military action, you do open up Pandora’s box,” he said. “But if you
let them get a weapon, you empty Pandora’s box.”

Graham did note that the international sanctions are beginning to work. But he said
that Obama would have Republican backing if he made it “abundantly clear” that all
options are on the table, including military action. “So my view of military
force would be not to just neutralize their nuclear program, which are probably
dispersed and hardened, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver
a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard,” he went on.

“In other words, neuter that regime.”

This was strong stuff, and stunned the international participants at the forum,
who wondered whether it was representative of mainstream thinking in Congress —
particularly in light of last week’s elections. “No question there would be
a negative reaction to that course of action,” said Canadian Defense Minister Peter
MacKay, the host of the event.

Speaking on the same panel as Graham, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) agreed that “all
options” should be on the table, but was not prepared to voice support for military
action at this point. Having flown in from Colorado for the panel event on Saturday,
he then left to return home.

But here’s why I don’t believe Obama will be taking Graham’s advice. He’s just had
a “shellacking” in the midterms, in which foreign policy did not figure at all.
As one seasoned politician put it to me, he’s got to get his groove back. Beyond
that, 2012 looms, and there is no way that Obama is going to launch another war
only 14 months from the New Hampshire primaries.

Tags Lindsey Graham Mark Udall
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