Iranian Coup in Washington, D.C?
In the United States, our government overthrows thankfully take the form of elections rather than armed coups d'etat. Today's Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates (photo at left) brings home the effect of the November 2006 midterm elections. They were not merely a change of control in both houses of Congress, but an overthrow of the national security policy of the George W. Bush Administration as well.
Time after time Senator Robert Byrd (D-W. VA) asked questions that amounted to indictments of past Bush Administration foreign policy, or requests for endorsement of the Democratic Party's critique of that policy. Time after time Robert Gates gave Senator Byrd the answer he was looking for. Yet in nearly every case, Dr. Gates could have dodged the question or answered it in a manner that would have been neither evasive, nor confrontational, but would have left the Adminstration's policy options open, and avoided encouragement of our enemies as well.
For example, incredibly, when Senator Byrd asked Dr. Gates whether the Congressional authorization to use force in Iraq would allow an attack on either Iran or Syria, Gates responded that it would not. Why would Dr. Gates even answer such a hypothetical question without context? What if insurgents operating out of either Iran or Syria crossed the border and attacked an Iraqi town or U.S. troops? Has Dr. Gates ruled out a hot pursuit or deterrent attack on Iran or Syria in that situation? If Dr. Gates felt impelled to answer, why not mention that the President of the United States may have inherent executive power, as the Commander In Chief of our armed forces, to act without Congressional authorization where necessary to the defense of vital national interests?
Dr. Gates also gave Senator Byrd the answers he was fishing for when Byrd asked him what Gates thought the probable consequences would be of an American attack on Iran or Syria. Gates responded with a litany of actions that Iran might take against the U.S. in response to an attack--including stepped-up support of terrorism in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Of course, there is no doubt that military action against Iran would be risky and messy, and not without possible dire consequences. However, there is no guaranty that Iran will not take many if not all of the actions against U.S. interests predicted by Gates at a time of Iran's choosing, even if the U.S. never attacks Iran. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that Hezbollah terrorist cells sponsored by Iran are already in the U.S., Latin America and Europe, planning such attacks.
The regimes in Tehran and Damascus were no doubt listening to the Gates confirmation hearings, and drawing the obvious conclusion--they need have little fear that their adventurism in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq will encounter a forceful response from the United States. Tehran and Damascus will no doubt now test us to see if their assessment of U.S. weakness is accurate--and the results of those tests may be horrific.
When a presidential nominee for a Cabinet position testifies at a Senate confirmation hearing, he is not presenting his personal opinions--he is presenting and advocating the policy positions of the President who has nominated him and in whose Administration he hopes to serve. Dr. Gates answered Senator Byrd's questions in the manner he did because whoever now holds sway in the Bush Adminstration on national security policy directed him to do so. It would be naive for us to assume that what we heard from Dr. Gates today does not reflect a post-election shift in the defense policy and foreign policy of the Bush Administration, away from strong-willed deterrence of Iranian expansionism, and toward appeasement. If that is the case, the consequences will be dire, in Iraq, in Lebanon, for Israel and for U.S. interests in the Middle East.