Short of reading from the Torah, Republican presidential candidates will appear before Jewish voters today and do just about everything they can to pander. Democrats pander, too, but each party has its own spiel. The GOP line is pretty clear: Obama's too soft on Iran and Syria. (They'll also get into settlements and Hamas but let's leave that aside for a minute.)
Frontrunner (!) Newt Gingrich has vowed to get tougher on Syria and all of the candidates have waxed tough on preventing Tehran from getting nukes. The big exception here is Ron Paul who isn't coming before the Republican Jewish Coalitiontoday and whose libertarian, no-foreign-aid-or-entanglements line wouldn't be welcome.
But how can President Gingrich really get tougher? The George W. Bush administration avoided a military confrontation with Iran and so far the Israelis have too for all of the obvious reasons. Can you even get the centrifuges and other equipment if you decide to dispatch bombers? What of the consequences in the region to everything from Iraqi destabilization to oil flow? No one wants a nuclear-armed Iran but if it were easy to prevent that we would have done it already.
As for Syria, the Libyan experience should be a cautionary tale. First, it took the U.S. and the allies a lot longer to help bring Qaddafi down than anyone at first thought. And now that he is down, what will follow remains to be seen. The sheer military venture was not easily executed.
And that was a multilateral affair. The U.S. famously chose to lead from behind. This time, there's no European enthusiasm for a military adventure over the skies of Damascus which means we'd have to make it our war. The Arab League may have ostracized Assad but they've shown no inclination to send their American-made arms into Syrian territory.
Between Kurdish-Turkish tentions, Iraq's shaky democracy and an irritible Iran, do we want to launch a third war on the Eurasian continent? Perhaps getting rid of Syria's Assad will be easier than anyone thought but anyone waxing tough should plan on it being just he opposite.
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