Peter Beinart has a worthy piece in the Atlantic about Democrats too often echoing incorrect talking points on the danger of Iran. On the one hand, none of them are endorsing war and they are all supporting steps to stop President Trump from resorting to it. On the other hand, as Beinart lays out:
Yes, one Democrat after another has called on Congress to prevent Trump from going to war. But Democrats have not frontally challenged the core assumption underlying Trump’s belligerence: that Iran is a uniquely malevolent actor in the Middle East.
Some predictable centrists like Seth Moulton are sounding hawkish, but so are more progressive candidates like Gillibrand and Cory Booker.
Representative Seth Moulton last week called Iran “a major threat to our national security.” In a statement emailed by her staff, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand condemned its “malign activities.” Senator Cory Booker has in the past insisted that the United States “be more vigilant than ever in fighting Iranian aggression.”
By echoing the GOP’s confrontational language, these Democrats are forgetting a crucial lesson of the Iraq War. America didn’t invade Baghdad only because people such as John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control, misrepresented intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. America invaded because, under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Democrats and Republicans so inflated the threat from Saddam Hussein that restoring normal economic and diplomatic relations with his regime became politically impossible. The result was a web of sanctions that no administration could lift, and a glide path to war.
This last point is most salient. Even saying Iran is a major threat elevates the status and makes war more, not less, likely. It is not enough for Democratic candidates to pledge to avoid war or to restore the Obama Administrations Iran agreement. A bold Democrat would actually call for something even President Obama did not call for-a path to normalization.
Iran’s mullahs, like the Castro brothers, can point to the US as the Great Satan holding their country back. Today under Trump’s onerous sanctions-it’s actually true. Tomorrow under a pragmatic Democrat, it could be Iranian oil flowing to US consumers in exchange for key agreements to end terror sponsorship abroad and denuclearize combined with strong US assurances to end the regime change commitment and sponsorship of anti-Ayatollah terrorist groups within Iran.
Iran’s people responded to their country’s hawks by electing a dovish reformer as President. It is time we do the same. Time to bring Iran into the global economy and liberal world order. Only through that engagement will greater democracy and human rights changes occur.