Obama admonishes Republicans for playing ‘games’ with war
President Barack Obama yesterday denounced the GOP’s reckless talk of waging war against Iran, reminding Republican candidates that war should not be a “game” for their political gain.
“What’s said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy,” said Obama.
He added, “This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.”
Obama’s criticism was primarily directed at Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, who published an opinion piece in the Washington Post this week pushing for U.S. military action against Iran. Attacking the President’s emphasis on diplomacy, Romney claimed that Obama’s re-election would lead to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
“We can’t afford to wait much longer, and we certainly can’t afford to wait through four more years of an Obama administration. By then it will be far too late,” Romney wrote.
To deal with Tehran’s nuclear ambition, Romney basically unilaterally declared war against Iran in his editorial, threatening “either the ayatollahs will get the message, or they will learn some painful lessons about the meaning of American resolve.”
Romney’s tone was reminiscent of statements made by former President George W. Bush in the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion. (Here are a few quotes to refresh your memory: “Time is running out on Saddam Hussein. He must disarm. I’m sick and tired of games and deception” and “I have said that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. And I mean it.”)
Claiming that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat, Bush led the country into a war that lasted nearly a decade, killed 3,479 U.S. troops, wounded 31,922 Americans, and drained taxpayers out of $1 trillion. The WMD claims were debunked in 2004 when the Iraq Study Group and the CIA concluded that Hussein’s WMD program was essentially destroyed back in 1991, around the time the U.N. sanctions were toughened following the first Iraq invasion.
After spending much of his first term cleaning up after Bush’s costly mistakes, Obama is taking a more judicious approach with Iran.
Reiterating his commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Obama said the U.S. will intensify political, diplomatic, and economic pressure to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear efforts. Although all options are on the table, the President has indicated the use of military force is reserved as a last resort.
“At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view. That’s the view of our top intelligence officials; it’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials,” said Obama. “We have put forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. The Iranians just stated that they are willing to return to the negotiating table. And we’ve got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it plays out.”
Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Sunday, the President also backed “Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.” He said the U.S. has provided more advanced weapons technology and increased security funding to Israel and praised the greater cooperation between the two countries’ military and intelligence communities.
“Make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” he said.
In addition, Obama said, the United States and its allies will step up economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran. The 2010 UN-backed sanctions have significantly hurt Iran’s economy and nuclear program. Starting in July, Europe will begin banning oil imports from Iran, further choking off Tehran’s revenue to fund its nuclear program.
“Because of our work…Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure,” Obama said. ”For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built.”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Obama’s remarks on Iran (March 6, 2012)
- WhiteHouse.gov: Video of President Obama’s speech at the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference
- WhiteHouse.gov: Video of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bilateral meeting on March 5, 2012
- C-Span.org: Video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech
- WashingtonPost.com: Mitt Romney: How I would check Iran’s nuclear ambition
- U.S. News & World Report: What Did the Iraq War Cost? More Than You Think.
- CIA.gov: Report by the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (September 2004)
- Archives.gov: President Bush discusses North Korea and Iran (Dec. 31, 2002)
- Archives.gov: President Bush’s remarks on Iraq (Jan. 14, 2003)
- Defense.gov: Iraq casualty – updated on March 7, 2012 (PDF)