The Plank

Flying Blind On Foreign Policy

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Watch John Edwards run--and pander. At the Herzilya conference in Israel, Edwards took a tough line on Iran that implied his support for military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here is Edwards:

At the top of these threats is Iran. Iran threatens the security of Israel and the entire world. Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. For years, the US hasn't done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran. As my country stayed on the sidelines, these problems got worse...We have muddled along for far too long. To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table, Let me reiterate--all options must remain on the table.

Edwards's comments created consternation among the Democratic liberals and leftists that he has been courting with his anti-poverty and pro-union message, so in an interview with The American Prospect's Ezra Klein, Edwards backed down. Excerpts:

First, America should be negotiating directly with Iran, which Bush won't do ... what happens if America were to militarily strike Iran? Well you take this unstable, radical leader, and you make him a hero--that's the first thing that'll happen. The Iranian people will rally around him. The second thing that will happen is they will retaliate. And they have certainly some potential for retaliating here in the United States through some of these terrorist organizations they're close to, but we've got over a hundred thousand people right next door. And most people believe that they have an infrastructure for retaliation inside Iraq. So, that's the second thing that'll happen. And the third thing is there are a lot of analysts who believe that an air strike or a missile strike is not enough to be successful. To be successful we'd actually have to have troops on the ground, and where in the world would they come from?...
So, I just want to get it very clear, you think that attacking Iran would be a bad idea?
I think would have very bad consequences.
Can we live with a nuclear Iran?
I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet. I think that we have lots of opportunities that we've...We're not negotiating with them directly, what I just proposed has not been done. We're not being smart about how we engage with them. But I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet.

Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller, who dubs himself an Edwards supporter, takes pride in how the blogs and The American Prospect "walked back" Edwards from his hawkishness on Iran. I draw a different conclusion from this experience. Edwards continues to fly blind on foreign policy. He says whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. It's not that he has a fairly definite foreign policy, but adjusts his views to audiences and the circumstances. He has none, zero.

--John B. Judis

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