Candy Crowley on State of the Union had this exchange with former CIA director Michael Hayden:
COWLEY: … I mean, Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?
HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it?
We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.
My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community. And, frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.
When I was in government, what we would used to mystically call “the kinetic option” was way down on our list. In my personal thinking — in my personal thinking; I need to emphasize that — I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.
To put it differently, the most destabilizing event would be a nuclear-armed Iran, not a military strike on Iran. Hayden was not predicting what Obama would do, merely what should be done if all other options fail. It remains far from clear that the Obama team — which has been insistent on playing out engagement and then sanctions long after their utility was widely called into doubt — will act to prevent the worst of all possible outcomes.
What remains inexplicable is that the administration has openly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea of military action. You would think a team so desperate to avoid military conflict would recognize that a credible threat of force would be useful. But the administration can’t even bring itself to bluff. How likely is it, then, that it will deploy military force?
It is an election year, so voters have maximum leverage to extract answers and commitments from candidates. It would seem there is no more important question to ask than this: if force is needed, would you urge military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? For those incumbents who answer yes, the next question should be: so what are you doing to persuade the administration to do just that?
Come to think of it, that is the most telling pair of questions to pose for those lawmakers, pundits, and groups advertising themselves as pro-Israel. If the answer to the first is “no,” the respondent can’t, in any meaningful sense, be considered pro-Israel. If the answer to the second is “nothing,” then we know the respondent is too timid, too ineffective, or too shortsighted to be of any help to Israel in the Jewish state’s hour of need.