Commentary Magazine


Keller Hopes for a “Liberated Obama”

In an article yesterday, placed prominently in the center of the New York Times op-ed page, Bill Keller wrote that if he were faced with only two choices — (a) Iran with a bomb, or (b) bombing Iran — he would “swallow hard” and live with a nuclear Iran.

It is not clear from his op-ed why any swallowing would be involved on his part: in his view: (1) it is “hard to believe the aim of an Iranian nuclear program is the extermination of Israel;” (2) the worry about a regional nuclear arms race is “probably an exaggerated fear;” and (3) “history suggests that nuclear weapons make even aggressive countries more cautious.” It seems like an easy choice for him.

Nevertheless, Keller concludes that we should “focus all of our intelligence and energy” on a third approach: cutting a deal with Iran. It is amazing no one has thought of this idea before; perhaps we should give it a try for four years.

Keller believes that “of course, [a deal] won’t happen before November,” because Republicans would point out “the abandonment of Israel” in favor of a regime “that recently beat a democracy movement bloody” –  and American voters would react negatively. But Keller hopes “a liberated Obama” would do it thereafter. Keller seems to have absorbed the message that this is Obama’s last election, and that he can be more flexible after he’s re-elected.

The tragedy of the current situation is that, because the U.S. will not set a deadline or a redline, a U.S. ally is faced with an existential decision that may have to be made sooner rather than later. Articles such as Keller’s may lead it to conclude that its own deadline is November.