John McCain yesterday focused criticism of Barack Obama on his response to Iran’s missile tests on two grounds. First, McCain says that “threatening” Iran with unilateral U.S. talks is counterproductive. Second, Obama has opposed measures like Kyl-Lieberman (which identified the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization and makes way for sanctions ) as well as development of missile defense. It is unlikely Obama is going to give up on his “that’ll show ’em — give them U.S. negotiators” talk.
But he has already tried to flip on Kyl-Lieberman. Could missile defense be next? After all, he could meet with commanders and scientists, declare he’s open to learning new things, and decide a missile defense system for the U.S. and our allies is a good idea.
Since he is in need of some new material and is so enamored of negotiations he might want to brush up on his Cold War history. He might learn how developing both defensive and offensive capabilities impacts our adversaries. It’s called getting leverage. As Thomas Friedman put it, “When you don’t have leverage, get some. Then talk.” But in Obama’s world, where words work magic — on audiences of college students and the media, primarily — such a notion is alien. Putting “aggressive” as an adjective before “negotiations” doesn’t increase the likelihood that meetings with be productive.
Still, I won’t give up hope. (And, in fact, there’s some evidence that he has already created some ambiguity on his position.) If Iran went from a “tiny” threat to a “grave” threat, maybe Obama would be amenable to changing his policy from “cut defensive capabilities” to “enhance our defensive capabilities.” I am sure he can explain that it is really no change at all and he’s always been open to listening to experts on national security.