Is that Tough Enough?
Last week, Hillary Clinton proved that reason is on holiday. When asked how she would react to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, Clinton said that she would "obliterate" Iran. She didn't say it in a rage. She didn't say it in a state of nervous exhaustion. She appeared calm and composed. Her voice didn't waiver at all as she spoke these words on "Good Morning America:"
Well, the question was, if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be? I want the Iranians to know that if I am president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that. Because it does mean that they have to look very carefully at their society. Because whatever stage of development they might be in their nuclear weapons program, in the next 10 years during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. Los Angeles Times Apr. 24, 2008 YouTube (at 2:29)
For decades it's been an unspoken rule that the president and others in key leadership positions avoid open threats of nuclear attack. The United States and the Soviet Union both had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world hundreds of times over. This lead to a Cold War - a series of proxy wars and other encounters made necessary by the "mutually assured destruction" that would follow a serious exchange of nuclear weapons.
Yet Clinton told the Mullahs in charge of Iran to take a good look at their society since she'd evaporate it if they launched a nuclear attack on Israel.
Iran does not have nuclear weapons now and may not until 2015 according to the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
"We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015." National Intelligence Estimate Nov. 2007
What's Her Point?
Does Clinton want Iran to develop nuclear weapons? That may seem like an absurd question. But it's inspired by her threatening statement. Iran had a nuclear weapons program, halted it, and now appears to be headed in that direction again. Threatening to "obliterate them," all 71 million Iranians, offers up ample incentive, along with propaganda cover, for the Mullahs in charge to move forward with these weapons of mass destruction.
Does Clinton want to protect Israel? Statements that prod the Iranians to move from reticence to action on any nuclear weapons development are not favorable to Israel in any conceivable way. As far as protection goes, Israel has its own version of assured destruction. Estimates of their nuclear stockpile range from 70 to 400 warheads. That's enough to "obliterate" Iran. It's a credible deterrence, it would seem, unless the Mullahs all want to die. Clinton's proposed response would simply entail bombing the rubble.
Does Clinton want to look "tough enough" to be President? What's her standard? Have we had any presidents who threatened to totally obliterate any nation with or without nuclear weapons? The use of these weapons has been considered and even suggested on occasion, but it's difficult to find threatening statements before the fact. Clinton took it to a new level in this outburst.
On this specific question, President Bush was uncharacteristically restrained when Wolfe Blitzer asked how he'd respond if Israel were "attacked by the Iranians:"