Pivot to National Security
A smart post-election move for Obama.


Clifford D. May


Assuming the polls, prognosticators, and pundits are worth their salt, this time next week President Obama will be facing political climate change. So if his advisers are worth their salt, they’re now telling him: “We’re going to need you to pivot, sir. We don’t want the country spending months talking about how this was your loss, how you’ve been weakened, how the goals you seek now exceed your reach.”

That raises this question: Pivot to what? The answer is simple, if not so pleasing for Obama: He needs to turn from the domestic issues about which he cares deeply to the national-security issues to which he has given less attention.

A Republican-majority House and a more equally divided Senate (that’s my best guess) are likely to limit Obama’s plans to further redistribute the diminishing wealth being created in a sluggish economy. Job-killing environmental schemes such as cap-and-trade will not pass; likewise “card check,” which would take power from union members and award it to union bosses.

By contrast, on the most pressing national-security issues, the president could assemble a bipartisan majority, achieve important victories, and strengthen his hand for the 2012 presidential election. Let me offer just a few examples.

Hobble Iran. It will go down in history as a terrible defeat for Obama if the terrorist-sponsoring theocrats in Tehran acquire nuclear weapons on his watch. The bipartisan sanctions legislation he has signed has badly bruised Iran’s economy. So far, however, he has pulled his punches — he has not enforced sanctions against the worst violators of the law.

Nor has Obama said loudly and clearly what needs to be said. He should be explaining not only why Iran’s jihadi rulers cannot be permitted to have their fingers on nuclear triggers, but also that the economic pain the U.S. and its allies are inflicting on Iran is intended to liberate the Iranian people, who are being sorely oppressed and whom we regard as friends.

Were Obama to give such a speech soon, the media would have to focus on it. The recent WikiLeaks document dump confirms what some of us have long argued: that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah were deeply involved in Iraq, killing both Americans and Iraqis. Iran also is facilitating American deaths in Afghanistan right now. Obama could declassify intelligence demonstrating that.

Finally, he should emphatically repeat what he has said in the past: If Iran’s rulers will not change course, other options are on the table. But now this does not imply only the use of military force. The Iranians, no doubt, have been spooked by the mysterious Stuxnet virus that has been eating away at the computers controlling their nuclear facilities. Obama need not reveal who is responsible (assuming he knows) to suggest there’s more where that came from.


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