Obama Unbound
The paradoxes of presidential politics give him complete freedom abroad.


Victor Davis Hanson

If we get to the scary point of Iran’s going nuclear in 2012, expect the Obama administration — up for reelection and without much of a domestic record to run on in these hard times — to consider a preemptive strike. Be assured that if it does, there will be no outrage in the Democrat-controlled Senate, no campuses on fire, no ad hominem ads in the New York Times — all the sorts of anti-war hysteria that once sought to turn a moderate like George W. Bush into a caricature of some trigger-happy yokel from shoot-’em-up Texas. 

And conservatives? Again, they would mumble that an Obama “wag the dog” strike would cynically be all about the president’s reelection. Or they would at least note the irony, given the Nobel Laureate–in–Chief’s prior demonization of Bush’s use of military force. Nonetheless, Republicans would largely grow silent if — a big if — a strike were successful and ended Iran’s nuclear threat.

The truth is that the more the Obama administration floats silly symbolic trial balloons such as supporting a Ground Zero mosque, trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a Manhattan civilian court, and employing inane euphemisms such as “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters” in the context of radical Islamic terrorism, the more it will try to assassinate foes such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, sidekick of the late Osama bin Laden, or consider, as in Libya, giving a greater push to Syrian rebels.

I am not suggesting that bombing Iran is imminent or even wise, only that it is now far more likely than during the tenure of the Bush administration.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.