I don’t want to horn-in on Mark and Andrew’s discussion. But Noah Pollack cut through a lot of the either/or framing of all this a while ago:
1. It seems to me that it’s a victory for Obama. The Iran debate is being defined as one of diplomatic engagement versus diplomatic isolation, with Obama presenting himself as the bearer of a new strategy while McCain is portrayed as obdurately insisting on the approach of the Bush administration. This, of course, creates an unsavory political problem for McCain, in which he is said to represent a third Bush term. But it also allows the recent history of Iran diplomacy to become completely fictionalized.
Over the past six years, we have seen almost exactly an Obama approach to Iran, save for Obama’s promised “presidential diplomacy” (which sounds more like a graduate school course than a national security strategy, but I digress). From 2002 to 2006, the EU-3 (Germany, France, the UK) and the IAEA attempted to dissuade the Iranians from their nuclear program through high-level diplomacy, and when that saga of fruitlessness was finally handed over to the UN Security Council, Russia and China saw to it that the only sanctions passed would illustrate nothing more than the ambivalence and impotence of the international community.
So it seems to me that McCain should be making a bigger deal over the fact that the western world has indeed been deeply involved in attempting to deal with the Iranian nuclear program through almost exactly the kind of diplomacy that Obama says has yet to be tried. McCain should emphasize the fact that the Iranians have not only been unmoved by this “diplomatic offensive,” but have used the negotiations in order to buy time for nuclear development….
Abe Greenwald has even more on how McCain may be taking Pollack’s advice.