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Can Obama’s Spine Be Stiffened?

Or will the president allow Iran to go nuclear?

9:00 AM, Jun 21, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
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Iran, moving steadily forward on its march toward nuclear status, has once again brazenly defied the International Atomic Energy Agency, barring two of its inspectors from touring its sites. How will the West respond?

Can Obama’s Spine Be Stiffened?

So many previous provocations—minor and major—by the ayatollahs have gone unanswered that it would be churlish to anticipate a firm answer. Indeed, with the latest round of UN sanctions now in place, any action in Washington beyond a State Department pronouncement would be a miracle. All signs show that American policy will inexorably continue to be one of wait-and-see. 

But all is not lost, at least not yet. Here in the United States, the latest polling by Pew poll reveals that a striking 66 percent of Americans are “willing to consider military action” to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That is a number the White House should consider as its own standing plummets in so many policy realms.  

We tend to regard the Europeans as more feckless than we are. And indeed they are. But Pew’s survey nevertheless shows that majorities in such key countries as Germany (51 percent) and France (59 percent) would also contemplate military action. In Spain, Britain, India, and Brazil, the same figures are, respectively, 50 percent, 48 percent, 52 percent and 54 percent.  

Given the late date, it is perhaps grasping at straws to take encouragement from such numbers. And of course, attitudes in other powerhouses--Russia, China, and Japan—are something else altogether. But the soil in at least some important countries is fertile and can be further tilled. Along with everything else that must be done to face the greatest menace of our time, mobilizing public opinion around the world to meet the danger remains an urgent task. Here at home, it could certainly be one key to a stiffening of Obama’s spine.

Gabriel Schoenfeld is the author of Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law.

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