You don’t have to be that good to fend off a committee of showboating senatorial blowhards. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that a week or so back when she unleashed what’s apparently the last word in withering putdowns: What difference does it make?Quite a bit of difference it seems. This week, an over-sedated Elmer Fudd showed up at the Senate claiming to be the president’s nominee for secretary of defense, and even the kindliest interrogators on the committee couldn’t prevent the poor chap shooting himself in the foot.Twenty minutes in, Chuck Hagel was all out of appendages.He warmed up with a little light “misspeaking” on Iran. “I support the president’s strong position on containment,” he declared. Breaking news!
Obama comes clean on Iran! According to Hagel, the administration favors “containment.” I could barely “contain” my excitement! Despite official denials, many of us had long suspected that, lacking any stomach for preventing a nuclear Tehran, Washington would settle for “containing” them. Hagel has been a containment man for years: It worked with the Soviets, so why not with apocalyptic ayatollahs? As he said in a 2007 speech, “The core tenets of George Kennan’s ‘The Long Telegram’ and the strategy of containment remain relevant today.” Recent history of pre-nuclear Iran — authorizing successful mob hits on Salman Rushdie’s publishers and translators, bombing Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, seeding client regimes in Lebanon and Gaza — suggests that these are fellows disinclined to be “contained” even at the best of times. But, even if Iran can be “contained” from nuking Tel Aviv, how do you “contain” Iran’s exercise of its nuclear status to advance its interests more discreetly, or “contain” the mullahs’ generosity to states and non-state actors less squeamish about using the technology? How do you “contain” a nuclear Iran from de facto control of Gulf oil, including setting the price and determining the customers?
All fascinating questions, and now that Hagel has announced “containment” as the official administration position, we can all discuss them.
Unfortunately, as Hillary said the other day, “our policy is prevention, not containment.” So five minutes later the handlers discreetly swung into action to “contain” Hagel. “I was just handed a note that I misspoke,” he announced, “that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.” Hagel’s revised position is that there is no position on containment for him to have a position on.
Carl Levin, the Democrat chair, stepped in to contain further damage. “We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment,” he clarified. “I just wanted to clarify the clarify.”
Containment? Prevention? What difference does it make? Could happen to anyone. I well remember when Neville Chamberlain landed at Heston Aerodrome in 1938 and announced the latest breakthrough in appeasement: “I have here a piece of paper from Herr Hitler.” Two minutes later, he announced, “I have here a second piece of paper from my staffer saying that I misspoke.” Who can forget Churchill’s stirring words in the House of Commons? “If, indeed, it is the case that I said, ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall never surrender!’ then I misspoke. I meant to say that we’re keeping the situation under review and remain committed to exploring all options.”
Read the rest here.