Yesterday, President Bush announced new, unilateral sanctions against Iran. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) warned that the unilateral approach “escalates the danger of a military confrontation.”
Today, the Washington Post offers a very different perspective. The paper writes that Bush’s sanctions regime demonstrates that he actually seeks to “prevent” war with Iran:
In approving far-reaching, new unilateral sanctions against Iran, President Bush signaled yesterday that he intends to pursue a strategy of gradually escalating financial, diplomatic and political pressure on Tehran, aimed not at starting a new war in the Middle East, his advisers said, but at preventing one.
Bush believes Tehran will not seriously discuss limiting its nuclear ambitions or pulling back from its involvement in Iraq unless it experiences significantly more pressure than the United States and the international community have been able to exert so far, according to administration officials and others familiar with the president’s thinking.
That the Post is so willing to uncritically accept the White House interpretation of its own actions is nothing new. In 2002, during the run-up to the Congressional vote to authorize military action against Iraq, the Post similarly wrote that Bush viewed the vote as “the best way to prevent a war:”
Moreover, unlike 1991, passage of the resolution does not mean that a war is imminent. Indeed, as the vote neared, Bush and members of his administration in recent days have deliberately toned down their tough rhetoric. The notion that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be toppled has been shoved in the background, while instead officials argue that the best way to prevent a war is strong support from Congress and the U.N. Security Council for a possible war, because it will demonstrate to Hussein that he has no choice but to give up his weapons of mass destruction.
The drumbeat for war with Iran strikes disturbingly similar notes as that leading up to war with Iraq. It is unfortunate that the Washington Post has not grown more skeptical of Bush’s attempts at “preventing” war.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has more.