McCain: No Bold New Ideas

Judging from John McCain’s speech today to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, McCain thinks that the security of the United States and Israel is best served by the continuation of policies that have resulted in the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, the consolidation of Iranian government power by an extreme hard-line faction, and the extension of Iranian influence throughout the region.

Dismissing calls for talks with Iran, McCain monotoned:

Even so, we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. Yet it’s hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability.

I don’t know how to break this to John McCain, but Ahmadinejad already has a worldwide audience, as the Iranians long ago mastered the technology of recording images and broadcasting them through the air.

McCain’s claim that talking with Iran would strengthen the positions of radicals and hardliners gets it exactly wrong. Entering into responsible negotiations with the Iranian regime would likely undercut, rather than strengthen, hard-line factions by demonstrating that the United States is not an implacable foe bent on Iran’s destruction, as the hard-liners claim.

Conversely, radicals like Ahmadinejad continue to draw considerable strength and legitimacy from the self-gratifying war talk of President Bush, Senator McCain, and assorted neocon crazies, all of whom continue to mistake irresponsible threats for actual leadership. Any time any Iranian moderate suggests that perhaps the Americans are reasonable, all Ahmadinejad or any other radical has to do is play the YouTube (another technology the Iranians have mastered) of McCain singing about bombing Iran.