Republicans often criticize President Obama for not hewing exactly to advice from top military leaders (a criticism those military leaders find “offensive“). But when it has suited their agendas, those very same Republicans have themselves not shied away from publicly disagreeing with top uniformed military officials.
In September, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined colleagues to criticize Obama for failing to offer a plan for Iraq that “reflects the best military advice of U.S. commanders.”
But Graham isn’t always so willing to listen to top American military officials. Last week the South Carolina Republican disagreed publicly with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s assessment that Iran hasn’t decided on whether it will build a nuclear bomb.
This weekend on CNN, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey spoke out against an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the immediate future and added that the pressure and diplomacy tracks should be pursued because the Joint Chiefs “are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” Once again, Graham shot back, saying yesterday on CNN that he disagreed with the top U.S. military officer:
GRAHAM: But you know, General Dempsey is a fine man. But when he said that he thought the Iranians were rational actors, I just want to go on record. I don’t think it’s rational for a country to try to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador in a restaurant in Washington.
I don’t see what Iran is doing is being rational. I see it as being dangerous and so that’s why we need to make sure Syria ends well.
Watch the video:
The alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington indeed represents a threat — one Clapper outlined. But Graham is missing the larger picture. Last month, Clapper said in his congressional testimony that Iran’s decision — yet unmade, according to reliable media organizations, U.N. agencies and reported U.S. intelligence estimates — to build a nuclear weapon or not “would be based on a cost-benefit analysis.” Clapper went on to give several examples of factors that could influence this cost-benefit analysis, such as economic and diplomatic pressure.
While Republican politicians should be free to criticize opinions expressed by military officers, they ought to cut out the hypocrisy of insisting on Obama’s fealty to military advice when jettisoning the officers’ opinions on topics where they disagree with the brass.