American leadership is difficult to detect. … If the president is uncertain, that’s human. But why offer Tehran (and American allies) new evidence of American indecision?When a senior member at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (!) puts into doubt the declarations of the Obama administration, you know there must be at least some truth in it… Specifically, George Perkovich, the Endowment's vice president for studies and director for nuclear policy stated that Barack Obama's seemingly combative diction attempts “have no effect on Iran. It appears to me that this is done less to scare Iran than to silence critics on talk radio here in America." (Again, America's enemies being, in the final analysis, not foreign communists or Middle Eastern Islamists but — sigh — inhabitants of the American heartland…)
That is only part of what we learn from John Vinocur's New York Times column:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, just last week, proclaimed that the world was entering “a new American moment when our global leadership is essential.”
Presumably, that’s good news. But when it comes to leading, the task involves clarity, and on Iran’s sprint toward a nuclear weapon, there’s reason to see the Obama administration heading into confusion.
With Iran now estimated to be in possession of enough low-enriched uranium to produce, with further enrichment, two nuclear weapons, and administration officials saying manufacturing one would take the mullahs about a year, American policy is hard-pressed to be credible.
Either the administration is demonstrating a new toughness, or it has once again decided to reach out a diplomatic hand in Iran’s direction.
People who heard President Barack Obama out on the subject here last month left a meeting divided about which of those notions he has in mind.
If this is a new American Moment, the administration’s approach to Iran appears to be providing its friends with at least as much uncertainty as motivation and resolve.
…The problem with evaluating the tough talk, which preceded Mr. Obama’s meeting with the writers, was that nothing was reported among the president’s comments to match it in substance or tonality.
I asked George Perkovich, vice president for studies and director for nuclear policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, how real or effective the seemingly combative diction sounded to him.
His answer: these attempts “have no effect on Iran. It appears to me that this is done less to scare Iran than to silence critics on talk radio here in America. It would be desirable for the United States to have credible use of force in relation to Iran, but in my view we do not.”