The Iranians are calling our bluff. They wont just give in to our demands to make us happy and get what they want along the way. They have to be big men and not give anything up first. Well, that certainly changes the calculus, doesn't it? As hopeful as I was that the Iranians would play ball, we were asking them to give up the key concession we desired before talks would even begin. I suppose it's not surprising they would refuse, especially with how badly Iraq has been going these last three months and the Hezbollah victory against Israel.
I read this news with dread, because this refusal to subjugate themselves puts it on the table. By which I mean, this puts crazy cowboy-man antics on the table. The inspectors getting shut out of Natanz is a putative NPT violation, for god's sake! If even a shade of a case can be made that they're going off the reservation in regards to their actual treaty obligations (not ones we wish they had, like the Additional Protocols), then this is big shit. It's the causus belli that our political leaders will use to march us right up to war. Brinkmanship, here we come, despite the fact that intelligence sources and nuclear technology experts hold the Iranian bomb as being at least 5 years away.
And you know why we'll be put through this dangerous game of chicken? Because without a healthy dose of fear and brinkmanship, the White House would lose the midterm elections in a landslide. Instead, we're going to have constant invocations of the threat of nuclear terrorism, and how Bush resolutely "Will Not Allow" them to get a bomb. The Democrats, as a the saintly yet damned voice of reason will get clobbered for saying "We don't think war with Iran is a good idea." We will be right, and we will be pilloried as traitors who want to see our cities nuked. We'd rather protect the rights of terrorists not to be eavesdropped on than protect our wives and children, the Republicans will hold. There will be a vote to authorize military force in October (again). It will be disgusting.
And then, when the dust settles and the Republicans have increased their congressional majorities, the nuclear threat will mysteriously disappear, because getting tough with Iran cannot be anything but rhetoric. The Republicans will "come to realize" that Iran cannot have a bomb for a couple of years, at least. Not only is this a strategic fait accompli, but also because it is possible that people in high places (The Joint Chiefs) would take otherwise inappropriate action and veto such a war from outside of the Oval Office.
The only political counter to this most despicable of October surprises is strength. The public needs to see the Democratic Party as one that will unfailingly fight to protect America. The key word is fight. That's why we need to be hitting, hard. Boxing. We need to be stating what at this point is obvious from Bush's rhetoric: he's planning a series of wars just like Iraq. We need to be yelling about the Republicans making us less safe through their stupid, needless wars and their domestic sloth in regards to homeland security. Do you trust these jokers to take us into more Iraqs? We need the whole party chanting this in chorus. All the time. ALL THE TIME.
And, in fact, it may be too late. Prepositioning yourself strength-wise makes it look natural when you act like a jerk down the line, calling the Republicans weak on defense for wanting war with Iran now. We should say the neoconservaties are crazy people, bent on war at all costs. We should say that their pigheaded reliance on the military, while refusing to talk to anyone, makes us less safe. If we're not already prepositioned by the time the rhetoric heats noticeably on Iran, then we'll look like political opportunists even though we have strategy and a deep desire to do what's best for the country in our hearts. We'll look craven, and weak, even though our ideas are the only ones that can win this war. At that point, strength through agressiveness will still be the remedy, but it would be vastly better to start early.
Of course, in the same breath as an attack, a "hopeful plan for America's War on Terror" must be espoused. When detail is called for by opponents, only a few sentences are called for. "The Freedom Agenda is a good start, but it's not just freedom to vote that combats extremism. The ultimate calming power is that of consumerism - the middle class. If people have air conditioning and pimped rides, they aren't going to want to blow themselves to pieces. We want the freedom agenda, just not at gunpoint."
... Ok, so maybe that's not a message for the entire Party. But the point is that excessive detail is not required. A couple of sentences of what we would do instead, or better, followed by a pivot back into attacking the rubber-stamp Republicans. If more detail is pressed for, then the facts of our Republic can weigh in, since only the President commands the military.
They key is to attack, and just as importantly, not waver an inch when your opponent calls foul. Strength is a funny thing. The facts just don't seem to matter much to the voting population. What matters is the perception of personal strength. And from a group sociology viewpoint, I think that makes perfect sense.