Recently there has been some thoroughly unnecessary and frankly overwrought hand wringing trying to paint Sen. John Edwards as some sort of Bush-style war hawk. What brought this issue to light is that in discussing Iran at a national security conference, Edwards made the “mistake” of saying all options are on the table.
To me, this hints at a divide in liberalism between those who believe that we really shouldn’t ever use force and those like me who think that sometimes at some point you have to. What Edwards said is frankly a mainstream, non-deviant line consistent with traditional American foreign policy. In negotiations with other nations, especially hostile ones, no option is ever off the table (Edwards himself says in Ezra Klein’s interview with him “It would be foolish for any American president to ever take any option off the table.”). But saying that doesn’t mean you start warming up the nukes, as some folks have sought to take it. Instead it means that we go to the bargaining table with that thought in mind.
What has perverted this is the Bush administration’s “diplomacy” in which they made up their minds before they ever got to the table. No matter what Iraq did, we were going to invade them. It made a sham of diplomacy. When the Bush administration says all options are on the table, history shows us they’re lying.
There is no factual reason to believe this about Senator Edwards or any other Democrat, and for that matter any number of rational-minded Republicans (an endangered species, but they exist). Edwards is auditioning for the job of president and the president cannot start pulling things off the table, because then every little group is going to want him to take more and more out of the equation. First it’s nukes, then its smart bombs, then its automatic weapons, pretty soon we have no strength to back up our negotiations. It’s just lunacy and it reinforces my belief that the next Democratic president will have a much of a hard time dealing with his or her left flank desiring their pound of flesh as the right flank trying to oust them from power.