The Coming Iranian Shock to the American Election
As the US presidential horserace rounds the final turn, President Obama remains where he has been for most of the year: ahead by a nose. The RealClearPolitics survey of the Electoral College - with no tossups - has the White House at just over 300 electoral votes (with 270 being the finishing line). However, there are now 10 states where the polling is consistently within the margin of error, where the slightest of jolts either way could determine the outcome. Heavyweights Florida, Ohio and Virginia all sit on a knife’s edge.
This amounts to worse news for the President than for GOP challenger Mitt Romney, because assuming that nothing of significance will happen on the international or domestic stage until November is to believe in the tooth fairy. And almost anything that seems likely to change things hurts the President. For example, it is far too late in the day for the economy to turn around, in terms of unemployment, GDP growth, or the projected yearly deficit of over $1 trillion for the fourth straight year. With the President holding on by his fingernails, any further economic erosion of any kind could well spell his doom.
But it is in the oft-neglected field of foreign affairs that a black swan has now been clearly sighted: it looks more and more likely that Israel is set to strike the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to do so before America’s November election. A game-changing crisis of this sort would affect many things, but amongst them - with the margin of error between the two candidates being infinitesimally small - it would surely go a very long way to determining the outcome of the 2012 election. Ironically foreign policy - which has certainly been the ugly stepsister at the ball up until now in the presidential sweepstakes - may make all the difference come November. What are the signs that such a black swan may reveal itself between now and election day?
For one thing, I remember the sage advice of peerless British international relations expert Sir Lawrence Freedman. Paraphrased, it goes something like this: Despite their obvious talent for lying, bluffing, and obfuscation, it is a truism of international relations that most decision-makers most of the time mean what they say and say what they mean. In the case of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the two pivotal Israeli decision makers, they have been nothing if not clear as to what would happen should sanctions and/or negotiations fail to change the mullahs’ minds about accelerating their nuclear program. Israel would strike, and sooner rather than later.