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Mideast situation offers options for leadership

Sep. 28, 2012 @ 12:25 AM

Saber-rattling in the Middle East and the role of American diplomacy, and our military presence in the area, should be of major concern to Americans. On Sept. 24, NBC News Wire Services reported that Iran is mulling a "pre-emptive attack" on Israel, and their commanding general is warning action which could explode into World War III.

The hint of tensions between the U.S. and Israel regarding a timetable for action complicates the situation. President Obama and the CIA are not as anxious to pull the trigger on Iran as Israel's Netanyahu. The vulnerability of American forces in the region is considerable, providing an easy target for an Iranian response to an attack from the West.

There are two schools of thought. First, would it be better for Israel to strike Iran pre-emptively and face whatever retaliation ensues, or, second, would it be better to try every diplomatic means possible to avert a first strike by Iran, giving diplomacy every opportunity to work? In either case, in Iran's mind, Israel and the U.S. are strong allies. A strike against Iran will automatically engage American civilian and military targets in the area.

Americans have a vital interest and cannot simply ignore the situation.

Obama is a leader who believes in carefully weighing the evidence before making a decision. He believes in making every possible diplomatic overture until such attempts prove futile. But when all is said and done, he is not afraid to retaliate when strategic American interests are assaulted or when it becomes necessary because diplomacy isn't working. In my way of thinking, this is the favored decision-making process.

On the other hand, we observe that Mitt Romney's tendency is to "shoot and aim later," waffle in the area of decision-making, and he has not shown sufficient evidence that he is a decisive leader. Contrary to past experience, Republicans can now be seen as more belligerent and prone to engaging militarily in Middle Eastern affairs. Under the Bush administration, diplomacy was downplayed and pre-emptive strikes were the order of the day.

This election is important in a number of areas but especially when it comes to the possible conflagration in the Middle East. It's hard for me to believe that any American wants to see an attack in the Middle East which would draw us into a major conflict.

In November, will we go "slow and steady to win the race" or will we "shoot first and ask questions later"? We have seen which approach ought to have prevailed in our pre-emptive attack on Iraq, but, it didn't!

It is always better to weigh an international situation carefully before putting America's military in harm's way.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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