03/04/2012 09:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Both Sides Now : More War? U.S. in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan

By Mark Green

Arianna and Mary focus on war and politics this week since a) Obama and Netanyahu meet Monday and continue their arranged marriage to discuss Iran's nuclear intentions and b) it's midway between the Michigan and Super-Tuesday primaries. While the GOP presidential contenders sound like they'd like to attack Iran upon taking the oath, Both Sides consider how well war works at all post-Iraq in an era of spending constraints. And Santorum's moralizing attacks on the brink of possibly winning Michigan appear to have boomeranged.

*On Preemptively Attacking Iran. The women discuss an Obama Doctrine that, though unwritten, flows from his original comment years back that he's "against dumb wars": hence, no more ground troops in Muslim countries; the cooperation of allies/neighbors; and realistic plans to win/leave.

Arianna assumes this frame, emphasizing that she can't believe "all the care-free talk" about war reminiscent of the language of bombing Vietnam back-to-the-stone age and the predictions of a cake-walk in the build-up to Iraq... and can't fathom how those responsible for the "monumental failures" of American policies in the last decade are at it again.

Mary explains that the Bush Doctrine flowed from the previous failure of "stability at any cost" and questions the Obama frame of seeming to require UN/allies cooperation. As for what Obama should do if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, she lauds the U.S.-Israeli tactic of "don't ask-don't tell" regarding a possible strike (NOT meaning that gay Israelis will be barred from participating).

Arianna displays a sense of consequence: why bomb if the most it can accomplish is to delay production of a weapon by a few years? Since the only way to stop this development "is to occupy Iran, that answers everything!"


*On Arming Syrian Rebels & Staying in Afghanistan. Neither woman seems impressed by the McCain-Lieberman-Graham enthusiasm for arming rebels in Syria. We listen to Secretary of State Clinton basically argue that Assad-Syria is not Ghaddafi-Libya. Mary observes that there's a lack of American will and world support for such an intervention, noting however the plaintive question of a Syrian dissident, "Where are the Americans?"

The answer is -- in Afghanistan. Should we stick to our 2014 timetable given the accidental burning of Qurans, and resulting riots? Mary argues against a rapid pull-out because "slaughter and blood-letting" would be the upshot; Arianna counters that "it's crystal clear that escalating in Afghanistan has not advanced our interests, not that it was clear what those interests were. Let's get out as soon as possible" since staying hurts American security.

What happens to the Arab Spring if America doesn't help regime change in Syria and leaves Afghanistan too soon? "The Arab Spring is not our Spring," Arianna quotes an Al Jazeera journalist, adding that "democratization in the region is up to them, not us."

One point of consensus: though both Santorum and Gingrich have denounced the President for "apologizing" for the Quran incident, the women think it was "an act of statesmanship" (Arianna) designed to save American lives, though Mary wishes he had been as judgmental about the riots and retaliation.

*On Santorum's Sex and Romney's Hair. There's agreement that Santorum's prospects dimmed because of his enthusiastic attacks on JFK's view of Church-State and Obama's views about a college education (both of which Santorum misstates: Kennedy never said that people of faith can't participate in politics and Obama never said everyone should go to college).

Mary asserts that it was the HHS health care ruling that created the issue of "religious freedom" while Arianna focuses on Catholic Bishops and GOP talkers for adding kindling to the controversy. Mary acknowledges, as George Will and others have written, that a) rhetorical excesses, b) Super PACs sustaining candidates who would otherwise have gone home and c) so many contentious debates "have hurt the [GOP] brand," though she's hopeful this situation will ease by the fall.

There's consensus on two points: "lazy journalists" have overplayed the contraception issue... and Romney has occasionally made unforced errors in language. They discuss his candid comment that "I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support" by attacking Obama too personally [Host note: "appeasement", "apology tour", election a contest about "the soul of America"?] Ms. Matalin's interpretation is that he can't and shouldn't try to be a "coo-coo puff" like Santorum and Gingrich. [Post-show, Joe Klein writes in Time, it's "a relief to know that there's something Romney won't say or do to win the Republican nomination."]

Wrapping up, Ms. Huffington concludes that the former governor has "been incredibly diminished in the past few months. The only real adversary Obama has is the economy going south again... Barring that, I don't really see how Romney defeats him."

*Quick Takes: Snow's departure. Breitbart's death.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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