I was walking home from the Italian Market today musing about Hillary Clinton. She seems to have stuck her finger in the wind and detected a strong gale coming down from Connecticut.

“I don’t take anything he says seriously anymore,” Clinton said when asked about Cheney at a later campaign stop. “I think that he has been a very counterproductive–even destructive–force in our country, and I am very disheartened by the failure of leadership from the President and Vice President.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but I take every thing Dick Cheney says very seriously. For example, I took him seriously back in March, when he spoke to AIPAC:

The regime in Tehran also continues to defy the world with its nuclear ambitions. Of course, this matter may soon go before the U.N. Security Council. The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences. (Applause.) For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. (Applause.) And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

The people of Iran can be absolutely certain that we respect them, their country, and their long history as a great civilization — and we stand with them. Iranians desire and deserve to be free from tyranny and oppression in their own homeland. Freedom in the Middle East requires freedom for the Iranian people — and America looks forward to the day when our Nation can be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. (Applause.)

That was carefully framed and parsed language. It’s impossible to counter by saying that we will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Of course, there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Cheney knows this. Olmert knows this. The conflict with Hizbollah, concocted at Beaver Creek (I believe), is designed to achieve several goals. It offers an opportunity to attack Iran by proxy, along with countless stories in the press that will prepare the American public for those “meaningful consequences” for Iran if they do not cave in to the UN resolution. It also has the potential to create a buffer between Hizbollah and Israel, by the introduction of an international force.

My belief is that the conditions will never be ripe enough to introduce the joint United Nations/Lebanese 30,000 strong force. The biggest obstacle is the Lebanese army, which is sympathetic to Hizbollah. They cannot be expected to carry out counterinsurgency in their own country. Once this UN process is found to be unwieldy, Israel will be stuck occupying southern Lebanon upto the Litani River. This is not something they want to do. If they cannot stop the resupply of weapons and rockets from Syria, the only option left is regime change in Damascus or another shameful retreat from Lebanon.

Does Hillary understand the stakes that are being played for in all of this? Does she agree with Cheney’s assessment? Does she take it seriously?

It’s interesting to see the center-left take note of Lamont’s victory. What is harder to see is any fundamental opposition to the neo-conservative foreign policy. Dick Cheney does not intend to leave office in 2009 with the same regimes in power in Syria and Iran. He doesn’t have the resources to occupy two more Islamic countries, but he does have the power to break them in the same way that Iraq and Lebanon are broken. What he needs are a couple casus belli to take to the American people.

Hillary is getting on the right side of the debate rhetorically. It remains to be seen whether she is on the right side of the debate substantively.

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