It’s important to understand the context here. Will Marshall was co-founder in 1986 of the Democratic Leadership Council (and, in that capacity, helped school Bill Clinton and Al Gore and other “New Democrats,” in the virtues of liberal interventionism a la Scoop Jackson). He later became head of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a DLC spin-off. He has always specialized in foreign policy, serving as a reliable exponent of the Jacksonian doctrine of “Peace Through Strength.” And, when it comes to the Middle East, he’s always been closely identified with Joe Lieberman and has thus worked closely with neo-conservatives (including the Project for the New American Century), even as he has occasionally criticized them for excessive unilateralism. For more on his history, see this 2007 profile from Right Web.
But in this op-ed published by foreignpolicy.com today, he seems to be breaking rather dramatically with Lieberman in arguing that containing a nuclear-armed Iran should not be taken off the table. The title and precis tell the story: “Yes, We Can Contain Iran — By ruling out the possibility of deterring a nuclear Iran, President Obama is needlessly increasing the risks of a ruinous war.”
This appears to put PPI and Marshall to the left of Obama himself on this issue! Of course, Marshall is still quite hostile to Iran and makes clear that U.S. strategy should be aimed at regime change. But I’m nonetheless quite amazed and surprised by his position. Lieberman and Co. cannot be happy. AIPAC, too. And while Marshall is not as influential in Democratic Party foreign policy circles as he was, say, during the Clinton years, his views are not inconsequential either. Given his history and long association with the Jackson wing of the party, his position offers space to those Democrats who are worried that with Obama’s recent disavowal of containment, he is painting himself into a corner that could will make war with Iran more likely.
Consider also that Josh Block, AIPAC’s former spokesman, is a senior fellow at PPI and an outspoken Iran hawk who, like AIPAC, has strongly opposed containment as an option in dealing with Tehran (and hyper-aggressively attacked those, including Eli and Ali, who, in his view, have downplayed the alleged threat
that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel and the U.S.).