Kerrey’s Opposition to Attacking Iran — Straw in the Wind?

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who is running to reclaim his seat after serving for most of the past decade as head of the New School, has come out strongly against war on Iran. Here’s the video of his statement:

This deserves some notice for a few reasons. First, Kerrey, who was highly decorated for his service in Vietnam, was an Iraq War hawk and even served on the notorious Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Second, he’s a moderate Democrat identified more with the interventionist wing of the part than the more non-interventionist and anti-war McGovernite wing. Third, he’s running to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, perhaps the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic caucus and a reliable supporter of AIPAC-backed legislation and resolutions.

I think his willingness to take such a strong position so early in what is likely to be a tough campaign for him in a very conservative state is due to several factors, not least his close ties to the Pentagon, the government bureaucracy that appears most strongly opposed to attacking Iran, be it by Israel or the U.S. itself. But I also think public opinion, of which an experienced politician like Kerrey has a pretty good sense, has been moving against the idea of war against Iran (although there are no very recent polls on the question) since Israeli and Republican saber-rattling hit a high back in early March with the AIPAC Convention. I also think the pushback by much of the foreign-policy and military establishment against what Obama called the “loose talk of war” at that time has also had a major impact. And the fact that there have been relatively few denunciations of the the Istanbul talks in mid-April by anyone other than Netanyahu and a familiar clutch of neo-conservative hawks here also suggests that war fever has been significantly reduced, at last for now. But Kerrey’s strong position on this issue is one very interesting straw in the wind.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. I think you should reconsider Kerrey’s “highly decorated vet” status as he stands accused of war crimes due to the massacre at Thanh Phong.

  2. are the neo-cons becoming marginalized? They certainly still have a platform, but very few serious people take their evergreen (red) proposals seriously. I like to listen to various arguments, not the same argument repeated ad nauseum. When you survey the news this way, there really ain’t much going on debate wise–just a bunch of posturing for rank political advantage. Meanwhile, this mighty ship of state steams towards rocks, still yet to decide whether to turn left or right…

  3. “I also think that pushback by much of the foreign policy and military establishment against what Obama called the ‘loose talk of war’ at that time also had a major impact.”

    But all that was readily forseeable. A game of carrot and stick is being played with Iran. In reality, there is zero chance of an American attack, and little chance of an Israeli one.

    Instead of wasting so much verbiage on this aspect of the Iranian “problem”, one would do better to focus on Bahrain, where the Sunni-Shia conflict may be approaching a crisis point. That’s where the real action is likely to be.

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