Will Marshall Comes Out for Containment

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.).

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. “…This appears to put PPI and Marshall to the left of Obama himself on this issue! …” Very strange. Also, I noticed that PPI has teamed up with Freedom House?


    –Freedom House and Progressive Policy Institute Announce Iran Strategy Task Force

    The Task Force members are:
    Andrew Apostolou, co-chair, Freedom House
    Joshua Block, co-chair, Progressive Policy Institute
    Ken Pollack, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, the Brookings Institution
    Steve Beckerman, American Israel Public Affairs Committee
    Rob Satloff, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

    Huh? Marshall talks about containment, while at the same time working with the likes of AIPAC, WINEP and others? What gives?

  2. Well, as I recall the old days, Jackson was in favor of forward-leaning defense, for sure, but not exactly a imperialist or war-monger. Since Iran presents no clear and present danger whatsoever to the U.S. and has a foreign policy that is far more cautious than the foreign policy of either the U.S. or Israel, why indeed would a defense hawk want to provoke a war with Iran?

    Even the chief of the neo-con war on terror, Bush, found a way to cooperate with Iran when it suited him, during the post-9/11 formation of the new U.S. proxy regime in Afghanistan. And national security types from ex-Mossad chief Dagan to Iran’s Larijani agree that a war against Iran would be a bad idea.

    There are many reasons for attacking Iran, but they do not concern national security; they are all about such private agendas as retaining positions of superiority, making profits, providing cover for the suppression of Palestinians, etc.

    Jackson was no liberal, but he did believe in protecting the U.S. Thinking people do not burn down their neighbor’s house just because their neighbor is considering getting a guard dog.

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