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Spengler

Who Is James Dobbins?

May 7th, 2013 - 7:13 am

With little comment from conservative media, President Obama last week appointed James Dobbins as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the high-profile job long occupied by the late Richard Holbrooke.

Dobbins is a prominent exponent of the idea that America can live with a nuclear Iran, as well as an opponent of the use of military force against Iran’s nuclear program under any conditions. Whatever the White House might be thinking, the appointment sent a signal to Iran that the military option is pure bluff.

“Obama’s AfPak envoy may embrace Iran” is the lead of today’s Asia Times Online under the byline of MK Bhadrakumar, a former Indian ambassador to Turkey. Writes Bhadrakumar:

The probability is that the United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry got around to reading the congressional testimony titled “Negotiating with Iran” given by Ambassador James Dobbins on the Hill on November 7, 2007, while deciding to name him as the new U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The appointment seems odd, the former Indian diplomat explains, because:

Dobbins has been an inveterate critic of Obama’s plan to reduce the US military footprint in Afghanistan. He voiced enthusiastic support for the counterinsurgency strategy [COIN] carried out by General David Petraeus and was sharply critical that the COIN was reduced to mere counterterrorist operation.

One wonders if the Republican establishment declined to object to Dobbins’ appointment because of his COIN credentials.

But there’s an explanation for Obama’s selection, Bhadrakumar adds:

Dobbins’ real credentials lie quite somewhere else than on the kinetic battlefield. Kerry made this clear while announcing the appointment. He said, “He [Dobbins] has deep and longstanding relationships in the region, … Jim will continue building on diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion, actively engaging with states in the region and the international community.”

Secretary Kerry was referring, evidently, to Dobbins’ “deep and longstanding relationship” with Iran.

As assistant secretary of state for European affairs and general troubleshooter in the George W. Bush administration, Dobbins proposed to jointly train the Afghan army with Iran. As he said in Congressional testimony in 2007:

Iranian participation, under American leadership, in a joint program of this sort would be a breathtaking departure after more than 20 years mutual hostility. It also represented a significant step beyond the quiet diplomatic cooperation we had achieved so far. Clearly, despite having been relegated by President Bush to the “axis of evil”, the Khatami government wanted to deepen its cooperation with Washington, and was prepared to do so in a most overt and public manner.

This was too much for the Bush administration, and Dobbins de-camped from the State Department for a senior job at the RAND Corporation.

There, he co-authored a 2011 monograph titled: “Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran.” In effect, the Dobbins report proposes a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Its summary states:

It is not inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons or even that it will gain the capacity to quickly produce them. U.S. and even Israeli analysts continually push their estimates for such an event further into the future. Nevertheless, absent a change in Iranian policy, it is reasonable to assume that, some time in the coming decade, Iran will acquire such a capability. Most recent scholarly studies have also focused on how to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Other, less voluminous writing looks at what to do after Iran becomes a nuclear power. What has so far been lacking is a policy framework for dealing with Iran before, after, and, indeed, during its crossing of the nuclear threshold. This monograph attempts to fill that gap by providing a midterm strategy for dealing with Iran that neither begins nor ends at the point at which Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon capability. It proposes an approach that neither acquiesces to a nuclear-armed Iran nor refuses to admit the possibility — indeed, the likelihood — of this occurring.

What this doublespeak actually means becomes clear in the body of the report:

The closer Iran moves toward testing and deploying nuclear weapons, the more negative the consequences for regional and global security. Uncertainty regarding Iran’s actual capacity — although itself a source of anxiety — would be less provocative than certainty about such a capacity. The region has lived with an unacknowledged Israeli nuclear arsenal since the late 1960s and could conceivably do the same with a similarly discreet Iranian capacity.

To equate Israel’s nuclear capability and Iran’s attempt to acquire a nuclear capability is monstrously wrong. We have already seen in the case of North Korea what a rogue nuclear power can do once it acquires nuclear weapons.

Dobbins has argued forcefully and frequently against the use of military force against Iran under any circumstances. In a Nov. 16, 2011, article for US News and World Report titled “An Attack Would Only Strengthen Iran’s Influence,” Dobbins wrote:

In the aftermath of an attack, Iran would likely move its program entirely into to clandestine or heavily protected sites. The global coalition the United States has built in opposition to the Iranian program would be seriously strained. Further international sanctions would be difficult, maybe impossible to achieve. Some nations could become more willing to assist the Iranian program, or at least less willing to police those who might.

Tehran will read this high-profile appointment as proof that the Obama administration never will use military force to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons — and that Washington will do nothing as long as Tehran maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity. At best, the Obama administration has displayed incompetence in the extreme. At worst, it has given Iran a green light to become a nuclear power.

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Top Rated Comments   
Good question, but they don't seem to care. Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli preferences have been building in the Democratic left for some time but the Jews continue rabid support of Democrats. One is tempted to conclude they just don't care that much about Israel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
By his 20 year attendance in Jeromy Wright's so-called church, by his saying "The Arabic Call to Prayer is the most beautiful sound on Earth", by his celebrating Ramadan in the White House, by his 2009 speech in Cairo praising Islam, by his call to go back to the pre 1967 war borders, by his giving the Muslim Brotherhood and their auxiliaries entrance to the White House, the State Department and even the military, by his deep bowing to the Saudi King, by his declaring "The future does not belong to those who insult the prophet of Islam" - By each of these things Obama's calling was plainly revealed. That all united should have failed to enlighten the competent inquirer is almost inconceivable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (26)
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To David's credit, at least at the time the Business Insider reports came out I recall him refusing to rule out what Clare Lopez and other former government insiders were saying about Benghazi gun running. That's better than some of his PJM colleagues who're going to have to make an about face when the truth finally comes out.

And as I've pointed out before, even if the Obama Administration could intimidate everyone in D.C. (and apparently it cannot -- see the IRS scandal) foreign governments still know more about Benghazi than they've said thus far. Keep pissing off the Russians Obama with amateurish stunts. How do you know they didn't tap you?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
David, I must make a comment about your PJM colleagues in general, without naming names specifically -- virtually no one who writes for PJM has wanted to discuss whether Benghazi was a massive gun/MANPAD running operation to the Syrian jihadist rebels. True a few have brought it up but have quickly dismissed it as implausible if not impossible, a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theory and nothing more. The CIA must've only been collecting weapons in Benghazi to get them 'off the streets', which of course would explain why they hired Libyan Islamic Fighting Group thugs to guard the 'diplomatic mission' which was set back surrounded by a thickly populated neighborhood and one that issued no visas. At a certain point, as certain news organizations continue to be spied on with impunity, one wonders how long they can continue to engage in polite fictions on behalf of Washington by calling it a 'diplomatic mission' rather than what it was -- a CIA safe house that became very unsafe.

In fact, I keep seeing all kinds of misidrection plays and desperate attempts to change the subject from Fast and Furious po Arabski. Some say there were covert interrogations going on at Benghazi, and pretend that is mutually exclusive with using it as a weapons smuggling hub. Sen. Graham says Amb. Stevens died trying to collect MANPADs, rather than ship them to Syria (wonder how this White House could keep Benghazi under wraps for so long without any GOP backstopping, especially if Graham and McCain supported covertly or not so covertly arming the Syria rebels?).

No David, this time the tin foil hat wearers and paranoids are going to be proven right once more. They really are out to get us. And neocons are desperate not to open the door that Benghazi reveals: a U.S. foreign policy that kills jihadis with drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen while arming them to the teeth and funding them in Syria. This cannot be reconciled with an eternal War on Terror, and hence must be denied at all costs in official D.C. But Sen. McConnnel, whose fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul directly asked Hillary whether any weapons smuggling was going on at Benghazi, has already dropped hints the next shoe to fall comes from CIA. Well what else can the Agency insiders reveal but that Benghazi was about guns, guns, guns? Obama would not risk his whole presidency or at least reelection just to maintain the fiction that Libya was at peace after Gaddafi or that terrorism was no longer a threat. That's too mundane, Obama would order a standdown though so that dead men in Benghazi would tell no Damascene tales.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Would this be any different if obama was muslim?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama is a politician, not a leader. He follows the political wind and sets sail accordingly.

He falls into the same trap that many an investor or general has blundered into. He responds when the enemy is strong and breaks off the attack when he retreats.

Iran is stretched now. More pressure is needed and he backs off to regroup and study the situation.

Part of the problem is that we Americans tend to view every conflict as WWII. If it is not invade and conquer as in our attempts in Iraq and Afghanistan then we think there is nothing to do. What is happening in the middle east now is not that kind of war and we lack the mental construct to understand it.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're backwards...

He's an ideolog of the first water... but lazy.

His Leftist Media simply blow the wind his way.

I give you the 2012 'campaign.'

And Benghazigate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Who Is James Dobbins?"

A faithful reflection of his bosses' opinions.

I am sure that neither professor Goldman, nor any reader of this blog ever thought, even for a minute, that Hussein would attack Iran. Because he would rather chew off his left hand (he is left handed, you knew that too).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He (Obama), is communicating that military force is OFF the table. This is as plain as can be. The Israelis must see this. This will bring a conflagration sooner and more difficult than Obama anticipates,
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
someone has to be fed to the Pashtuns, and the Balochis
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As if anyone really believed that Obama had the cojones to use military force against a muslim state like Iran.

Obama's "red lines" are worth about as much as his promises.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“To equate Israel’s nuclear capability and Iran’s attempt to acquire a nuclear capability is monstrously wrong. We have already seen in the case of North Korea what a rogue nuclear power can do once it acquires nuclear weapons.”
- Spengler

Actually, your statement is optimistic. With North Korea we have a starving nation threatening holocaust in order to feel good and maybe put some free food on the table. With a nuclear Iran, we’ll have a nation of Moslem Twelvers waiting for a Messiah to arise from a well somewhere, whence he’ll bring to pass Allah’s command to just kill every Jew in the country, that country of course being Israel.

And it gets worse: a nuclear Iran will beget several other nuclear nations in the region, each of them led by other Moslems also guided by the Holy Ko-ran, which plainly proclaims martyrdom as the one way to get to Jannat (Moslem heaven), and commands a belief system dedicated to eternal war. Naturally, this is why that big fat Yale/Harvard brain Prez Dubya stated that Islam is a religion of peace.

Nukes and Moslems is not a good combination; it’s akin to a wild 13 year old boy being given a chain saw with a full tank of gas.

Moslems + nukes just feels wrong for some reason. Pakistan was bad enough, but the forthcoming situation is mind bending. That said, let us thank Prez Barack Hussein on his brainy choice of James Dobbins, who combines great certitude with unapologetic ignorance (another awful combination).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look, the Ron Paul supporters out there are starting to think Obama is pretty sharp. Dobbins is taking Paul's position and running with it.

Oh yeah, most people weren't too keen on the old kook as president. Nah, instead we got someone who isn't just a well-meaning ding-dong, but is actively supporting those who have traditionally called for our destruction.

Eh, 6 of one - half a dozen of the other.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Too bad Preston closed his comments so fast. I could've posted my usual, 'I for one, blame Ron Paul for this' on his threads. What a jerk, who played buddy with Ron for years in the Texas GOP then dismissed him as a nut when he decided to run for president, as if Ron Paul wasn't the same back when Preston was campaigning for him at the Texas GOP.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Starting off your sentence with "Look" shows you have been watching Fox News Channel. Not that that is bad, Krauthammer can get away with it, but I read it as arrogance.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Krauthammer doesn't want to admit our government kills jihadists in Yemen and Pakistan and arms them in Syria. That's letting the cat out of the bag.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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