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Does Tea Party Hero Mike Lee Really Want a War With Iran?

Some Republicans, like John McCain, never met a war they didn't like. But Senator Mike Lee is not one of those Republicans.
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The Bruce Springsteen wing of the peace movement could really use some help right now from the Ron Paul wing.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is boasting that they have captured Tea Party hero Mike Lee for their war with Iran project. AIPAC says that Senator Lee has committed to cosponsor Robert Menendez' bill S. 1881, which the U.S. intelligence community says would blow up U.S. diplomacy with Iran, putting the U.S. on a path to war.

AIPAC lists 47 Senators as having committed to cosponsor the bill. But as of this writing, only 34 have actually done so. That means that 13 Senators have told AIPAC that they will cosponsor the bill but have not done so yet: Lamar Alexander, Saxby Chambliss, Thomas Coburn, Michael Enzi, Deb Fischer, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, Mike Lee, Rob Portman, Tim Scott, John Thune, Pat Toomey, and Roger Wicker.

All 13 of these senators who've reportedly pledged but have not yet actualized a commitment to the Iran war team are Republicans. The presence of Utah Senator Mike Lee on this list is striking because in the past he hasn't been a cheerleader for the war team.

Some Republicans, like John McCain, never met a war they didn't like. But Senator Mike Lee is not one of those Republicans. Senator Lee opposed U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Senator Lee opposed the U.S. bombing of Libya. If he was against the Libya war and the Syria war, it's not at all obvious why Senator Lee should be a cheerleader for a war with Iran.

Of course, one political difference is that opposing wars in Libya and Syria were perceived among many Republicans as "anti-Obama" positions, while warmongering on Iran is currently perceived among many Republicans as an "anti-Obama" position. People who hope to wake up one day and find that partisan opportunism has disappeared from policy discussions are very likely to be disappointed.

But many Republicans clearly are quite capable of taking principled positions on questions of war and peace, in the sense of not deciding whether they support or oppose a war based on whether there is a "D" or an "R" painted on it. For example, many Republicans strongly oppose the war in Afghanistan, despite the fact that it was started under George W. Bush.

We need these folks to speak up now against war with Iran, and against blowing up U.S. diplomacy with Iran. The policy of trying to address concerns about Iran's nuclear program through realistic diplomacy is not, in fact, a specifically Democratic policy. The P5+1 talks that produced the interim nuclear deal with Iran were started under the George W. Bush administration. The basic idea of the interim nuclear ideal - let's start with an agreement under which you guys stop expanding your nuclear program and we stop expanding our sanctions - has been a theme of U.S. diplomacy since the second term of the Bush Administration.

The power of warmonger Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez is at its height when there is a pro-war wall on the Republican side. If the parties are about evenly balanced, and there's a pro-war wall on the Republican side, a couple of Democratic defectors can tip things to the pro-war side. We could use a few pro-diplomacy Republicans to balance the pro-war Democrats.

The Bruce Springsteen wing of the peace movement is not a political powerhouse in Utah. But perhaps if we start an appeal to Senator Lee not to back the pro-war team, some Republicans who oppose wars of choice will pick up the flag.