Real Life Bluffing

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Obama Doctrine – The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world (The Atlantic, April 2016 issue, trvd. 2016-05-10]

“One afternoon in late January, as I [Jeffrey Goldberg] was leaving the Oval Office, I mentioned to [US President Barack] Obama a moment from an interview in 2012 when he told me that he would not allow Iran to gain possession of a nuclear weapon.

“You said, ‘I’m the president of the United States, I don’t bluff.’ ”

He said, “I don’t.”

Shortly after that interview four years ago, Ehud Barak, who was then the defense minister of Israel, asked me whether I thought Obama’s no-bluff promise was itself a bluff. I answered that I found it difficult to imagine that the leader of the United States would bluff about something so consequential. But Barak’s question had stayed with me.

So as I stood in the doorway with the president, I asked: “Was it a bluff?” I told him that few people now believe he actually would have attacked Iran to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon.

“That’s interesting,” he said, noncommittally.

I started to talk: “Do you—”

He interrupted. “I actually would have,” he said, meaning that he would have struck Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If I saw them break out.”

Reported on Mother Jones, by Kevin Drum, rtvd. Mon. March 14, 2016, 11:15 AM EDT]

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