Real Life Bluffing
Jeffrey Goldberg describes how U.S. president Barack Obama talked about his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world – proving he can bluff. (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.”