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What Is Peter Feaver Smoking?

Peter Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University who served on the National Security Council staffs of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, has always struck me as a knowledgeable, reality-based guy. His work on civil-military relations is considered top-notch, for instance. When he joined Foreign Policy’s blog devoted to conservative criticism of the Obama administration — a really addictive and valuable blog, let me say — I thought it was a great choice.

Lately, though, Feaver’s taken some confusing twists. He’s argued that a laughably political and hollow document issued in 2005 by the Bush administration called the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq was somehow reflective of a bipartisan consensus about the war — a bizarre piece of revisionism that didn’t convince former Condoleezza Rice confidante Philip Zelikow.

Now he’s arguing that Obama’s approach to Iran is … no different than Bush’s:

In fact, what Obama was proposing was a tactical tweak to the Bush strategy of carrots and sticks. Indeed, the Obama strategy depended on beating Iran with even bigger sticks than the Bush team had assembled: specifically, getting European allies to ratchet up their economic pressure on Iran. Doubtless there were implementation errors on the part of the Bush team, but a significant cause of the failure of the Bush Iran strategy to stop the Iranian nuclear program was the reluctance of the European allies to wield the sticks the strategy required.

And it’s true: as long as you ignore all the distinctions, Obama appears headed on the same course as Bush. Remember, Bush included Iran in an “axis of evil”; rejected a 2003 Iranian diplomatic overture for normalized relations; repeatedly issued messages in high-profile speeches about how great it would be if the Iranian people overthrew the regime; dispatched additional naval assets to the Persian Gulf; raided Iranian facilities in Iraq and detained Iranian nationals; and authorized extremely limited talks restricted to the issue of Iraq conducted by the American ambassador in Baghdad that yielded very little. Obama has proposed negotiating with the Iranians without preconditions — something conservatives made central to their arguments against Obama in the campaign — and is in the process of tasking a special envoy to explore direct diplomacy. Where’s the difference?

C’mon, Peter. Puff puff pass.

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