Charles Lee was in church when Sen. Joe Lieberman was on the Sunday television talk-show circuit calling for a possible military strike on Iran.
That afternoon Lee, who supports Lieberman but opposes the senator’s foreign policy stance, received an e-mail from a friend about the interview. Lieberman said Iranians were helping to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and the United States should prepare to use military action to stop them.
“Lieberman certainly tells you what he’s thinking even though it may not be popular,” said Lee, an active member of the Democratic Town Committee who took heat for his support of Lieberman last election. “Agree or not, he does tell you what he is thinking.”
Lieberman’s call for possible military strikes into Iran earned him news headlines across the country, though his hawkish message wasn’t particularly surprising to observers.
“This is an outcome of that election,” Lee said of last November when Lieberman beat Greenwich resident Ned Lamont. “Ned was a very strong supporter of a dovish position. The hawk won and here’s the hawk speaking out.”
Lieberman was a divisive force among Democrats last election when he ignored the results of his party’s primary and ran as an independent to retain his seat in the Senate against Lamont. Since winning, Lieberman has continued to be a lightning rod in the debate over U.S. military action in the region, to the dismay of some supporters.
“When you think about it, it’s not surprising that he has taken a position of attempting to deal with the issue militarily,” Lee said yesterday. “It’s a logical extension of what has been said, that there may be a base in Iran that is being used to kill American troops. But I say, I think the downside of that could be enormous. It’s hard to justify a possible expansion of the war. It could be lighting a match.”
Some supporters were scratching their heads and wondering whether Lieberman was indeed calling for more military action when much of the country opposes the war in Iraq or whether he was just stoking the debate.
“I haven’t asked Joe Lieberman what he is doing or why he is saying these things,” said Scott Fossel, a Greenwich Republican who supported Lieberman last year. “I think he is acting as a catalyst to promote debate. I cannot believe that he is favoring an invasion of Iran.”
Fossel said the United States should learn from its mistakes in Iraq and not attempt to initiate a military attack by itself.
“We should take an aggressive stance to terrorism,” he said. “Do I believe invading a country promotes that approach? No, it does not. Any effort we make against terrorism should be multinational rather than unilateral. America invading Iran would be a disaster of the highest order.”
Greenwich Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jim Himes, one of the earliest supporters of Lamont’s antiwar message and a candidate for next year’s fourth congressional district race, said he saw a lot of danger in attacking Iran, particularly because many of its own people have taken to the streets to protest their government in its pursuit of a nuclear program.
“In a highly volatile unpredictable region, that seems to me a real roll of the dice,” Himes said of Lieberman’s call for a possible military strike of Iran. “Nothing would so unify a divided Iranian population as an American attack on their soil.”
Others, such as John Raben, chairman of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee and a Lieberman supporter, said Iran was a threat to the United States and needed to be put on notice.
“If they continue to go down the path they are going, at some point there has to be consequences for the Iranian government for being an enemy of the United States,” he said.
For some observers, Iran posed a greater threat to the United States than Iraq.
“(Lieberman’s) right about Iran,” said Arthur Shulman, a Lieberman supporter who also voted for several incumbents last election. “The region is unstable enough that nuclear weapons in their hands is a danger to the world.”
At the same time, Shulman said he would stop short of initiating another war.
“If it’s true that Iran is suppling the Iraqi insurgents with weapons to kill our soldiers, it would be stupid to not to try to stop it,” he said. “Whether to attack Tehran is a solution, I don’t know, I think it’s a little extreme.”