What shall we say about Ron Paul, that crazy isolationist loon with a hopelessly insane foreign policy? He has little or no understanding of international politics, we are told, and of the existential threat posed by Iran. If he were to emerge from the Republican primaries victorious (unthinkable), then Republicans would be better off to vote for Obama, or at least not vote at all.
That's what Newt Gingrinch says he will do. And I'm thankful for his honesty. It speaks volumes for (or against?) Gingrinch that he would rather start a war with Iran than roll back entitlement spending and considerably lessen the size of our government.
The GOP establishment has found it much easier playing politics with Paul than responding to him. Why answer his objections when it's so much easier to brand him a liberal, or even to ignore him outright?
Alas, our own beloved Ricochet is not immune from this tendency. Even the thoughtful Paul Rahe has smeared Ron Paul, and his followers, with the most facetious of arguments. Consider what he said in a post little more than a week ago:
We had troops in Saudi Arabia, says the Congressman, and that is why Al Q’aeda attacked the twin towers and the Pentagon (if, of course, it was not the work of Mossad). Ron Paul conveniently ignores the fact that the troops that we stationed in Saudi Arabia were there at the invitation of the government of that country, and he never mentions the fact that the first attack on the twin towers arranged by Al Q’aeda took place before we had any troops in Saudi Arabia at all. In an alternative universe in which the libertarian isolationists reside, inconvenient truths are resolutely ignored.
One would think that in a statement well calculated to offend Paul's supporters--claiming they ignore inconvenient truths--a thinker as distinguished as Dr. Rahe would do some fact checking of his own. As it turns out, American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia by August of 1990. The bombing of the World Trade Center occurred in February, 1993. How inconvenient. The only explanation I can give for this blatant, and ironic, disregard for actual facts was an over-eagerness to criticize Ron Paul.
There's something about Ron Paul that encourages his critics to stop thinking, apparently. For the sake of more rational discourse, I would like to ask my fellow Ricochet members two questions regarding Iran.
1). Do we have any historical evidence that sanctions against Iran will work? In other words, is there any reason to think sanctions, and sanctions alone, will keep Iran from procuring Nuclear Weapons?
Sanctions have not worked particularly well in the past. They certainly did not work in Iraq, propelling our nation into war with breathtaking speed. The same seems to be happening now with Iran. The evidence is mounting that U.S. sanctions are only making Iran more belligerent and are viewed as Acts of War--this according to Vali Nasr, writing for Bloomberg. Vali Nasr is not a voice to dismiss. Says Robert Write for the Atlantic, "Vali Nasr, in addition to being a highly respected expert on the Middle East, belongs to a family that, according to Lobelog's sources, has 'a direct line into Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's inner circle.'"
It's becoming increasingly clear that the Iranian regime is between a rock and a hard place, needing to look strong to appease its own people, but unable to please the United States without making the most humiliating of overtures. Robert Write, again:
When President Ahmadinejad visited New York last year, he gave reporters unmistakable signals that he wanted to negotiate, but the Obama administration chose to ignore them. After Ahmadinejad 'went home empty handed,' reports Nasr, power increasingly shifted to Iranians who argued for confrontation over diplomacy.
Even so, Iran's foreign minister made another appeal to re-open talks only days ago, suggesting that they be held in Turkey. But, as the New York Times reported, western nations interpreted this overture "as an effort by Iran to buy time to continue its program." Got that? If Iranians refuse to negotiate it means they don't want a deal, and if they ask to negotiate it means they don't want a deal.
Nasr says the tightening of the screws is making Iran increasingly determined to get nuclear weapons--not to start a war, but to prevent one. Having seen what happened to Muammar Qaddafi, says Nasr, Iran's leaders worry that foreign powers would "feel safe enough to interfere in the affairs of a non-nuclear-armed state."
This is the kind of thing Ron Paul presumably had in mind when he said Iran may want nuclear weapons in order to get some "respect." But hey, what does Ron Paul know?
Very, very little, if we take the view of pundits as gospel.
After all, Iran acts purely in accordance with radical Islam. If Iranian citizens, with similar motivations, will strap bombs to their waists and blow themselves up in order to "kill the infidel," why wouldn't the government of Iran do the same on a larger scale with nuclear weapons? This line of reasoning leads to the second question.
2). Do we have any historical evidence of a country committing national suicide knowingly and purposefully without being backed into a corner by her enemies?
I can think of none. Of course, the history of the World is rich and varied, so perhaps an example exists. Maybe some Ricochet scholars will enlighten me. Even so, it is an extremely unusual occurrence on this planet. And this fact remains the Achilles heel for this whole argument, regardless of how stridently Santorum says otherwise. This argument confuses national action with the actions of a nation's citizens, the suicide bomber with the rich warlord who employs them. Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein died in far less heroic fashion than many of their followers.
Another good example is Japan in World War II. Perhaps no nation has ever utilized so many suicide bombers over such a short span of time. Kamikaze planes attacked so frequently and viciously that one eyewitness said, "It looked like it was raining plane parts." Yet the leaders of Japan did not evince this same suicidal spirit. After dropping two nuclear bombs, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally.
I would suggest that we need a President who is prudent enough to recognize these differences and historical realities, who understands the nature of diplomacy and understands our enemies. I would further suggest that Americans take statements regarding the destruction of Israel with a grain of salt. Any beast, when backed into a corner, will snarl and growl savagely. Provoke the animal enough, and it might even attack in a suicidal manner.
GOP presidential favorites keep prophesying that Iran will use nuclear weapons. Iran may indeed, but not for the reasons cited. This may be what we call a "self-fulfilling prophecy."