The following link, see here, connects to a video clip from the Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa last night. In it, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas—regularly one of the very few members of Congress to vote consistently against Iran sanctions legislation—explains very succinctly what is wrong with America’s Iran policy. He addresses sanctions squarely, describing them as the product of “pretend free traders” and noting that, among other things, when America sanctions countries it is “more likely to fight them” down the road. He goes on to note that there is no evidence Tehran is working on fabricating nuclear weapons and that, even if there were, it faces real and legitimate security threats in its immediate environment (including from the United States). And if that were not enough for a startling dose of realism and good sense in a forum where little of that is expected, Dr. Paul suggests that, even if the Islamic Republic got a nuclear weapon, it would not be that big a problem. He concludes by observing that, if Americans want “a policy of peace”, that means “free trade, stay out of their internal business, don’t get involved in these wars and just bring our troops home.”
That was all way too much for former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who, as you will see, interrupts the proceedings after Dr. Paul has finished to demand an opportunity to respond. Santorum—who, at this point, is much more reflective of elite Republican opinion on the issue than Paul—declares that “Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979”, and accuses the Islamic Republic of “killing more American men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iraqis and Afghanistans have…than the Afghanistanis [sic] have”.
Dr. Paul does not miss a beat, pointing out that “the Senator is wrong on his history. We’ve been at war in Iran for a lot longer than ’79. We started it in 1953 when we sent in a coup, installed the Shah, and the reaction—the blowback—came in 1979. It’s been going on and on because we just don’t mind our own business. That’s our problem”.
Unfortunately, the video clip does not include Senator Santorum’s rejoinder, several minutes later in the debate. We provide it here:
“[Dr. Paul] sees it exactly as Barack Obama sees it. That we have to go around and apologize for the fact that we’ve gone out and exerted our influence to create freedom around the world. I don’t apologize for that. I don’t apologize for the Iranian people being free for a long time, and now they’re under a malocracy [sic]…”
This strikes us as a new low in America’s Iran debate: to describe the period between 1953 and 1979 as a period of “the Iranian people being free for a long time”, because America went out “and exerted our influence”. But, we may go lower still. Texas Governor Rick Perry is set to declare his candidacy for the Republican nomination tomorrow. ForeignPolicy.com reports, see here, say that Perry’s foreign policy and national security briefings are being organized by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and feature such Iraq war masterminds as Doug Feith and Bill Luti. Dr. Paul has his work cut out for him.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett