One of the key things that Ron Paul has contributed to our discourse is the notion that we should try and look at conflict from the point of view of our foe. You'd think this would be obvious if we are attempting to influence, say, Iran's behavior, to understand their fears, their baseline interests and their ideology. So far, all we hear about is their ideology. But let's broaden our moral imagination in ways not allowed in the Washington Post.
Imagine that three scientists working on the US nuclear arsenal were assassinated in the streets of Chicago or Washington or Los Angeles by agents of Iran. Now imagine that an explosion took place at one of our nuclear facilities – also engineered by Iran. Also imagine that Iran was capable of blockading US ports to cripple the US economy. Imagine the dollar collapsing because of this and a new depression initiated. What do you think Mitt Romney would be saying? I suspect he would be saying that Iran has already declared war on the US.
But all these things have happened in Iran, probably by the hands of Israeli intelligence, perhaps by the US, or some combo of the two. Is it surprising that the Iranians are throwing rhetoric around, even if much of it is empty? Of course not. Vali Nasr argues that Iran is already on a war-footing because of this:
Iran has interpreted sanctions that hurt its oil exports, which account for about half of government revenue, as acts of war.
Who alone among the presidential candidates gets this? Only Ron Paul. Bob Wright has a must-read on the potential president's lonely sanity on this question. Jon Rauch also notes that the debate we're having about Iran is very very similar to the debate we once had about China's nuclear capacity:
Fifty years ago, [China] was the Iran of its day, a rising regional power that was radical, ideological, boldly antagonistic. It fought the U.S. in Korea, attacked India and Taiwan, supported violent insurgencies and more. Its leader, Mao Zedong, mused that killing half of mankind might be a price worth paying to make the world socialist. Understandably alarmed, some of President Eisenhower’s advisers urged a pre-emptive nuclear attack. (Ike wisely forbore.) President Kennedy said a nuclear China would dominate Southeast Asia and "so upset the world political scene" as to be "intolerable."
Notice the classic Kennedy recklessness in foreign policy (he was George W Bush avant la lettre), and the characteristic Eisenhower sanity. Now look at the history. Since China's adoption of nuclear status, it has actually behaved more responsibly abroad, not less. Jon makes a very persuasive case that nuclear weapons really don't give countries much of an edge, and, if anything, tend to calm them down, especially if they are in a region where they have foes who do have such weapons.
The Obama administration has foolishly decreed that it will never allow a nuclear-armed Iran. It's foolish because at some point, Iran will get one, and the US will therefore have to go to war either to stop it or to punish Iran for it. The obvious option – containment – is foregone.
Obama also argues that he opposes Iran's nukes because of proliferation in the region. At which point one must loudly cough "Ahem." Only one country in the region has illegally, in defiance of internatinal law and the NPT and US policy, has nuclear weapons and it's Israel, not any Arab state. More absurdly, the US government has a formal policy of never acknowledging this fact. At one point in the not-so-distant past, the US government was committed to the view that Iraq had nukes but Israel didn't.
When will the US evolve a sane policy in the Middle East? One that advances our interests, avoids a catastrophic global religious war, and bases it judgment on history and statecraft rather than religion and a US-Israel alliance that, since the end of the Cold War, has become increasingly unhealthy to both parties? Less Kennedy, more Eisenhower, please.