Frum and I have been arguing over whether Romney would attack Iran as president. Noah Millman joins the debate. Among other interesting points, he notes that “there are aggressive policy options that Romney might have that wouldn’t involve a full-scale invasion of Iran”:
• He could threaten military action if Iran didn’t fulfill one or another condition and, when they failed to fulfill said condition, Romney could blink, and refuse to follow through on his own threats, thereby badly damaging American credibility.
• He could limit himself to diplomacy, but take a much more aggressive diplomatic line, damaging relations with China, Russia and India by putting the isolation of Iran at the top of the diplomatic agenda with those countries, without actually increasing Iran’s isolation materially.
• He could give a green light to an Israeli attack, promising American diplomatic and logistical support, thereby provoking a war in the Middle East without being personally responsible for pulling the trigger – and once wars start, it’s hard to predict precisely how they end.
“[O]ther ways” is exactly what the United States has been pursuing these past eight years! A tough and tightening sanctions regime has been put in place. The Iranian currency has seen its value attacked. Computers have been hacked, nuclear facilities sabotaged, and Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed or lured to defect. How much of this work is American, how much is Israeli, how much has been done by internal opponents of the Iranian regime I couldn’t begin to say. But surely the United States does not object to it. These methods have delivered results too. We’re nearing the tenth anniversary of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech. The US has not struck Iranian nuclear facilities – and yet Iran remains a non-nuclear-weapons state.
He claims that this “sanctions-plus-sabotage middle way” is “highly likely to be continued by a hypothetical Romney administration.” Millman goes another round:
My question was really a very simple one. Either Frum favors a “more cautious” foreign policy than Obama’s – generally and specifically with respect to Iran, which was the subject of his debate with Sullivan – or he doesn’t. If he does, then given Frum’s reputation that’s news, whether he thinks it is or not. If he doesn’t, then this is presumably a knock against Romney given what he thinks Romney’s policies will actually be.
It certainly seems to me that on this argument alone, David would have to back Obama.