During the GOP Presidential Debate in Ames, Iowa, on August 11, the most significant exchange between any two candidates came when Rick Santorum called Congressman Ron Paul out for his position on our relationship with Iran. Santorum, neoconservative extraordinaire, accused the congressman of being naïve about the seriousness of Iran developing a nuclear weapon of its own. The accusation brought an emotional rebuke from Dr. Paul as he delivered a history lesson of Iran/American relations to Santorum while at the same time launching an emotional appeal for the policy of endless wars to seize. The exchange highlighted the irreconcilable differences that exist between those who believe there is a bad guy under every rock and those who actually know history and understand international relations. Santorum and his neoconservative brethren are the former while Ron Paul represents the latter.
It’s only common sense that if you corner an animal it will act aggressively in order to defend itself and escape. Countries are no different. As Congressman Paul noted in the debate, the United States military has Iran surrounded on all sides. Our military currently occupies Iraq to Iran’s east, Afghanistan to Iran’s west. Obama has escalated U.S. bombings in Iran’s other neighbor to the east, Pakistan. There are also 3 American military bases in the Persian Gulf south of Iran. A large naval base is in Bahrain and army and air force bases are in Qatar. With all of that hostile American fire power situated so close to its borders, it’s no wonder Iran is feeling a bit vulnerable and in need of a little defensive weaponry.
Santorum argued that we have some special obligation to protect Israel from a potentially nuclear Iran. It’s amazing how Israel seems to enter the conversation when our politicians speak of war. In Santorum’s case it’s all a part of his pandering to Jewish and Evangelical voters. But, as Ron Paul indicated to the former senator from Pennsylvania, Israel can defend itself. As a matter of fact, Israel possesses nuclear weapons of her own. Even Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has stated that he doesn’t think Iran will drop a bomb on Israel or any other country in the region. The ruling cabal in Teheran may be brutal to its own citizens but it is not suicidal.
This, of course, is reminiscent of a former foe, the Soviet Union. As Congressman Paul continued to school Santorum he pointed out that there was no regime more brutal to so many people for so long as the communist Soviet Union. Under Joseph Stalin and various other crazy Soviet dictators, millions were slaughtered or left to die of starvation and all of Eastern Europe was subjected to Soviet domination for close to forty-five years. After the Soviets stole our nuclear secrets and developed their own bomb we sold them grain and negotiated arms deals with them. Both sides realized the importance of doing what was necessary in order to co-exist in a vastly more dangerous world. At the end of the day, Iran has no chance of attaining the economic, political, and military capabilities of the now defunct Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, chances are very good that if the Iranian leadership took the same path (military buildup) as the Soviet oligarchs they would end up ultimately in the same place – on the ash heap of failed regimes in history.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended neoconservatives like Rick Santorum needed a new enemy. Given America’s decades’ long meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and our unconditional support for the State of Israel, it was only a matter of time before blowback for our past sins would come to fruition. September 11th 2001 was that blowback. Santorum and his ilk had their enemy – Islamists. In ten short years they have spent trillions on that foe with no let-up expected any time soon. Now they have their sights set on Iran. In order to prevent the next catastrophic war, the choice is clear in the next presidential election. You can either vote for the candidates who see bad guys under every rock or you can vote for the candidate who actually knows history and understands international relations. That candidate is Ron Paul.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina