Taylor: This is a tempest in a teacup. Much ado about nothing. For crying out loud, man, this isn’t brain surgery. Don’t get crazy over this, Dick. We’re only talking about a damn deejay.
Dickerson: Sir, there is no such thing as “only” anymore. Not now. Not in Saigon.
—Noble Willingham as General Taylor and J.T. Walsh as Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam
I finally had to quit listening to Mike Church’s satellite radio show on my way in to work. King Dude used to be a highlight of my mornings, but he’s devolved into nothing but a three-hour shill for Ron Paul, and frankly Church is approaching Chris Matthews “thrill up my leg” territory in terms of the disturbing level of attachment he exhibits for this candidate.
I recognize there isn’t going to be a perfect candidate to run against Obama, and I am the first to admit that I like a lot of what I hear from Congressman Paul. His stances on the Fed, government spending, originalist construction of the Constitution, and the application of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are, in my judgment, right on the money. But where I disagree with Paul, I find him not only wrong but downright dangerous.
Case in point: Iran.
The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report this week outlining the state of its knowledge on Iran’s nuclear progress. Confirming what the rest of us already basically knew, the report says that some of Iran’s work in this regard is specific to nuclear weapons, despite Tehran’s insistence that all it is doing is trying to develop a peaceful atomic energy program.
Yet Congressman Paul took to the Sunday morning shows last weekend to stake out his position that rather than sanctioning Iran (much less taking more decisive action) over its nuclear ambitions, we should be extending the olive branch and courting friendship with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. This is consistent with Paul’s longtime “non-interventionist” (some might say “isolationist”) stance that the U.S. should essentially withdraw its military from the entire planet and never engage in foreign conflict. According to Paul, Iran poses no credible threat to anybody, and because there’s never been any “evidence” that Iran’s nuclear ambitions present any risk we should accept at face value Ahmedinejad’s denials that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Even Obama isn’t this naïve.
Congressman Paul would have us deal with Iran as Nixon did the Soviet Union and China back in the 1970s. The problem is, Iran isn’t the USSR or China. With the Soviets and Chinese, the stakes of MAD were so obviously too high such that it was neither necessary nor advisable to take them on offensively. Nor were you dealing with rogue states driven by a fanatical and overtly homicidal religious philosophy; the Soviets and Chinese were more interested in making money than in winning hearts and minds for Allah, and neither accepted their political tenets to the point of suicide.
Paul is correct that Iran probably doesn’t present a significant direct threat to the United States. We’re not in danger of being overrun by hoards of Persians crossing over from Canada and Mexico. And Iran doesn’t have the capability to hit the U.S. with a missile attack. But that doesn’t mean Iran—and particularly even the remotest possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran—isn’t a substantial risk to national security and legitimate U.S. interests abroad, and to say otherwise is to ignore the obvious to a degree that should terrify all of us in a prospective Commander-in-Chief.
Iran is well-known as a state sponsor of terrorism. It provides enormous amounts of money, weapons, and supplies to known terrorist organizations. People like Hezbollah, the folks who brought you the bombings of the U.S. embassy and marine barracks in Beiruit. People like Hamas, who routinely break their promises to stop firing rockets and missiles indiscriminately into Israel, and are fond of hiding behind children when they get shot at. People like Islamic Jihad, a group responsible for numerous suicide bombings and ambush attacks in Israel. The prospect of one of these groups obtaining an Iranian-made nuclear device, and, say, getting it aboard an airliner bound for the U.S. should be chilling. But candidate Paul says that risk is negligible, and rather than act pre-emptively we should worry about it when it happens.
Tell that to the families of the 2,977 killed on 9/11.
More substantial is the threat a potential nuclear-armed Iran poses to Israel. Congressman Paul and his supporters can yell all they want that Iran hasn’t actually attacked anybody, but to do that is to ignore what they’ve made very plain is their intent, which is to eliminate Israel:
May 2008: “The Zionist regime is dying . . . [R]egional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and [if the] briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy it.”
June 2010: “[We] will change many issues in the world and mark the final countdown for Israel’s existence.”
September 2010: “There is no room for Israel in the Middle East.”
The threat is not an idle one. Iran’s Fajr-3, Sajjil, and Shahab-3 missiles can carry multiple independent warheads, and have ranges well in excess of that necessary to reach all of Israel from Iranian soil. Absent the nuclear threat, the capability to reach Israel with a missile attack doesn’t amount to much more than the ability to poke the bear in the eye. But with nukes, Iran’s missile arsenal now poses the potential to deliver a knockout blow.
This is a seriously destabilizing development. Israel already finds herself not only surrounded by enemies on all sides, but with the “Arab Spring” faces the prospect that regimes in places like Egypt and Lebanon could be replaced with hard-line Islamist governments. Worse, Israel has no reason to expect any serious help from a U.S. administration that has all but turned its back on her. Obama’s juvenile mistreatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is well-documented. Tuesday Obama was caught bad-mouthing Netanyahu with French President Nicolas Sarkozy; Sarkosy called Netanyahu a “liar,” and Obama basically responded that “you think you have it bad, I have to deal with the S.O.B. every day.” Under these circumstances, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a chance Israel cannot afford to take. Once that happens, there won’t be any sidelines left on which to sit it out.
Or consider that a nuclear-armed Iran will likely inspire other Arab states—either from possibly misguided fears about Iranian aggression, or in a sophomorish push to be able to say mine’s bigger—to pursue their own. And there will be little to stop Iran from exporting the technology to other belligerants.
Mr. Ahmedinejad, there’s a Mr. Kim on line one, and a Mr. Mugabe on line two.
What do you suppose will happen in the Middle East when—not if, but when—Israel takes necessary action to defend herself and there is no prospect of U.S. backup? What do you suppose will happen once Iran’s nukes metastasize to other potentially rogue states or terrorist organizations. What Paul is espousing is an expansion of the non-policy we already have under Obama. And if history teaches us anything it is that appeasing bullies doesn’t work.
Brace yourselves, kiddos. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Keystone XL Pipeline Watch: 77 days since final State Department Report, with still no action by the White House. I do note that it now appears they are considering alternative routes, which will provide convenient cover to punt until after the election, as I predicted here.