Saturday’s Republican debate, sponsored by CBS and the National Journal, revealed a Republican field that is promising war on Iran and a revival of the use of torture, as well as horrible relations with the new governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (according to Herman Cain, they have gotten “out of hand,” and he and Gingrich want to deal with them by supporting a muscular Christianity).
Dear Herman Cain: In revolutions, things typically get “out of hand.”
The only adults in the room were John Huntsman and Ron Paul, who have no realistic chance of being the standard-bearer. They denounced water-boarding as torture and generally punctured the warmongering of the others. But it is shameful that potential US presidents are even talking about torturing people and launching wars of aggression.
Herman Cain said he would deal with Iran 1) by funding the opposition Green Movement and 2) by lowering the price of petroleum dramatically through producing more petroleum in the United States.
Cain then added that although he would not give military aid to the Iranian opposition,
“And then there’s one other thing that we could do. We could deploy our ballistic missile defense capable (UNINTEL) war ships strategically in that part of the world. We have the biggest fleet of those warships in the world. And we could use them strategically in the event that they were able to fire a ballistic missile.”
Problems with Cain’s talking points: 1) Any such attempt at gunboat diplomacy would raise the potential for military conflict with Iran enormously, a possibility of which Cain seems blithely unaware.
2) The Green Movement would not take his money, and the people in the opposition who would take his money don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of coming to power in Iran. To be fair, when asked if he would give military aid to the opposition, he demurred.
3) The price of petroleum is determined by both supply and demand. North America has 3% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and it just is never going to be able to pump enough again to have a significant impact on world prices. Moreover, increased supply would be gobbled up by massive increased demand from Asia, including not just China but also India and many others. There is no prospect of a significant fall in Iran’s income from energy exports short of a Chinese economic crash, which would hurt the US as well. Even if the world can switch to solar in short order (which Cain opposes), Iran is well placed to produce a lot of solar energy, as well. Indeed, Iranian solar electricity generation would be impossible to boycott.
Then Mitt Romney said he could have done a better job in deterring Iran’s nuclear enrichment program than has Obama. But you will note that the Bush administration could not do anything about it, and there is absolutely no reason to think that Romney could, either. General James Cartwright testified last year that only an invasion and occupation of Iran could stop the program. Romney thinks he could have forced Russia to cooperate with sanctions on Iran, but it is all just hot air. Russia has substantial economic relations with Iran that it is not going to sacrifice to make Mitt Romney happy.
“Fin– finally, the president should have built credible– threat of military action, and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know– and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you’d like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
Romney urges “crippling sanctions.” But the only crippling sanction would be a blockade of Iranian petroleum exports, which would send the price of petroleum through the roof and would be an act of war. Russia and China will not cooperate in “crippling sanctions” at the UN, so they’d be purely American and Western European, and ultimately ineffectual without a military blockade– which would lead to war.
Romney also urges aid to Iranian “insurgents.” But there are no Iranian insurgents. If he means the People’s Jihadis (Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK), they are about as popular in Iran as Mormonism is in Alabama. Nor has the MEK ever shown significant “insurgent” operational ability. And, actively funding an “insurgency” is an act of war.
Romney can’t stop Iran’s nuclear enrichment program (there is no proven nuclear weapons program). His promise to do so is either dishonest, as with Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam War, or belligerent– because he must know that only an invasion and occupation could accomplish this goal. A mere military strike on some centrifuges would not stop the Iranians, and it could very possibly set off another Mideast War.
Romney is actively campaigning on a “we’re going to war again” platform. He should be taken seriously when he says this.
Newt Gingrich advocated a robust set of covert operations inside Iran to disrupt the nuclear enrichment program or perhaps the regime in general, which he said should be “deniable.” He urged covert cooperation with Israel in Iran.
But “covert” operations most often do not stay “deniable.” CIA pilot Gary Powers’ U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union became public. Israel’s covert operations in Egypt in the 1950s, in which it planned and carried out attacks on US targets in that country in hopes of blaming them on the Abdel Nasser regime and so souring relations between Cairo and Washington– became public when the plot was penetrated and broken up by Egyptian intelligence. The “Lavon Affair” roiled Israeli politics for years.
In an age of Wikileaks, Newt thinks the way to go is “covert operations” and “deniability”?
And if the covert operations did not work? Gingrich said,
“And I agree entirely with Governor Romney, if in the end, despite all of those things– the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.”
Likewise, Rick Santorum said a lot of predictably belligerent things about Iran. But none of them are practical. He doesn’t know that Iran’s current program depends on centrifuge technology, which is easy to spread around here and there, and is not like a single nuclear reactor such as Osirak in Iraq, which the Israelis bombed in 1981. (Actually, since Osirak was a light water reactor built by the French with safeguards, it could not have been used to make a nuclear warhead; Iraq only ramped up its nuclear weapons program after the Israelis attacked the innocent reactor). So Santorum’s suggestion of “working with the Israelis” to bomb Iran is laughable. The Israelis probably couldn’t even get back from such a mission. They want the US to do it. And the mission, i.e., air strikes on a few centrifuges, is a fool’s errand, since you could only disrupt, not stop, the enrichment program that way.
As Ron Paul pointed out, neither Romney nor Gingrich said anything about going to Congress for a declaration of war on Iran. Rather they used the language of the imperial presidency.
Actually, the US lived with a Soviet and a Chinese Communist bomb, and it could live with an Iranian one. But, as with Iraq 2002, the alleged Iranian nuclear warhead does not actually exist and there is no early prospect of it existing.
These people just like the idea of war. War is good for munitions firms and security firms, who give a lot of money to Republican candidates. They’re actively looking for a war. It is good for business, for them.
As for the rest of us, think about this:
The US credit rating was cut because its debt ($14 trillion) came to equal its annual gross domestic product ($14.5 trillion).
If it hadn’t been for the Iraq War, which was entirely paid for by borrowed money, the US debt would have been only $13 trillion, and there would have been no downgrade. When a country’s credit rating is downgraded, it makes it more expensive to borrow money, which makes the debt increase, in a vicious cycle.
So Mssrs. Romney and Gingrich should be made to tell us how they will pay for a war on Iran. Iran is nearly 3 times as populous as Iraq, and Iran’s area is 636,296 sq miles, whereas Iraq’s is 167,400 square miles. I’d say it is a fair bet that an Iran War would cost the US three times what Iraq cost– i.e. an Iran War would cost the rest of us $3 trillion off the bat, and another $6 trillion over the lifetime of the wounded veterans’ care.
Since all the Republicans are against raising taxes on their cronies among the billionaires, there would only be one way to pay for a $9 trillion Iran War, which would be to abolish social security and medicare. Maybe accomplishing that long-desired goal is even what drives the Republican frontrunners to their fantastic dreams of another Middle Eastern War.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.