Listened to some of the debate last night (GOP Presidential nomination debate in Mesa, AZ hosted by CNN). Someone in the audience asked – my paraphrase – “How would you, as president, deal with the threat that Iran poses?” Totally lame question, because it’s been asked and answered dozens of times. However, I think it was instructive to hear the answers again. Ron Paul, being Ron Paul, made good points about not being careless about going to war, insisting on the formalities of doing so, and that there’s scant evidence that Iran is weaponizing their nuclear program, but also ranted nonsensically about having undeclared wars (such a tired old trope), exaggerating their expense, and that if we would just leave Iran alone, they’d have no need of a nuclear weapon (or any other aggression). He also raves on and on about how all the wars we’ve been involved in were unconstitutional, which I think is just batty. The constitution doesn’t regulate foreign policy all that much, and I think he likes to pretend that it does.

Anyway, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all proceeded to agree with each other on conventional arguments about the unacceptability of Iran being in possession of nuclear weapons and that it’s in America’s vital interests to prevent that scenario, even if by force.

I wish that Ron Paul weren’t so insane unacceptably irrational and naïve* in some of his views so that his better points could actually be heard. Most importantly:

  • We have to stop skipping the logical leap between Iran having a nuclear “program” and having nuclear weapons.  I’m inclined to believe that if they have one, they will have the other – but to make the case to the public (and more importantly, justify war), one has to connect the dots.  You can’t just roll your eyes at the GOP’s crazy unacceptably irrational and naïve old uncle.
  • Ron Paul is absolutely, 100% right about the formalities of going to war.  I think he’s wrong about the Iraq War being undeclared, but he may not be wrong in Libya or other conflicts in which we find ourselves.  I also think his skepticism of “pre-emptive” wars is justified.

Above all, I wish that we could have an honest political dialogue about why the Middle East is so volatile, and why it matters to us.  It’s all about oil, and we’ve let it get worse for us than necessary by choosing (through environmental and economic policy) to over-rely on oil imports rather than developing our own energy base (including renewables of all stripes).  I think energy subsidies have retarded our ability to make real progress in that area, not to mention the direct blockage of efforts to exploit domestic conventional energy sources.  It’s gotten lip service since the 80s, but the best long-term strategy for our handling of the Middle East is to make them into an irrelevant backwater by making their oil not matter.  It serve us and them better in the long run.

For that matter, I’d also like to see us get our act together on missile defense so that nuclear weapons themselves don’t matter so much.


(strikeouts at the request of a buddy who objected to the use of the word “insane”)