The Ron Paul movement is growing. It’s hard to doubt this after the results of the caucus in Iowa. Although coming in third, Dr. Paul was just a few percentage points behind assumed GOP front runner Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum came within eight votes of stealing the day by securing the same Christian voting bloc that Mike Huckabee rode to an Iowa win four years ago, but the staying power of his campaign will be just as limited as that of the former Arkansas governor’s failed 2008 bid. Out of the other candidates that didn’t fare as well in Iowa, Michelle Bachman has already dropped out, and while Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have pledged to fight on, their causes have been dealt a major blow and it will be an uphill struggle for them to stay relevant.
So, although it’s still early, it seems the choices for our next commander-in-chief may come down to the incumbent President Obama, Romney or Ron Paul. Our side is getting bigger everyday and I know there are a lot of you out there that are on the fence. Maybe you’re a Republican who likes the good doctor’s conservative economic values and commitment to balancing the budget. Maybe you’re a former Obama supporter who is dissatisfied with the direction our current president had led us on, and like Ron Paul’s anti-war and pro-civil liberties stances. You want to like Ron Paul, but you have your reservations.
The most common of these reservations that make people talk themselves out of liking Ron Paul is Iran. So let’s talk about Iran. The reason for not supporting Dr. Paul being spouted relentlessly by the media is that his foreign policy is not just flawed, but downright crazy, and will lead to Iran’s procurement of a nuclear weapon, the destruction of Israel and even an atomic attack on US soil. All the other presidential contenders insist that the only way to deal with Iran is to pressure them with economic sanctions to discontinue their nuclear program, and preemptively strike if they refuse to do so. But Ron Paul doesn’t think war is the answer, not there or anywhere else. So what’s his problem? This situation needs a closer look.
The first assertion that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon in the near future has been being preached for at least ten years. The latest offering was Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta telling CBS News in an interview last month that Iran could have the bomb within a year. He said that Iran “may be enriching fuel” and “if they proceed” “then we will take any steps necessary to stop it.” A nuclear armed Iran has presented as an imminent threat for a decade now, but there is still no certainty of evidence that they are pursuing such a weapon. Our government has not ruled out any actions, including a preemptive nuclear attack to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon.
If you ask Iran, they will tell you they are not seeking nuclear armament capabilities, for what that’s worth. They claim that their atomic program is peaceful and its only designs are to provide electricity for the people of Iran and to ensure greater energy independence. Iran is a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa, or Islamic religious decree, against the development and use of nuclear weapons. The Iranian government has even advocated the idea of making the entire Middle East a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. (http://missions.itu.int/~missiran/sts2007/07031301CD.htm)
But of course that’s what they would say. They’re the bad guys right? It’s all a part of an elaborate ruse to distract us while they develop a weapon in secret. However, other sources call in to question whether Iran is even working on a bomb or not. Yukiya Amano of Japan is the current head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. When he entered that office in 2009, he said that in reviewing IAEA documents he saw no evidence that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons. Late last year, Amano and the IAEA released a new report on Iran’s program that expressed a much more certain view that the nation is pursuing nuclear arms, but this report has been criticized for just drawing new conclusions from old information that had already been available when Amano made his initial assessments. (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2011/11/iran-and-the-iaea.html) Even the CIA has admitted as recently as 2006 that they have, “not found conclusive evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6167304.stm)
Let’s put aside the issue of whether Iran is actually trying to develop a weapon and if so how soon they will have it. We’ll assume for now that at some point in the future they will have one and will be willing to use it. One of the great fears over the Iran situation is that as soon as they are armed, they will turn their sights on Israel. Due to the fact that Ron Paul wants to bring American troops home from all over the world, critics say that he advocates leaving Israel to be overrun or destroyed by its neighbors. Some have even gone so far as to equate his foreign policies with anti-Semitism because they claim he is indifferent to the fate of Israel.
A lot of these concerns come from a famous quote by Iranian President Ahmadinejad in which he allegedly pledged to “Wipe Israel off the map.” This seems to be a clear allusion to the desire to nuke the Holy Land. However, it’s harder to make this jump if the quote is correctly translated. (http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/1215) There is no “map,” nor any “wiping off” in what he actually said. First, Ahmadinejad was quoting something the Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iran Islamic Revolution, had said. Second, what the Ayatollah had said was closer to, “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.”
What’s the difference? Well, in the correct translation there is no reference to removing the state of Israel physically from the world. A Muslim nation would never use a device of such tremendous power on Israel anyway because Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites of Islam as well Judaism, surpassed in reverence only by Mecca and Medina. Furthermore, I see very little wisdom in launching such an attack on a target within close proximity to your home land. The aftermath of said attack could poison much of the Middle East region, a move that would not be appreciated by Iran’s other Muslim neighbors.
But say they don’t care about any of that. They’re nuts. They’re bat shit crazy and determined on waging war against Israel. What then? Then, I would argue that Israel is completely capable of defending itself. They’ve had to do exactly that quite often in their brief history. The Muslim world’s objection to the presence of the Israeli state in Palestine is nothing new. Throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Israel had to fight almost constantly with its Arab neighbors who refused to accept their legitimacy. They have had to fight at least six wars against some combination of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan since the country’s inception in 1948 and they are still standing today through it all.
Israel is one of our nation’s truest BFF’s and among the largest benefactors of foreign and military aid. Thus, they have one of the most technologically advanced and well equipped armies of the world. They also have compulsive military service for all their young people, meaning that their reserves consist of basically the entire able bodied adult population, all military trained. Israel also has approximately forty nuclear missiles meaning approximately forty more than the rest of the Middle East countries combined, who currently have exactly zero. If there is an immediate threat to Israel’s security, Israel is more than capable of handling it.
Which brings me around nicely to the final assertion about Iran’s nuclear arms program: that if they have it, they will not hesitate to use it. In his concession speech after placing fourth in Iowa, Newt Gingrich expounds on this belief. He said, “If you have a terrorist who is prepared to put on a bomb and wear it as a vest and walk into grocery store or a mall or a bus and blow themselves up, as long as they can kill you, why would you thing that if they could get access to a nuclear weapon they wouldn’t use it (sic)?”
Well, because we’re not just talking about convincing a single brain washed youth to sacrifice himself. If Iran launched a nuclear weapon at Israel, Israel would have the ability to raze Tehran and every other major city in retaliation. We have 10,000 nukes. If Iran was somehow able to attack us, the nation of Iran would cease to exist. The location on Earth where Iran is now would look more like the surface of the moon by the time we got done with it. It might be easy to sacrifice other people’s lives if it benefits them, but would the leaders of Iran willfully doom their entire nation and sign their own death certificates just to take out Washington DC, or New York, or Jerusalem?
There was a time not too long ago when the threat of nuclear war was constant. Then, the Soviet Union had about 20,000 nuclear war heads to our 10,000. We each had intercontinental missiles constantly trained on the other and planes high overhead armed with hydrogen bombs 24 hours a day. Perhaps due to the insane arms race of the Cold War, nuclear weapons have not been used by any country since we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Once there was mutually assured destruction between the US and the USSR, neither would dare launch a preemptive nuclear attack. Doing so would lead only to the ensured annihilation of both super powers, and millions of deaths. The war that never happened may have been humanity’s greatest triumph of the 20th century; a triumph of peace and diplomacy.
The most disturbing part of the Republican primary race so far to me is that all the other candidates are accepting war with Iran as an inevitable circumstance. It’s so eerily familiar to what happened just less than ten years ago. During the build up to the war in Iraq, the government told us that Saddam Hussein definitely had weapons of mass destruction, and that if he wasn’t stopped that he would use them against the United States and Israel. They said that he was seeking to acquire nuclear capabilities, or if he hadn’t yet, he eventually would. They told us that a third world nation with a vastly inferior army half a world away were an immediate threat to our national security. Did any of it turn out to be true?
I think us Americans are spoiled when it comes to war. We have not had a war on US soil since the Civil War and haven’t been invaded by a former army since 1812. Those of us who have never served in the military have no idea what it is like to be in a war zone. War has always been in distant faraway places. We go to war. Johnny went to war. War has not come to us, thank God.
For most of the rest of the world this is not the case. Russia lost over a million people fighting the Nazis on their home soil. Iran had a terrible war against Iraq in the ‘80s. China went straight from fighting the imperial invading Japanese in World War II to fighting each other in their ensuing civil war. Western Europe has been rebuilt from the ground up twice in the last hundred years. The memories of seeing troops march down their streets, of being rushed into bomb shelters, of death being a constant companion, are still fresh in the minds of these people. They are just a few generations removed from witnessing these atrocities in their homeland. They understand what war is.
During my year living in China, lots of Chinese people would ask me about a possible future war between my country and theirs. I would say that it would be terrible because it would lead to so much death and destruction on both sides. They would unanimously agree, but they were concerned that Obama and the US would try to provoke China into a war. As Iran and China are close trading partners, I also met quite a few Iranians in China as well. They voiced the same concerns about America being the aggressors and trying to draw them into a conflict they wanted no part of. This is our perception in the world people. We are seen as the bullies always looking for a fight, as long as it’s on your soil.
Ron Paul is the only candidate that is trying to change this. He knows that we can defend our country without policing the world. He knows bringing war to foreign countries spreads only enmity and hate, not liberty and justice. He knows that economic sanctions hurt the people of nations the most, and are thus akin to acts of war. He knows that our policy of occupying nations is bankrupting our country while making certain defense contractors and bankers rich beyond rich. He knows all avenues of diplomacy should be explored first, exhaustingly if need be, and we should only go to war when we are in immediate danger and with Congressional approval.
Ron Paul’s foreign policy is not crazy or dangerous. It is the only thing that can save America and allow us to reassume our rightful place as the torch bearers of the world. War should never be viewed as an inevitable occurrence, and only as a last resort.