The top three vote-getters in the Iowa caucuses — Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) — responded to success in very different ways.
Santorum, best known for his antediluvian views on gay rights and choice, emphasized the economy and job creation. Paul, keeping with the themes he has focused on his entire career, talked about personal freedom, the need to restrict "big government," and preventing a new war in the Middle East.
And Romney, who is at this point the frontrunner for the nomination, started his speech by discussing the purported failure of Barack Obama to confront Iran.
With the economy still in the doldrums, Romney sees Iran as
the most serious problem facing Americans.
ROMNEY: We face an extraordinary challenge in America, and
you know that. And that is internationally, Iran is about to have nuclear
weaponry, just down the road here. And this president, what's he done in that
regard? He said we would have a policy of engagement. How's that worked out?
Not terribly well. We have no sanctions of a severe nature, the crippling
sanctions put in place. The president was silent when dissident voices took to
the streets in Iran and, of course, he hasn't prepared the military options
that would present credibly our ability to take out the threat that would be
presented by Iran. He's failed on that.
Next, Romney turned to what he sees as the second biggest
threat to Americans: "And then how about with regards to the economy..."
His disturbing emphasis on Iran, which in no way presents a
military threat to the United States — over the economy, no less — is very
Romney insists that the administration's engagement efforts
have failed. Not quite.
Obama has hardly engaged in any diplomacy with Iran. After an
initial foray in that direction, he quickly pulled back, deterred first by the
Iranian government's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 2009 and then
by a Congress that, guided by AIPAC, vehemently opposes any negotiations with
According to Iran expert and journalist Barbara Slavin, the
Obama administration has spent a grand total of 45
minutes in direct engagement with Iran.
Romney's claim that "we have no sanctions of a severe
nature" is just as false. The sanctions regime imposed by Obama is
unprecedented in its severity. (Take a look at the full
range of sanctions.)
According to a law signed by Obama in December, as of next
summer, anyone who buys Iranian oil will be banned from doing business with the
United States. We have the largest economy in the world, so this act could do
much to damage not only Iran's economy but also the economies of some of our
most trusted allies, like South Korea. If Iran retaliates by keeping its oil
off the world market and causing prices to skyrocket, the dire effects will be
felt globally. Including here at home.
Sanctions will probably not succeed in preventing an Iranian
bomb (since the days of the Shah, Iranians of all political stripes, including
the Green Movement, have supported Iran's right to nuclear development) but it
is just absurd to argue that Obama has resisted imposing them.
As for the claim that Obama was "silent" when Iranian
demonstrators took to the streets, Romney must know that America's embrace of
the demonstrators would have been the kiss of death. Or maybe Romney actually
believes that their cause would have been advanced if they could have been convincingly
as U.S. puppets.
The remaining Romney charge is the only one that matters
because, unlike the other two, it is not just an example of misinformation or
prevarication. It is a clear indication that Romney believes that the only way
to deal with Iran is through war.
What else can it mean when Romney says that Obama has not
"prepared the military options"?
Of course, Obama has. As everyone knows, the president and
the U.S. military have fully prepared war contingency plans for use in every
volatile international situation. To assert that they have none for Iran (a
major U.S. adversary since 1979) is really an accusation that Obama is not
ready for war now. Romney, on the
other hand, clearly is.
And why wouldn't he be?
Romney told us where he stands on Iran (and the Middle East
in general) on October 7, 2011, when he announced the 22 members of his foreign
Fifteen of the 22 worked on foreign policy for the George W.
Bush administration and six were members of the original neoconservative group,
for the New American Century, that famously called on
President Clinton in 1998 to
begin "implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power." Its
rationale: Saddam was producing weapons of mass destruction.
We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the
threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will
be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country.
If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our
future at risk.
That was three years before 9/11 (after which members of the
group decided, without any evidence, that
Saddam Hussein was behind the monstrous attacks).
Clinton ignored the letter.
But, four years later in 2002, the next president, George W.
Bush, with an administration packed with neoconservatives, heeded PNAC's
new call, not only for the removal of Saddam but also for an end to serious U.S.
support for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
In that second letter, the neoconservatives were more explicit about
where they stood and why.
No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a
common enemy. We are both targets of what you have correctly called an "Axis of
Evil." Israel is targeted in part because it is our friend, and in part because
it is an island of liberal, democratic principles — American principles — in
a sea of tyranny, intolerance, and hatred. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has
pointed out, Iran, Iraq, and Syria are all engaged in "inspiring and financing
a culture of political murder and suicide bombing" against Israel, just as they
have aided campaigns of terrorism against the United States over the past two
decades. You have declared war on international terrorism, Mr. President.
Israel is fighting the same war.
Bottom line: The United States and Israel had the same
enemies — specifically Iran, Iraq and Syria — and therefore had to engage in
"the same war."
A year later, the United States invaded Iraq.
Today, with U.S. troops finally out of Iraq, the selfsame
neocons are pushing for war with Iran (the first target proposed in the 2002
letter to Bush).
Last time they wanted to fight because, they claimed, without
tangible evidence, that Iraq had WMDs.
This time they want to fight because they claim, without
tangible evidence, that Iran is developing them.
With even less evidence, they insist that Iran would gladly
use a nuclear weapon to destroy Israel even if it meant the destruction of
Iran. And they have successfully sold their line to the likely Republican
nominee for president.
Can the same gang will fool us twice?
As MSNBC host Rachel Maddow put it: "With
the greatest American failure in American policy hung around their necks, with
the Project for a New American Century neocon fantasy a punch line now, Mitt
Romney as a presidential candidate has decided to embrace them."
It is like a terrible joke.
The people who helped inflict one of the worst disasters in
U.S. history on the American people are back to do it again. And the leading
GOP contender for the presidency is following their lead.
To make it even worse, there is little indication that the
incumbent Democratic president has decided to resist the war lobby's push for conflict.
There is some good news, however.
In 2008, as he was preparing to leave office, President
George W. Bush was urged by the same advisers (led by Vice President Dick Cheney) who
had advocated invading Iraq to give
Israel permission to bomb Iran.
But Bush, to his credit, was skeptical. Additionally the Cheney neocon team was
weakened by the departure of three of the most influential war
enthusiasts: Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and Vice Presidential Chief
of Staff Scooter Libby. All three had left the administration unmourned by Bush
and with their reputations in tatters.
Bush turned to Rumsfeld's replacement, the anti-neocon Robert
Gates, who told him that attacking Iran or allowing Israel to do so could turn
the entire Middle East into a cauldron. Bush wisely said "no."
It is hard to believe that his Democratic successor would
say, "Okay, let's bomb. It will be fine." No Democrat is going to be more
neocon than a Republican.
But Romney wouldn't hesitate. That is why the neocons will be
voting Republican this year. They are determined to get their old influence
back and their next war started.
God help us if they succeed.
For the record: Rick Santorum's views are even more hawkish on the Middle East than Romney's. But he is unlikely to win the nomination and virtually all the major neocons have lined up behind Romney.