While everyone is marveling at yet another display of how little Herman Cain cares or knows about foreign policy, Michael Cohen’s review of Saturday’s foreign policy debate reminded me of something Romney said that is actually far more foolish:
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.
There is no way that Romney can back up this guarantee, and there’s also no way for him to know that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon in the next few years. It could happen, but hawks have been saying something like this for decades, and so far they have been wrong every time. Consider the most recent examples of nuclear weapons proliferation in North Korea, Pakistan, and India. What could have been done by an administration of the other party that would have made the slightest difference in any of those cases? There was nothing that another administration would or could have done that would have halted these states’ development of nuclear weapons.
Romney’s statement is foolish in a number of ways. First of all, it sets him up for endless mockery if he is elected and Iran tests a bomb during his time in office. Contrary to his bluster, nothing he proposes doing will stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon if the Iranian regime decides to develop one. That includes military strikes on Iran’s facilities. Having declared that he will definitely stop something that he cannot stop, he opens himself to the standard charges of “weakness” and failure of the sort that he flings with such abandon right now. Preserving credibility is overrated, and it’s not something that seems to worry Romney very much, but Romney’s statement undermines his credibility by promising something he can’t possibly guarantee. Bizarrely, Romney continues to treat an issue on which there is (unfortunately) considerable bipartisan consensus into a partisan dispute. He seems compelled for some reason to insist that there are profound differences of substance between him and Obama, which forces him to belittle Obama’s policy when it is almost identical to his own. At the same time, Romney’s confrontational Iran policy makes it even more likely that Iran will decide that its needs a deterrent if Romney is elected, which makes it that much more likely that Romney’s words are going to come back to haunt him.
The one place where Romney seems to differ with the administration is in his repeated calls for supporting “insurgents” to help overthrow the government. My guess is that this would involve resuming Bush-era support for separatist militias and terrorist groups in their fight with Tehran. This isn’t likely to “encourage regime change” so much as it is going to outrage most Iranians that the U.S. is waging covert war against Iran with the help of separatists and terrorists. I wonder if one of the “insurgent” groups that Romney has in mind is the MEK. Someone should ask Romney where he stands on the question of de-listing the MEK.