David Frum has graciously answered the question I asked in my post on Romney and Iran. He’s promised “more to come” but let me see if I’ve got what he’s said so far correct.

If I understand him right, he approves of the Obama Administration’s Iran policy as the only sensible middle ground between accepting nuclearization as inevitable and starting a war that would be “a bad outcome . . . not only because war is costly and unlikely to be fully successful, but also (and maybe even more importantly) because it will embitter US-Persian relations for a long time to come.” He expects Romney to follow much the same course as the President has, regardless of how much he’s criticized the President’s policy on the campaign trail.

Do I have that right?

Frum’s original piece, which prompted his back-and-forth with Sullivan, proposed that Romney would conduct an “even more cautious” foreign policy than Obama because the alternative would be too risky and too expensive. Frum hasn’t disputed that, rhetorically, Romney has called for the opposite – a more aggressive foreign policy, claiming that Obama has been coddling our enemies and letting down our friends. So what does that contradiction between rhetoric and reality portend?

In my post, I said that one of the possibilities for a Romney Administration’s foreign policy is rhetorical belligerence backed up by very little substantive action. Is that what Frum expects? Does he think such a policy would be a good one, with respect to Iran or any other antagonist?

“Retrenchment” – the word Frum calls me out for in his piece – was my way of parsing what “even more cautious” (Frum’s phrase) might mean. If Frum doesn’t like the implications of that word, what does he think “even more cautious” would mean in practice?

My question was really a very simple one. Either Frum favors a “more cautious” foreign policy than Obama’s – generally and specifically with respect to Iran, which was the subject of his debate with Sullivan – or he doesn’t. If he does, then given Frum’s reputation that’s news, whether he thinks it is or not. If he doesn’t, then this is presumably a knock against Romney given what he thinks Romney’s policies will actually be.

And my other question is simple as well. Given that Romney is running on a more aggressive foreign policy, what does Frum think that “more cautious” foreign policy could actually look like? If, as I suspect, it would look like a great deal of bluster with no follow-through – a policy of “shout loudly and carry a small stick” – then why is that a good thing? Why is it even a good way of keeping the country out of war, to say nothing of achieving our other foreign policy goals?

In any event, I look forward to reading the rest of his answer – and, in particular, his view of whether Netanyahu has been bluffing in his own rhetorical belligerence.