May we always be preserved from the condescending nonsense of Robert Kagan. He writes in response to Rand Paul’s foreign policy speech:

A true dissenter would have the temerity to declare that a nuclear Iran, although unfortunate, is nevertheless tolerable and that the military option ought not to be on the table.

Yes, if there’s one thing that Robert Kagan has been interested in for the last twenty years, it is the encouragement of true foreign policy dissent. Who could have missed it? Kagan knows very well why Sen. Paul doesn’t take a more unconventional line on Iran policy. We have seen it on display for the last seven weeks in the panic over Hagel’s nomination and we have seen it over the last six years as Sen. Paul’s father has been written off as a “fringe” figure because he takes exactly the position on Iran that Kagan describes. Obviously, Kagan isn’t interested in having a “true dissenter” in the debate, and he hates them when they appear.

Hagel underwent an absurd interrogation because of his past views on the continued relevance of containment as a policy option (and eventually rejected containment as an option for Iran policy), but Kagan pretends that it is a purely “conventional” position to argue that containment of Iran should be an option. According to the very low standards of our current foreign policy debate, Sen. Paul took a position on Iran policy that was unconventional and potentially risky. Had he been any more unconventional, Kagan and his allies would be leading the charge to denounce him as an extremist. The fact that Sen. Paul feels compelled to take the position on Iran that does reflects the incredibly narrow constraints of our debate on Iran and foreign policy in general.

Of course, it isn’t really the case that Kagan wants to have a debate about basic assumptions regarding U.S. foreign policy. He doesn’t question any of those assumptions, and he doesn’t think any of them need to be revisited. Sen. Paul’s speech was a tentative start at reassessing of America’s role in the world, and despite its limitations it represented a significant challenge to the prevailing bipartisan foreign policy consensus.