What’s Left: War and Peace

Ryan Martin

As the election nears and the presidential candidates actually begin to debate specific policy issues, it will be interesting to see how both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney present their views concerning Iran’s potential nuclear capability to the American people. While being an incumbent allows President Obama to demonstrate his four-year record of dealing with the situation, it does not let him escape the fact that current events may force his hand before the election comes around. On the other hand, Mitt Romney and his band of hawkish sup-porters have not been as clear in indicating how they would handle the situation better than Mr. Obama.

While Romney has recently spoken out about how the president has failed in dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran, he himself has failed to elaborate on how he would fix things if he enters the Oval Office. Beyond the harsh economic sanctions and cyber-attacks that have al-ready been used to dramatically slow down Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, what policy tools would he implement to “improve” our stance against this evidently dangerous country? Some members of the Republican Party have already made their be-liefs clear that an immediate strike against Iran is necessary, but it is doubtful that the more rational side of Mitt Romney would allow him to take such a step. So what would come then? An intensification of sanctions? Even if President Obama and the United States’ allies were not already imposing crippling sanc-tions on Iran, intensifying them might have a number of differ-ent negative outcomes. For one, it could make the leaders of that country even more defiant of the international community than they already are, and more dangerous at the same time. Another impact of such a policy change would be the brutal effects it would have on a citizenry that, just one year ago, was passion-ately rebelling against the very regime in question. Romney’s hypothetical sanctions could have the unintended effect of refo-cusing Iranian resentment against the United States rather than against their oppressive rulers and allow the regime the time it needs to achieve nuclear capability.

While examining the Israeli influence on American policy pertaining to Iran, it is also interesting to see how Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney differ. Romney, in classic Republican form, traveled there over the summer and announced his undying sup-port of every objective Israel might have (along with his belief in their inherent economic superiority over Palestinians which undoubtedly earned him strong reviews in the Arab world). While full support of the nation of Israel, which shines in the Middle East as an example of democracy, is clearly a prerogative for President Obama, this does not mean that they alone dictate United States policy in the region. The United States ultimately dictates its own Middle Eastern policy and should do so on the basis of trying to maintain a stable, peaceful region. Hasty action will only result in its immediate and complete destabilization, for the Middle East is historically known to be a place one step away from chaos. The issue with Mr. Romney and a majority of the Republican establishment in the present day is their one-track approach to foreign policy, specifically in relation to Iran. This has been the clear case in much of their policy in the Middle East since 9/11, and even after the many mistakes made in two wars in the region, they try to cling onto an everlasting “us versus them” approach reminiscent of the Cold War. We are long past the days of proxy wars and opposed monolithic superpowers. Our ultimate goal must be to prevent conflict, not inflame it.

After losing thousands of lives and spending over a trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama is not about to take steps to bring the nation into another war that could take a much greater toll on the international community. So instead of inflaming tensions in the short term, he is more intent on strategizing for peace in the long run. If a day comes when Iran crosses the nuclear threshold and there is no hope of it turning back, it would be difficult to imagine Democrats and Republicans disagreeing over whether the President should take decisive action in eliminating such a threat with military force. That day has not yet come, and we must expect our leaders to deliberate. After four years of service on the foreign policy front, Barack Obama has proven that he has the ability to do so. Mitt Romney has not yet proven at any point in this race that he has any depth of knowledge on the issues facing America abroad.

Contact Ryan Martin at [email protected].