This week, we witnessed the third and final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. And honestly, we weren’t exactly thrilled with either candidate’s performance Monday night. Romney may have taken the moral high ground, allowing President Obama to showcase exactly how smug and condescending he can be. But while he said the right things regarding Israel, Governor Romney didn’t really offer much in the way of substance when discussing foreign policy. In particular, his approach to the Iranian threat left a bit to be desired.
“[C]rippling sanctions are something I called for five years ago, when I was in Israel, speaking at the Herzliya Conference,” says Romney. Okay, that’s a good start. Not terribly original, but a logical starting point, as President Obama clearly recognizes. (Several times throughout the debate, the president thanked Romney for agreeing with the things he was already doing.)
“I laid out seven steps,” Romney continued, and “crippling sanctions were number one.”
Now we’re talking!
“And they do work. You’re seeing it right now in the economy. It’s absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. But it’s good that we have them.”
Okay, you’re flagging a little bit. Not really adding anything useful. Let’s move on.
“Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil, can’t come into our ports.”
So…your contribution to fighting Iranian nuclear proliferation is to sanction Iran, just as the current president has done, but to sanction them…harder?
As far as we can tell, Governor Romney never got around to laying out steps 3 through 7, though it’s possible that by the time he did, we had simply fallen asleep.
Yes, sanctions are an important first step. And we should strive to get other countries to enforce those sanctions to make them more effective. But need we remind the candidates what our end game is here? Sanctions are useful only so far as they create turmoil that distracts the Iranian government from their nuclear ambitions. Our goal is not that every Iranian citizen should die of starvation in abject poverty. Our goal should be to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, as you have both repeatedly and emphatically stated.
To accomplish this goal by sanctions, they would need to be so stringent that they push the Iranian citizenry to revolt, and effect an internal regime change (and maybe this time, Mr. President, we could actually help them). Alternatively, the situation will have to be so dire that the Iranian regime itself is forced to take some of that uranium money, and use it on essentials instead.
The fact remains that while sanctions have hit Iran hard, those centrifuges are still spinning, and we inch ever closer to the “red line.” And we hardly doubt that the mullahs running the Islamic Republic would be willing to let a few thousand of their own die, if that’s what it takes to achieve nuclear hegemony.
Obviously, some other decisive action is called for. What is that? We’re not sure, but then, we’re not the ones running for president of the United States.
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