Mitt Romney’s March 6 op-ed, “How I would check Iran’s nuclear ambition,” betrayed the rhetorical and logical sleights of hand employed by conservatives in barely debated advocacy for war in Iraq. Too many of my friends and colleagues fought that ill-conceived war of choice to let this pass.
Labeling President Obama “feckless” on the international stage is nearly laughable. He has ruthlessly decimated al-Qaeda, taking out 23 of their top 30 commanders, including Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. Libya is free of Moammar Gaddafi. And today, Iran is isolated — surrounded by friends of the United States and squeezed by ever-increasing sanctions. War there remains risky and uncertain for us and our allies.
Yet sliding breathlessly from the possible actions of a nuclear-armed Iran, a status which intelligence says is no sure thing, to the cynical invocation of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Romney showed his hand: guilt by implication and insistence on false choices. Americans will not trust this game. President Obama is, according to a recent Washington Post poll, leading Mr. Romney on terrorism questions by 20 points.
Conservatives have lost substantial ground on national security and, in their desperation to regain it, have veered onto a course of great danger for America.
David Solimini, Washington
The writer is communications director for the Truman National Security Project.
Mitt Romney’s op-ed was full of holes, but I will comment only on his use of the word “feckless” to describe Presidents Carter and Obama.
Mr. Carter did approve a military operation to free the hostages held by Iran. The mission failed in its primary phase, with considerable loss of life. It was a tragedy but hardly a feckless act. Mr. Obama approved a successful military operation to kill Osama bin Laden, though the operation lost a high-tech helicopter. Almost perfect, and more audacious than feckless.
Non-feckless President Reagan launched a military operation to free Grenada from leaders of a government coup and rescue the American medical students trapped there. That operation was characterized by confusion and, although it could not have failed, was an embarrassment to the U.S. military.
In the aftermath of the Grenada operation, I worked on a National Security Study Directive ordered by Reagan on how to better organize the government for low-intensity conflict operations.
A president is not “feckless” because his military operations fail or are imperfect. These things are difficult and dangerous to do. We can be grateful we have a military with the courage to try and presidents with the courage to send them into harm’s way.
Alfred R. Barr, Washington
Mitt Romney rewrote the history of the Iranian hostage crisis, dismissing President Carter’s response as merely fretting and declaring that the hostages were only released as and because President Reagan took office in January 1981.
In April 1980, Mr. Carter ordered a military rescue mission named “Operation Eagle Claw” that failed for technical reasons. He finally negotiated the release of the hostages in the Algiers Accords. It was that agreement, completed on the day before President Reagan’s inauguration, not any threat from the new president, that enabled the hostages to return home.
Anthony Mauger, Kensington
Regardless of the wisdom or foolishness of Mitt Romney’s saber-rattling in regard to the Iranian nuclear threat, the consequences of his proposed policy would most affect those who have made the sacrifice of putting themselves in harm’s way by enlisting in the armed services. No doubt, few if any of the 1 percenters would be making a similar sacrifice, and if Mr. Romney has his way with his economic program, they would not be required to sacrifice by paying higher taxes either.
Mr. Romney might have found his op-ed piece much more difficult to write if it had included a formula for shared sacrifice.
Peter S. Bernard, Silver Spring
Mitt Romney’s contention that the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran would be “uncontrollable” rests on his assumption that Iranian leaders would use a nuclear bomb against Israel — a suicide mission for their country. Yet he reminded readers in the same op-ed of a clear case of Iranian self-interest prevailing over ideology: the release of American hostages on the day of President Reagan’s 1981 inauguration.
Is Mr. Romney asking us to believe that “the same Islamic fanatics” who were too scared to continue to detain American captives would gladly commit national suicide with a nuclear attack on Israel? That is quite a paradox.
Max Socol, Washington
The writer is communications chair for J Street