If you like President Obama’s approach to Iran, you’ll love Rand Paul’s. The Kentucky right-winger apparently didn’t learn anything from the reception to his speech at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year, which suggested containment as an option for Iran. In a Fox appearance, he came out with this muddled mess: Containment “shouldn’t be our policy. But I don’t think we should also say the extension of that, that we will never have containment as a policy. Containment actually, for 70 years, was a great policy.” Thunk.
Let’s count the ways in which this makes no sense. First, holding out the potential for containment undermines any incentive for Iran to give up its nukes. The entire point of sanctions and public statements is to convince Iran that it can never have a nuclear weapons capability. Second, containment worked with the Soviet Union, which was not an Islamist revolutionary state where suicide was glorified. Iran not only may be undaunted by the threat of mass destruction but also may well be inclined to give its nuclear material to the assortment of terrorists it supports. And finally, that policy of Cold War containment entailed escalating defense budgets, overseas bases and missile deployments, support for authoritarian regimes that acted as a bulwark against communism and aggressive support for freedom fighters — all things which Rand Paul now seems to oppose.
Paul also said he didn’t want to add to sanctions while nuclear negotiations are going on. This is the position of the Obama team — and of Tehran. It overlooks that, absent sanctions over the past few years, Iran likely wouldn’t even be in discussions. The notion that all it has to do to hold off sanctions is to talk is a recipe for stalling.
It is disturbing both that Paul’s grasp of history and foreign-policy instincts are so bad. It is even more alarming that neither he nor his staff seems to learn from errors. We already have a president impervious to reality and living in a cocoon. Why would we want another one?
Moreover, his position is entirely antithetical to the interests of Israel. That is his right, but then he’s got no business calling himself pro-Israel, and he should expect ferocious opposition from Christian conservatives who understand his thinking is wrong-headed and dangerous.