Karl Rove doesn’t mention Ron Paul in his latest Wall Street Journal piece. But he does mention Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who lost his last election by 18 points and is currently running a strong 2-3% in the polls.
Santorum has been consistently strong in the debates, Rove says, and has even had “Reaganesque moments” on foreign policy.
It is true, Santorum has been forceful on foreign policy questions. Unfortunately, he’s been forcefully wrong. Consider this exchange with Ron Paul over Iran, which is a moment Rove undoubtedly sees as “Reaganesque.” Santorum opines:
Anyone that suggests that Iran is not a threat to this country, is not a threat to stability in the Middle East, is obviously not seeing the world very clearly. [Ron Paul] sees it exactly the same way Barack Obama sees it. That we have to go around and apologize that we have gone out and exerted our influence and created freedom in the world.
First, there is no evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But even if they did, why can’t they be contained like North Korea, Pakistan, China, and Russia? Second, Iran spends about $10 billion a year on their military. The U.S. is spending around $700 billion. Iran has a tiny navy and a small air force that hasn’t been modernized or expanded since 1980. They are incapable of threatening the United States in any conventional way.
It is possible that they have supported insurgents in Iraq, but does that warrant a declaration of war? The Chinese supported the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Should the U.S. government have launched World War III in response? Maybe Santorum thinks they should have.
Third, Barack Obama never went around the world apologizing for America. Neoconservatives like Santorum just get upset whenever a president’s rhetoric falls short of the type of belligerent language on display in Bush’s axis of evil speech. As Ed Brayton recently put it, they’re “like the high school jock who beats up on a nerdy kid to establish his ‘cred’ with the other thuggish idiots he hangs out with. He does it because he has a crying, insatiable need to pose and posture because it soothes his insecurities.”
And finally, anyone who suggests that Ron Paul and Barack Obama have similar worldviews obviously isn’t seeing the world very clearly. Ron Paul is a strict noninterventionist who would completely dismantle the American empire. Barack Obama expanded the war in Afghanistan, kept tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, and launched a war in Libya without Congressional authorization.
I don’t apologize for the Iranian people being free for a long time, and now they’re under a mullahocracy…
So apparently, because the CIA installed the Shah’s government, it must have been a free regime. Of course, Santorum ignores how the Shah ruled over an extravagant and corrupt government, whose secret police agency, Savak, arrested and brutally tortured the Shah’s political opponents. And it was this corruption that layed the foundation for the very “mullahocracy” that Santorum denounces.
The former senator then goes on to accuse Iran of setting training camps in Venezuela and warns us that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, “the world as we know it will be no more.”
First, the various reports of cooperation between Iran and Venezuela are filled with vague, unsubstantiated, and non-credible accusations. Second, what evidence is there that Iran and Venezuela are so suicidal that they would launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. if they had the chance?
Most of these accusations hinge on the idea that Ahmadinejad is mentally unstable because he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” The problem is, this oft-repeated phrase is actually a mistranslation. Read in context, it’s clear that Ahmadinejad was simply reassuring his listeners that the Israeli government would eventually “vanish from the page of time” just as the Shah’s regime, the Soviet regime, and the Hussein regime have. Obviously, he does see Israel as an enemy. But this speech was hardly a call for suicidal war. American political leaders–like Rick Santorum–call for the end of foreign regimes all the time. Does this mean that they are willing to unleash a nuclear holocaust to ensure the end of every single government that they denounce? Their approach to North Korea answers this question. (And shows why Iran and Venezuela might want nuclear weapons.)
Santorum’s foreign policy, it should be clear, is not predicated on securing the safety of the United States. It’s predicated on spreading his own idea of “freedom” around the world, even at extraordinary costs. Luckily, even the militaristic base of the Republican Party is not warming up to this unrepentent Bushist.Which is why, perhaps, Rove is trying to draw attention to him. Bush’s legacy is ultimately Rove’s legacy. The more the Republican Party is influenced by Ron Paul, and the more George W. Bush’s ideas are discredited, the less relevant Rove will become.