Foreign policy gets complicated very fast. Having lived in four U.S. states, I could discuss with you the hopes, fears, work ethic, values, worship practices and food that animate the various regions of America. Even without pulling in U.S. Census or Barna research figures, our observations would be fairly accurate—for we know our own culture and history from the inside out.
It’s a whole different ballgame when you start to compare, say, Latvia, Argentina, Uzbekistan and Singapore. I’ve met very smart people, usually with connections to these nations, who devote their lives to improving these dynamic places. But, personally, it would be overwhelming to try to take in decades (or centuries) of information affecting their current conflicts and issues.
All that to say: I am a big believer in foreign policy caution. Especially when it comes to any military action, where the lives of men and women on both sides are at stake, I pray that commanders of our Armed Forces (all the way up to the top) are circumspect, reluctant to use violence and making every effort at diplomacy to solve conflicts.
On the Radar Screen: Iran
Sometimes diplomacy gets us only so far. If 9/11 taught us anything, it was to stop navel-gazing and realize who in the world has ill intentions towards the West. When a country’s harsh rhetoric is backed up by building a bunker in a mountain for nuclear weapons testing, we should start to take notice. That country is Iran.
No one is saying the U.S. military should go in “guns blazing” to deal with this potential threat. From where I stand, the best defense strategy story of the past two years involves how the U.S. and Israel shut down some of Iran’s nuclear capabilities via a computer virus known as Stuxnet. Read the story at tinyurl.com/StuxnetVirus.
What I am saying is: solving a problem starts with defining it. In this case, we are wise to admit that in Iran we face a totalitarian state that harbors terrorists, violates the human rights of its people and is determined to attack freedom wherever it exists. It’s no accident that murderous groups Hamas and Hezbollah are sponsored by Iran. Or that U.S. solders in Iraq have been killed by improvised explosive devices originating from Iran.
Returning to the Republican presidential hopefuls, one candidate offers a very different threat assessment on Iran than the others. “Why should we write people off?” asks Rep. Ron Paul. “Why wouldn’t it be natural that they might want a weapon? There’d be—internationally, they’d be given more respect.”
Now Congressman Paul has a strong record defending property rights and sound monetary policy. Yet considering how large a voice the President of the United States has on foreign policy, the venerable 76 year-old Congressman is not sounding very serious.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has been willing to challenge Paul’s neo-isolationist rhetoric. “Iran is a country that has killed more American men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iraqis and the Afghans have.” Santorum’s clear perspective is backed up by his record. In 2006, he authored the Iran Freedom Support Act which imposed sanctions on Iran for their nuclear program.
The complexities of foreign policy make it even more difficult than domestic issues to handle in debate sound bites; indeed, trying to develop a cogent argument on global affairs can come across as scholarly and stuck-up, rather than snappy and sincere.
We need candidates who will take that risk. Instead of wasting time focused on personalities and gossip flying at the speed of Twitter, what must remain front and center are the principles we believe should guide our future president.