“Foreign policy is complicated and doesn’t fit neatly within a bumper sticker, headline or tweet.”
It’s probably not in America’s interests for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons. After the US invaded Iraq, a poll found that more than half of Pakistanis had a favorable view of Osama bin Laden. One New York Times reporter even alleges that top Pakistani brass intentionally hid bin Laden. Most Republicans would agree, however, that going to war with Pakistan tomorrow would be unnecessary, to say the least. It should follow, then, that a preemptive promise to attack Pakistan at the first sign of armament would have been unwise.
In a new op-ed at the Washington Post, Senator Rand Paul applies this same thinking to Iran. “If, after World War II, we had preemptively announced that containment of nuclear powers would never be considered,” writes Paul, “the United States would have trapped itself into nuclear confrontations with Russia, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea.”
Critics accuse Paul of equivocating on Iran – but Paul’s criticism of “red lines” has been consistent. Last month, Paul noted “if you set a red line such as Syria and don’t adhere to it, I think that invites people to not take you seriously.”
Despite a sustained attack by interventionists, Paul now eclipses Jeb Bush in most 2016 presidential polls. Paul’s call to consider circumstance, rather than confining ourselves with arbitrary red lines, therefore poses a threat to those who have already decided that war with Iran is the only allowable option.
Andrew Sullivan wrote yesterday in defense of Paul’s Reaganite credentials. Sullivan says that Paul’s strategy is “in line with US strategy against far more formidable nuclear adversaries during the Cold War. If he is completely out of the mainstream so was George Kennan and every president from Truman to Reagan. To describe the strategy that won the Cold War as somehow extremist is simply bizarre.”
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