True conservatives must remain troubled that notions of nation-building linger in the rhetoric of Messrs. Romney and Ryan.
No one could be more delighted than I that Joe Biden revealed himself before the nation and the world on Thursday night to be an arrogant, loutish boor. Early indications are that Biden did his boss’s bid for re-election no favors, especially with the touchy-feely 10% or so of undecided voters who just want us all to get along. Every little nail in this administration’s coffin is deeply appreciated.
Yet I could not suppress what I can only call a “pang of sympathy” when Biden spoke of the low grade of enriched uranium currently available in Iranian power plants and of the complete absence of any Doomsday delivery system. For some reason, people who style themselves staunch conservatives are often wedded to the notion of attacking Iran–or at least talk radio and FOX News convey this impression (which I believe to be much exaggerated). Patrick J. Buchanan has pondered in perhaps a dozen recent articles how we could possibly be serving our best interest by undertaking such an assault. I cannot approach his degree of thoroughness, yet I have been asking Pat’s questions myself for months. How does one nuclear weapon pose a threat to Israel, which has somewhere between two and three hundred, or to the United States, which has thousands? The only compelling answer to this question is one that Mr. Ryan didn’t make: i.e., that the bomb would likely be delivered and detonated in a lackluster van, or maybe even a suitcase, by very ordinary-looking young men eager for martyrdom. Since so covert a delivery would be infinitely more difficult to detect than an airborne nuke, whatever high-tech shield Israel or the U.S. may have orbiting the planet or ready to launch into the stratosphere would be useless. Furthermore, the deterrent of massive retaliation might even be neutralized in such a scenario, since survivors would face an immense challenge in reconstructing the “dirty bomb’s” smuggled entry into a population center. Unless Iran’s fanatical leaders chose to assume public responsibility (and they are fanatical, not stupid), we might well be unable to justify hailing nuclear missiles upon the women and children of Tehran.
This, I say, would be the best argument in favor of confronting Iran’s shady nuclear program with an itchy trigger-finger. A single small nuke in such hands could be delivered to Tel Aviv on a bicycle or to L.A. on the back of a border-jumper from Mexico. Hence removing the mere possibility of such a weapon’s coming into existence begins to makes sense.
Ryan seemed to prefer stressing that the team of Obama, Clinton, and Biden has earned a reputation throughout the Muslim world for being pushovers. There’s something to be said for both the truth and the relevance of this objection. Muslim leaders tend to respond to intimidation much more pliantly than to sweet-talking. Quasi-tribal societies hold manly bluster in very high regard. Out-threatening an opponent is admired; simply recall the flyting that takes place between Beowulf and Unferth as they size each other up for the first time in Hrothgar’s feasting hall. If an Arab chieftain advances upon you with a drawn scimitar and you counter by waving an olive branch, your head is likely to end up being the center of attention in a boys’ soccer match.
But if Ryan’s intent is to recommend speaking loudly as well as carrying a big stick, then he involves us–as voters–in a bit of a sticky wicket. How are we to know whether he and Mr. Romney are just waving a bigger sword back in Adhmadinejad’s face, or if they seriously intend to turn Iranian population centers into killing fields? Obviously, they cannot declare publicly that their martial dressage is just for show; so how do we know if they are shrewdly seeking peace through strength or if (as Pat Buchanan’s UNNECESSARY WAR has so well documented of the terrifying Winston Churchill) they actually have a thirst for bloody havoc? We can be sure that an Iranian assault would bring horrendous collateral damage, for Muslim despots always hide their slaughter-machines behind the skirts of women and the playthings of children. We can be sure, furthermore, that any sympathy for the Western alternative will vanish within Iran after such an attack. We can be sure that Russia and China will be furious with us, that whatever covert weapons program the Iranian regime was prosecuting will re-begin with a vengeance after the dust clears, and that the terror threat to our own population centers will escalate tenfold for decades to come. And that’s just for starters–that’s the poisonous harvest that even a layman like me can foresee.
I do not want Barack Obama and Joe Biden safeguarding my freedom any longer by heaping money upon the Muslim world, apologizing for our sacred freedoms, and lying about murderous acts of aggression. Enough of that: with safety of the Obama variety, who needs suicide? But I have a seventeen-year-old son, and I also do not want to see another Vietnam in my lifetime or to foresee another in his. I do not want another Churchill telling us that we must exterminate Kaiser Bill and his race before they take over the world, or warning us that Hitler will do the same thing if we don’t prop up Stalin and Mao. As an American, I really don’t want anything to do with most Middle Eastern Islamic states. I should be happy to see all our foreign aid to those parts reduced to zero, all of our diplomatic personnel and citizens repatriated, all nationals from such states within our own borders sent home,, all commercial ties severed, and all cultural exchanges suspended. Intercourse could be resumed on a case-by-case basis as particular nations demonstrated a willingness to behave; and, of course, energy independence through such technologies as fracking would have to go full-speed ahead.
This is the kind of “get tough” approach that Tea Partiers like me wish to see the Romney-Ryan ticket advance. Alas, it isn’t going to happen. We are still going to have to listen to some muted version of the nation-building claptrap whose rejection by the American public propelled Barack Obama to high office, in the first place. When one detests Joe Biden and all that he represents as much as I do, it is downright humiliating to see him stumble closer to the truth than the men I intend to vote for.