He’s not for containment, he now says, but nor is he irrevocably against it. What he’s for is strategic ambiguity, not telegraphing your intentions towards a bad actor lest you inadvertently limit your options later. Does America have any recent experience with that?
I am not for containment in Iran. Let me repeat that, since no one seems to be listening closely: I am unequivocally not for containing Iran.
I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran. That was the choice I was given a few months ago and is the scenario being misunderstood by some in the news…
Ronald Reagan was once criticized for not announcing in advance his policy toward particular situations. He was accused of not having a concrete foreign policy. His response was that he simply chose not to announce his policies in advance…
In fact, Reagan often practiced strategic ambiguity. He thought, as many other presidents have, that we should not announce to our enemies what we might do in every conceivable hypothetical situation.
Fair enough, but Reagan was a staunch cold warrior running for the nomination of a party that was full of them. He could afford to be coy on foreign policy as needed since his hawkish bona fides wasn’t in doubt. Rand’s in the opposite position, a guy who’s suspected of not only being more dovish than he lets on but of overlapping with his father’s world view to a degree greater than most righties are comfortable with. “Elect me if you want to know the answer” won’t cut it in his case.
What does he mean by “containment,” anyway? He says he’s against it, notes that he’s voted for sanctions on Iran more than once, and insists that all options should be on the table, but c’mon. There’s no way President Paul is ordering a bombing run on Iran’s enrichment facilities. Whatever else you may think about his Iran rhetoric, it’s palpably clear that he thinks war is the worst option and ultimately a futile one — an opinion shared by plenty of Iran observers, by the way, not all of them doves. If a military attack is indeed off the table and yet Paul opposes containment, where does that leave us? What’s the middle-ground option? I think maybe his idea of “containment” doesn’t include sanctions; he’s wrong about that, but his dad’s always treated sanctions as a de facto act of war. Maybe Rand sees them similarly, as something that falls somewhere on the spectrum between “containment” and out-and-out bombing. In that case, his Iran policy would be to preserve the status quo unless/until the economic pressure finally forces Iran to give up its bomb program someday. The U.S. waited 70 years for the Soviets to break, right? Well, get comfortable. That … sounds like containment.
Actually, here’s another option: Regime change. Would President Paul support action, covert or overt, to oust the mullahs in hopes of replacing them with a government that’s more likely to play ball on nukes? That would be a complete abandonment of libertarian principles against meddling abroad, but maybe it’s his best bet to defuse the Iranian bomb. I assume “strategic ambiguity” prevents any firm commitment on that too.