The latest GOP debate opened like any other. After dramatic music and brief introductions, the moderators asked a straightforward economy question, and the candidates immediately launched into their cases for creating new wars.
Today many of us picked up our newspapers and we were horrified to see the sight of ten American sailors on their knees with their hands on their head. In that State of the Union, President Obama didn’t so much as mention the ten sailors that had been captured by Iran. President Obama’s preparing to send $100 billion or more to the Ayatollah Khomeini. I will tell you, it was heart-breaking, but the good news is the next commander-in-chief is standing on this stage, and I give you my word if I am elected president no serviceman or servicewomen will be forced to be on their knees in any nation that captures our fighting men and women will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.
— Ted Cruz
This bizarre opening statement set the tone for the night, and during the next twenty minutes, other candidates made similar provocative statements and threats toward Iran. The problem with all this bluster, of course, is that it deviates so far from reality that one can’t help thinking these guys are making a solid effort to destroy the diplomacy we’ve built with the Iranian government and their moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.
What you may not know, if you’ve only listened to the GOP version, is that there was an incident in the Persian Gulf in which a Navy ship lost power, causing them to drift into Iranian territory. As is standard procedure for any nation, their military boarded and disarmed the sailors, brought them to shore, and gave them proper medical checks to ensure everyone was OK. While they reached out to the US to determine next steps, our men and women were treated to a traditional meal, and the next morning, were brought to a neutral site to be turned over to our military.
This sort of diplomacy is the result of hard work and compromise between Obama, Kerry, Rouhani, and a host of others in both countries, and it’s a far cry from 2007, when British soldiers were held for weeks amid tense relations between Prime Minister Blair and Iranian President Ahmadinejad. That tenuous relationship calls to mind the provocative statements made by our own George W. Bush in those times, and sheds a near-blinding light on how huge the gap is between those days and today.
It’s absolutely disgraceful that Secretary Kerry and others said in their response to what’s going on in Iran that this was a good thing; it showed how the relationship was getting better…The problem, Maria, is that the military is not ready, either. We need to rebuild our military, and this president has let it diminish to a point where tinpot dictators like the mullahs in Iran are taking our Navy ships. It is disgraceful, and in a Christie administration, they would know much, much better than to do that.
— Chris Christie
This diplomacy is a welcome development after decades of hostility, but not everyone agrees. Through the lens of modern Republicanism, this small diplomatic exchange becomes an outrageous attack on the American people, our rights, and our freedoms, and a threat to the security of our nation, and they’re furious that we didn’t bomb the everloving shit out of Iran — presumably with our seamen still on their shore, from the urgency of their statements.
The reality is that we have more stable relations with Iran than any time in my 36 years, that partnership could go a long way in stabilizing the region, and to destroy what Obama, Kerry, and others have built would be welcoming a return to the escalations and provocations of the Bush 43 years. What I can’t figure out for sure is why the GOP wants to go back. I can’t tell if they’re hungry for more blood, or if they’re really just so hopelessly corrupt that they’ll destroy diplomacy for the purpose of winning an election.
Either way, this isn’t politics as usual. These attempts to destroy diplomatic relations threaten to increase instability, reenergize former enemies and create new ones. There is no justification and no excuse. If the leaders of the GOP continue down this path, they will need to be marginalized and ignored, for the continued spread of diplomacy at a time when it is needed most.