Will former Senator Rick Santorum step in to fill the sensible foreign policy vacuum left by Tim Pawlenty’s early departure from the GOP presidential race? One lively exchange in a debate before the Ames Straw Poll should give believers in advancing freedom and democracy some measure of hope.
It came when FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Congressman Ron Paul why he supports repealing sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran and if he supported its quest for nuclear weapons. Paul began his response by recalling the Cold War and insisted that the Soviets were a “much greater danger” because they possessed more ballistic missiles. “Why should we write people off?” Paul asked, referring to the notorious regime.
Santorum seemed baffled at Paul’s response. He touted his own authorship of the Iran Freedom Support Act. Paul could be seen in the corner of the screen scoffing before he suggested that the United States “mind its own business.” Santorum countered that Paul was “obviously not seeing the world very clearly.” Indeed, this retort from “Dr. No,” as Paul’s colleagues in Congress know him, suggests he sees the world as it was on September 10, 2001. Santorum was also right to play up his authorship of the act. It sets him apart from Congressman Paul, as well as the Bishops of his own Church.
The moment American Airlines flight 11 plunged into the North Tower, Ron Paul’s understanding of warfare became just as outdated as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’. Despite the attacks on September 11, not much has changed since their 1983 Challenge of Peace letter which held that nuclear weapons were the greatest threat to mankind — not addressing the ideas of those who posses the weapons. A cursory review of recent statements from the USCCB on war and peace would indicate the Bishops’ central concern is still nuclear disarmament.
Yet, as with the Bishops, Congressman Paul’s mentioning at Ames that the Islamic Republic of Iran “doesn’t even have an Air Force” crystalizes this misunderstanding of modern warfare. As the non-state actors of September 11 showed, the Islamic Republic need not have an air force when we have commercial jetliners at their disposal, which makes Santorum’s Iran Freedom Support Act all the more important.
The act appropriated up to $10 million for the State Department to help finance democratic organizations in the Islamic Republic. The Confederation of Iranian Students is one such organization deserving of United States support. This year, in cooperation with the Institute of World Politics, the students held a three-day Iran Democratic Transition Conference discussing the principles of the American form of government as “preparation” for the fall of the Islamic Republic regime. The conference was especially aimed at laying the groundwork for democracy in Iran.
The students’ leader, Amir Fakhravar, was imprisoned and tortured for five years for his leadership in the July 1999 demonstrations. Fakhravar has shown an increased effort in making the Washington rounds and educating policy makers. Testifying before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee in 2006, Fakhravar encouraged the United States to help the student movement: “We need means of communication within Iran and with the free world. We need cell phones, cameras, printers to print our books, fliers, and magazines, we need web pages.”
Following the purported elections of 2009, with the help of Facebook and Twitter, Fakhravar’s friends outside and inside Iran were able to organize a widespread, sustained demonstration throughout the country. Back in 2006, Fakhravar remembers the subcommittee’s skepticism of a revolution armed with “cameras, cell phones, and the Internet,” but as the demonstrations showed, it is quite an effective strategy. In June 2009 remarks to the Center for Security Policy, Fakhravar stressed the importance of not losing this moment: “this demonstration is much bigger,” than 1999 because, “we couldn’t talk to the world…we didn’t have any media coverage and we felt alone.”
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