Rand Paul Wants to Clarify That His Position on Containing Iran is a Secret

"I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran."


It's never a good thing when Rand Paul sets out to clarify his position on something because he usually muddies it twice as much.

His position on Iran is fairly clear, he's kinda sorta against Iran going nuclear, but he's also against being clear about the subject because then Iran might realize what he has in mind.

"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."

These are his actual opening words.

The basic rhetoric is familiar from Obama. Obama also insisted that he was against containment, that all options should be on the table, etc... There's even a call for 'nuance'.

You would have thought that with John "Nuance" Kerry as S of S, we had enough nuance stored up for the next century.

What does all of this add up to? Very little.

Rand Paul keeps saying that we need to cultivate strategic ambiguity and that's certainly true. The problem is that presidents cultivate strategic ambiguity, not political candidates.

You can't run for office on a program of strategic ambiguity. "I can't tell you what I'll do or the other guys will find out."

Rand Paul is trying to communicate that he's serious about Iran. And from another candidate that might be fine, but there's a certain amount of history here with the Pauls and he has a history of making misleading statements while trying to have it both ways.

An op-ed that begins with, "I am not in favor of containing Iran" and then says, "I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran" raises echoes of John Kerry.

Paul, once again cites Reagan, but Reagan didn't suffer from am ambiguous worldview, which is why he could have a flexible policy.

Paul's worldview is ambiguous, at best. And op-eds like this, full of theatrical gestures and little substance, don't help matters any.

Conservatives often talk big and do little. But Paul suffers from the opposite problem. He talks a lot and says nothing. He delivers entire speeches that are little more than calls for reevaluating viewpoints, without ever actually coming down on a side. Like Obama, he talks about seeing both sides of an argument, and then steps off the stage.

It's not an appealing habit.

"It is a dumb idea to announce to Iran that you would accept and contain that country if it were to become a nuclear power. But it is equally dumb, dangerous and foolhardy to announce in advance how we would react to any nation that obtains nuclear weapons."

Is it really?

In some cases, that would actually be a deterrent. Red lines that are a bluff are foolish. Which is why you shouldn't set them if you don't mean them. But Rand Paul calls red lines, the extreme of foreign policy.

Rand Paul likes ambiguity. But people don't like ambiguity. Strategic ambiguity is a good thing, so long as it's used appropriately. Strategic ambiguity in political campaigns is a problem when your entire personality is ambiguous.

"I believe all options should be on the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, including the military option. I have voted repeatedly for sanctions against Iran and will continue to do so. But I will also continue to argue that war is a last resort and that, as Reagan wrote, we should be reluctant to go to war but resolved to do so if necessary."

There's nothing terribly wrong with this, but it's almost exactly the same thing that Obama has said on numerous occasions, which should tell you how little it means.

"False choices between being everywhere all of the time and nowhere any of the time are fodder for debate on Sunday morning shows or newspaper columns. Real foreign policy is made in the middle; with nuance; in the gray area of diplomacy, engagement and reluctantly, if necessary, military action."

And again, unfortunately, this is classic Obama, reducing his opponents to false choices and presenting himself as representing a sane moderate middle. A middle that isn't just sensible, but also smart.

Paul has probably studied Obama, but he's beginning to sound like him.

He has written an entire op-ed in which he argues that he's tough, but nuanced and ambiguous. And in which you're left with no actual content after having read through the whole thing except the author's perception of his own intelligence.

That's so Obama.