Posted by on December 07, 2011 in Blog

By Jamila Benkato

After a pedantic comparison of 9/11 to Pearl Harbor, complete with a “just accept it” take on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (“the long war”), Rick Santorum started in on the topic of the day: US policy in the Middle East.  In a veiled reference to the Arab Spring, Santorum argued that “in the entire region now, we see evidence of the President’s policies of ignoring the threat of radical Islam.” Obama was “naïve” to go to Cairo and “invite the quote Islamic world to the table.”

One of the strangest moments came when Santorum appeared to chide the Arab world for the timing of the Arab Spring: “The Arab Spring, which should have started – a real Arab Spring – should have started in the summer of 2009 with the revolution of Iran.” Alas, that too seems to be Obama’s fault: he somehow failed to take advantage of that revolution. What he should done is unclear from Santorum’s speech – the odd implication seems to be that Obama could have (and should have) started the Arab Spring himself at that point.

Santorum’s stance on the Arab Spring is not a revelation. Today Santorum contrasted Bush’s lack of support for the pro-democracy movement in Iran to Obama’s “quick” support of “a group of radicals, including the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood” in Tahrir Square.  Confusing as that comparison might be, what is notable is Santorum’s conclusion: that Mubarak was “our ally, our friend, who hasn’t attacked us…who is not a radical theocrat who wants to control the world.” The U.S. “threw a friend of the United States and Israel under the bus” in supporting the “radicals” in Tahrir.

Perhaps Santorum’s most shocking claim is this: that the United States made the wrong decision in supporting popular uprisings against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They, too, have been thrown under the bus, according to Santorum.

Of course, the impact of this remarkable claim is confused by, well, how confused Santorum’s speech actually was. In the next breath, Santorum calls for a stronger stance in support of democracy in Syria – any excuse to accuse Obama of doing nothing, it seems, even if it muddles the message.

Santorum goes on to quote Bernard Lewis, claiming that mutually assured destruction will not work with Iran because the nation is itself a kind of suicide bomber.  “They” want martyrdom, Santorum claims, “because it will deliver them to their seventy-two virgins.” In fact, Santorum makes a remarkable claim: that mutually assured destruction is an incentive for Iran to build the bomb. According to this argument, Iran literally wants to commit suicide en masse by blowing up the world.  Santorum makes a very strong statement in support of massive sanctions and covert activity in Iran to prevent this from happening. In fact, he advocates “taking out” any scientist working on nuclear capability.

Much of the question and answer session following Santorum’s speech dealt with economic issues. Not much notable, although Santorum called Jerusalem “the epicenter of the world” during on personal anecdote. 

Finally, the sound-bite sure to make the rounds on blogs and Twitter is Santorum’s easy approach to foreign policy: find out what Joe Biden thinks and think the exact opposite. The good part? According to Santorum, “You will be right 100% of the time.” Who knew that foreign policy decisions were so easy! What’s not so obvious is that Santorum should be the one making those decisions, much less deciding what the “opposite” of Joe Biden’s stances might be.

Video available from CSPAN here.

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