Iran’s detention of 10 U.S. sailors who had strayed into Iranian waters ended quickly and peacefully last week. Ted Cruz promises it wouldn’t have if he were president.
Cruz’s statement at the Republican debate in North Charleston last week made clear how much is at stake in this year’s presidential race. Some — though not all — in the Republican pack are competing to see who can come across as the most macho and bloodthirsty. It’s tempting to dismiss the bellowing as meaningless campaign rhetoric. But it’s a dangerous game.
Last week’s debate began with moderator Maria Bartiromo asking Cruz about the health of the U.S. economy. Cruz instead blustered about Iran, essentially promising to start a war over the slightest provocation.
He referred to the sailors’ detention, then said: “And I give you my word, if I am elected president, no service man or service woman will be forced to be on their knees, and any nation that captures our fighting men will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.”
Another candidate, Chris Christie, said Cruz “is absolutely right.” Christie said the reason Iran was able to detain the sailors was because President Obama had weakened the military so much. Then he too suggested he’d take military action against Iran over this episode: “It is disgraceful, and in a Christie administration, they would know much, much better than to do that.”
Hello? Has anyone noticed that this encounter with Iran played out precisely as the United States would hope?
Ten U.S. sailors on two boats strayed into Iranian waters. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the sailors “misnavigated.” Everyone agrees our boats were not supposed to be there.
Iran, naturally, questioned them. Within 15 hours, they released the Americans, aboard their undisturbed boats. The sailors were not hurt or mistreated in any way, a statement from U.S. Central Command said. All the weapons and ammunition were untouched. The only things taken were SIM cards from two satellite phones.
It is during this kind of international incident that you do not want a hothead sitting in the Oval Office. That Cruz would have inflicted “the full force and fury” of the United States over this should disqualify him from being president.
Iran is a dangerous player in the Middle East, and the United States must assume a tough posture against it. The so-called prisoner swap made Saturday was only a reminder of Iran’s rogue approach, essentially holding a Washington Post reporter and many others hostage on trumped up charges. The regime in Tehran still has nuclear ambitions, an unacceptable scenario for the U.S. and its allies.
So we must use tough diplomacy to rein Iran in. We must ensure Iran lives up to its obligations under the nuclear deal it struck with the United States. President Obama’s invoking of new sanctions on Sunday in response to ballistic missile tests was affirmation of that.
It wasn’t our full force and fury, so Ted Cruz will be disappointed. But voters should consider which candidate they want calling the shots the next time there’s a relatively minor international incident.
Commentary from The Charlotte Observer and distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.