Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain told reporters and editors at the hawkish Washington Times that he would attack Iran if the Islamic Republic “mess(ed) with Israel.” Cain was responding to a question as to whether he agreed with former Ambassador John Bolton that the U.S. should preemptively strike Iran’s nuclear program. Cain said he agreed with Bolton, but the scenario he laid out amounts to a retaliatory war, not a preemptive one.
The Washington Times’s Ben Birnbaum described Cain’s position:
“There would be some other pieces of information I would need before I gave that order, but I’m saying that would be Option B,” Mr. Cain said during an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
“Option A is, ‘Folks, we are not going to allow you to attack Israel‘ … If they call my bluff, they already know — they will know — what Option B is.”
Mr. Cain said that, as commander-in-chief, he would “make it crystal clear [that] if you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America,” but stressed that his “Cain Doctrine” would not be a “blank check” for Israeli military action.
Cain went onto say that if Iran attacked Israel, he would not “sit back and get a vote from the United Nations.” That sounds like deterrence — sometimes called “mutually assured destruction” — not the preemptive strike for which Bolton has spent years agitating.
According to the Washington Times story, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO-turned-candidate also met on Monday with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.
Early on in the campaign season, Cain proved completely clueless about the “right of return” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and told voters during a GOP debate that he didn’t know enough yet about Afghanistan to make a strategic decision. More recently, Cain wrongly thought that the U.S. still officially recognized Taiwan.
It’s no wonder, then, that even some on the far-right have taken to calling Cain a “Foreign Policy Ignoramus At Large.”