The Republican candidates for president have largely settled on two common themes throughout the campaign thus far: that President Obama is ushering in American decline, both at home and abroad, and that the United States should confront Iran militarily over its nuclear program. “Internationally, we have witnessed a weakening of our military and a decline in our standing in the world,” Mitt Romney said in December. While Romney has gone back and forth the in using harsh rhetoric on Iran this campaign season, his competitors aren’t so shy about using bellicose rhetoric. Rick Santorum said attacking Iran is part of his plan.
Last night on CNN, host John King asked former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican who served in both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, about the GOP charges. While Gates noted that America’s economic standing has been in flux for decades, he called the charge that the President is overseeing American military decline “ridiculous” and later said the GOP’s militaristic rhetoric on Iran is “irresponsible”:
GATES: Are we talking about relative role economically in the world? Because that’s been going down for 60 years. It was an unnatural situation to begin with. If we’re talking about military power, I think that’s ridiculous. Our military power has nothing comparable to it anywhere in the world or any combination of nations that come anywhere close to our military power. [...]
And those who say we should underestimate the consequences of going to war [with Iran]. This is, I think, one of the toughest foreign policy problems I have ever seen since entering the government 45 years ago. And I think to talk about it loosely or as though these are easy choices in some way or sort of self-proclaimed, obvious alternatives, I just think is irresponsible.
Watch the clip: