When news broke of an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., the field of Republican contenders were asked how they would respond if they were president. Perhaps the most unusual response came from Herman Cain, who said he would’ve thwarted the plot by stationing ballistic missile defense systems on Aegis naval warships in international waters off Iran’s coast. It’s a plan Cain repeatedly has hawked.
But on Fox News Channel yesterday, neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer pressed Cain on just how exactly missile defense systems would have stopped Iran from launching the alleged assassination plot. Cain admitted that it wouldn’t:
KRAUTHAMMER: How does placing Aegis cruisers affect Iran’s determination to use terrorism against the United States?
CAIN: It won’t deter their intent to use terrorism, but what it would do is it would let them know we are serious if they fire a ballistic missile toward us. … And what I would do also is double our fleet. We could double it and not only put them strategically in that part of the world but also protect our shores to defer them from feeling like they really want to fire a ballistic missile.
KRAUTHAMMER: But the Aegis is a defensive weapon. It intercepts a missile in flight. Iran doesn’t have any they could actually hit the United States now. And moreover, a defensive weapon in no way deters an aggressive action. It could deter a launch of a missile. But it is not going to deter a terrorist campaign.
CAIN: No, it’s not. It wasn’t intended to mean that it’s going to deter a terrorist campaign, not in the least. The point I was trying to make was I’m concerned about their march toward having a nuclear weapon, a march toward having more ballistic weapon capability.
KRAUTHAMMER: I don’t see how Aegis affects even that at all.
Watch the video:
On a separate interview on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox show last night, Cain said that while he did not want to see a military confrontation with Iran, it “would be perfectly alright” if Iran attacked the naval ships bearing the missile defense systems “because [he] believe(s) that we have a superior capability.” He also said placing naval ships in Iran’s neighborhood was not a provocation, and that the real provocation was Iran’s blustering (and unlikely) plan to place ships off the U.S.’s East Coast.