Mitt Romney campaign co-chair and former Wisconsin governor Tim Pawlenty told Foreign Policy Magazine that he would support Congress authorizing war with Iran. Elliot Abrams, a former Bush administration official and now top foreign policy adviser to GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, floated this idea last week and Pawlenty said it might be “a good idea.” “I don’t know that it would be dispositive, but it couldn’t hurt and it probably would help,” he said.
While Pawlenty did say that he wasn’t sure an attack on Iran would have great success, it’s worth noting perhaps where Abrams is coming from. Back in 2009, he took a “they’ll greet us as liberators” approach to an American attack on Iran:
We are not talking about the Americans killing civilians, bombing cities, destroying mosques, hospitals, schools. No, no, no — weʹre talking about nuclear facilities which most Iranians know very little about, have not seen, will not see, some quite well hidden.
So they wake up in the morning and find out that the United States if attacking those facilities and, presumably with some good messaging about why weʹre doing it and why we are not against the people of Iran.
Itʹs not clear to me that the reaction letʹs go to war with the Americans, but rather, perhaps, how did we get into this mess? Why did those guys, the very unpopular ayatollahs in a country 70 percent of whose population is under the age of 30, why did those old guys get us into this mess.
So Abrams thinks that if the U.S. attacks Iran, ordinary Iranians will rally around the Americans. As Matt Yglesias observed at the time: “If Iranian agents were to blow up an American military base, I don’t think the American public would just say ‘well, fair enough.’” Indeed, as former top American and Israeli officials have said, an attack on Iran is likely to “galvanize Iranian society behind the leadership and create unity around the nuclear issue” and “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.”
A Romney adviser recently told the National Journal that the campaign isn’t having many conversations about a diplomatic approach to the Iranian nuclear crisis. And in his interview with Foreign Policy, Pawlenty seemed to reinforce that thinking. “Options would include concluding the negotiations are not working, that the Iranians aren’t taking them seriously, bringing them to a temporary or permanent end, and start the clock ticking on other alternatives and letting the Iranians know that,” Pawlenty said.
As for the Obama administration, it is aware, not only of the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon poses, but also the potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran. And that, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.