Mitt Romney on the Greatest Threat to U.S. Security

Man, what an eventful trip! I assume Mitt Romney has some hilarious Polish jokes ready for his visit to Warsaw. (To be fair, as Tomos Doran has pointed out, President Obama made something of a Polish joke as well not long ago). On the issue Romney raised this morning about the Israeli culture of success and achievement, I'd like to take a pass for the moment. Very complicated issue, though of course there is no reason, while praising Israelis for their magnificent accomplishments in science, medicine, technology and so, to slag the Palestinians (except, of course, if you think that slagging Palestinians will get you votes).

I would like very much to deal with the issue of Romney's tacky photo-op at the site of the obliterated Jewish Temple on one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar (the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin and I had a little bit of an argument on this matter on Twitter yesterday, and she continues to believe that the Western Wall is an appropriate campaign stop for an American presidential candidate, especially on the day Jews set aside to mourn for the destruction of the Temple. I'm sure, by the way, that Rubin would endorse an Obama campaign stop at Yad Vashem on the Holocaust Memorial Day.)  But I'm on the road and thought it more important to answer quickly an earlier post from Conor Friedersdorf about Mitt Romney's foreign policy priorities -- Romney, of course, believes that it is of paramount importance that the U.S. prevent Iran by whatever means necessary from crossing the nuclear threshold. Here's Conor:

I hope Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. But is preventing it really our highest priority? Is it more important than preventing Al Qaeda from buying or stealing a nuke? More important than preventing a bio-weapons attack? More important than disrupting another 9/11-style attack on multiple American cities? More important than avoiding an unnecessary military exchange with China or Russia? I think those should be higher priorities.

It's difficult to know if Mitt Romney actually regards Iranian nukes as his highest priority, or if he just thinks it's the subject on which he can most usefully draw a contrast with President Obama (though it's unclear what the differences in their actual positions are, especially since both men are prone to changing them).

Both Presidents Bush and Obama have argued that the number-one national security priority of the post-9/11 United States is to prevent the marriage of jihadism and nuclear weapons technology. Obama has been consistent on this point, as he has on the importance of preventing Iran from going nuclear. Unlike Conor, I don't see these two issues as unrelated. Iran is a theocratic totalitarian state run by eschatologically-minded men who are supporters of terrorism, after all. But instead of me answering Conor, let me have President Obama answer him. This is what Obama told Goldblog about the threat posed by a nuclear Iran:

"(I)f Iran gets a nuclear weapon, this would run completely contrary to my policies of nonproliferation. The risks of an Iranian nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorist organizations are profound. It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons. So now you have the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world, one that is rife with unstable governments and sectarian tensions. And it would also provide Iran the additional capability to sponsor and protect its proxies in carrying out terrorist attacks, because they are less fearful of retaliation."

This is, to me, a compelling argument, one that Conor should consider.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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