by Peter Beinart Feb 23, 2012 1:07 AM EST
Ron Paul’s debate question was a good one for his GOP rivals and the Tea Party, who constantly accuse Obama of violating the Constitution yet demand that he attack Iran without a declaration of war—as the Constitution requires.
The best question at last night’s CNN debate in Arizona was not asked by the network’s John King. It was asked by Ron Paul to his fellow candidates: If you’re so open to attacking Iran, why not declare war?
Think about it. The Republican candidates keep warning that Obama is seizing power at the expense of the Constitution and the people. Yet they’re absolutely fine with him attacking Iran without a congressional declaration of war as required by Article I of the Constitution. They don’t trust Obama to regulate health-insurance companies, but they want to give him sole authority to bomb a country half a world away.
A debate over declaring war on Iran would, to be sure, deny America the element of surprise. But months of Israeli government leaks and GOP debates accomplished that long ago. Declaring war on Iran also would make it easier to justify America’s efforts to cripple Iran’s economy and our complicity in the assassination of its scientists.
They don’t trust Obama to regulate health-insurance companies, but they want to give him sole authority to bomb a country half a world away.
Most important, a congressional debate on declaring war actually would force members of Congress to take a clear position. Today Republicans say that when it comes to Iran, the U.S. should support whatever Israel thinks is best. But it’s pretty clear that what this Israeli government thinks is best is for the United States to bomb. Republicans also say that if there is no other way to prevent an Iranian bomb, America should use force. If they really believe that, why not put it to a vote?
Right now the polling shows: 1. That most Americans support a strike on Iran (presumably to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon) and 2. That most Americans think Iran already has a nuclear weapon. Which is to say, most Americans don’t know what they’re talking about. A congressional debate might help people pay closer attention and, perhaps, think a little harder about the potential consequences of a third American war in the Muslim world.
How could any self-respecting, Constitution-abiding Tea Partier disagree?
Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His next book, The Crisis of Zionism, will be published by Times Books in April 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
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