Mitt Romney had a barnburner of a weekend in Israel. The GOP nominee apparent shared his combination of economic and anthropological wisdom, attributing the fact that Israel's GDP and average income is many times higher than those of the Palestinian Occupied Territories to Israelis' superior "culture."
As if spewing one of the most overtly racist lines in recent presidential campaign history wasn't enough, eschewing "containment," Romney also endorsed a preemptive Israeli military strike against Iran in order to prevent the latter's nuclear program--Israel's own, illegal nuclear weapons stockpile is OK since it's a U.S. ally--from moving forward.
"We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran's leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions," Romney said, stating that "no option should be excluded."
Though Romney slightly walked back his campaign's sabre rattling, the message was clear. If he is elected, Israel will receive a blank check to begin a war against Iran, one of the most well equipped military powers in the Middle East--a conflagration in which the United States could easily wind up getting dragged into. (In a subsequent interview, he reiterated that "we have all options on the table. Those include military options.")
Warmongering has gone mainstream. Year after year, on one foreign crisis after another, American presidents repeatedly state some variation on the theme that war is always an option. But "keeping the military option on the table" is a violation of international law.
The United States is an original signatory of the United Nations Charter, which has had the full force of U.S. law since it was ratified by the Senate in 1945. Article 51 allows military force only in self-defense, in response to an "armed attack." As Yale law and political science professor Bruce Ackerman wrote in The Los Angeles Times in March, international law generally allows preemptive strikes only in the case of "imminent threat." In 1842, Secretary of State Daniel Webster wrote what remains the standard definition of "imminent," which is that the threat must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation." The enemy's troops have massed on your border.
Iran's nuclear program doesn't come close to this definition, even from Israel's standpoint. Bruce Fein, deputy attorney general under Reagan, told Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Extra! Magazine: "It is nothing short of bizarre to claim, as the Obama administration is doing, that the mere capability to make a bomb is justification for a preemptive attack. That's a recipe for perpetual war. Almost any country could have the capability to make a bomb. They are torturing the word 'imminent' to the point that it has no meaning."
By endorsing an Israeli attack against Iran at a time when there is no proof that Iran has nuclear weapons or will use them if it does, Romney is going farther than President Barack Obama, who has engaged in back-channel diplomacy. Aggressive war hasn't been good for America's international image, the environment, our economy or the millions who have died, mostly for causes that are now forgotten or regretted. But unless we draw the line against reckless, irresponsible rhetoric like Romney's, it will go on forever.