The ten American sailors being held in Iran featured heavily in the undercard debate, and if opening statements are to be trusted, they’re going to feature heavily in the main event as well. Ted Cruz, asked a question about the economy, immediately pivoted to talking about Iran, and promised that as commander in chief that any nation (read: Iran) that did something similar would “feel the fury” (read: carpet bomb) of American power. Other candidates quickly followed suit, asserting that the entire affair was a national disgrace.
That the Republicans would want to turn the photo of ten American sailors on their knees into the new Benghazi is not terribly surprising. It encapsulates a number of their most important talking points—that the Iran deal is a dangerous sham, that Democrats’ foreign policy is all about appeasement, that Barack Obama maybe likes Muslim countries a little too much. The problem is that, aside from conservative media, which has been pushing the story hard, no one seems to care very much. Cruz criticized Obama for not discussing the sailors in the State of the Union. But hours later Iran agreed to release them—it was a done deal. If anything, the issue with the sailors exemplifies why diplomacy works, not why you should recklessly bomb anyone who does anything that doesn’t fit a particular narrative. But that’s not the point here.