"The biggest whopper of the night?" Huntley asked and Huntley answered: "Obama said Romney doesn't have different ideas on Syria, ignoring Romney's advocacy of finding a way to arm rebels friendly to the West."
As I didn't recall Romney laying out this idea, I consulted a transcript of the debate. Here's what the Republican candidate had to say:
Syria's an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea. It's the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a—a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us. And finally, we don't want to have military involvement there. We don't want to get drawn into a military conflict.
And so the right course for us is working through our partners and with our own resources to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a—in a form of—of—if not government, a form of—of council that can take the lead in Syria, and then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves. We do need to make sure that they don't have arms that get into the—the wrong hands. Those arms could be used to hurt us down the road. We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort with our allies and particularly with—with—with Israel. But the Saudis and the Qatari and—and—and the Turks are all very concerned about this. They're willing to work with us. We need to have a very effective leadership effort in Syria, making sure that the—the—the insurgents there are armed and that the insurgents that become armed are people who will be the responsible parties.
There you have it. We'll give lots of arms to the good insurgents and keep them out of the hands of the bad insurgents. And while we're at it, let's bell the cat. Now I understand Huntley's enthusiasm: Romney's grasp of the region's complexities is remarkable. As Romney said, Syria is Iran's route to the sea; and whenever the Persian Gulf is closed for remodeling that's undoubtedly true.