Josh, I think “exerted our influence” can be more — or less than, rather — war. It can be support for dissidents. It can be a cultural exchange. It can be helping with rebuilding. It can be educational.
Santorum’s shtick — arguably what contributed to his reelection defeat in 2006 — is that we are not taking the radical Islamic threat seriously enough.
It’s a serious conversation because it’s a serious threat. And a nuclear Iran is an existential one to Israel, but also a human-rights disaster to many of its citizens, as Rick made clear, a hotbed for radicalism in the region.
I’d not worry as much as you seem to that Santorum is war-happy. I actually think he is an example of someone who takes Catholic social teaching seriously on a whole host of issues, including war and peace.