Obama’s Christmas Gift to Iran

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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As the last American troops roll south to Kuwait, the end of the war in Iraq invites unsettling comparisons to another war America declared over before losing its nerve and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Then as now, Democrats have taken the lead in putting at risk the gains purchased with a trillion dollars, and nearly 4,500 dead and tens of thousands wounded American soldiers.

For all of the obvious differences between the conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq, the effects of an overhasty withdrawal on American prestige promise to be similar. The period following the fall of Saigon in 1975 was one of Soviet expansionist aggression in Latin America and Africa, even as Democratic president Jimmy Carter scolded Americans for their “inordinate fear of communism.” Carter embodied the spirit of national self-loathing and guilty retreat––the “crisis in confidence” as he called it  ––seemingly validated by the failure in Vietnam. In his inaugural speech he confessed the nation’s “recent mistakes,” advised us “even our great nation has its recognized limits,” and warned that America can “simply do its best.” This public pusillanimity was also noticed by the clerics in Iran, who began their modern jihad with the overthrow of the Shah, America’s ally abandoned by an administration devoted to “human rights” and disarmament, and addled by specious anti-colonial rhetoric. The mullahs confirmed their contempt for us by sacking our embassy and holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The audacity and success of this assault inspired the other jihadist groups––many trained and funded by Iran––that began attacking more boldly American and Western interests across the globe. The geopolitical lesson of American weakness was also noticed by a Saudi named Osama bin Laden, who preached to his trainees the cultural bankruptcy of America that Vietnam illustrated and that made America vulnerable to Allah’s warriors. “The Americans did not get out of Vietnam,” bin Laden preached, “until after they suffered great losses. Over sixty thousand [sic] American soldiers were killed until there were demonstrations by the American people. [The Americans] won’t stop until we do jihad against them.” After 9/11, bin Laden demanded “the American people to take note of their government’s policy against Muslims. They described the government’s policy against Vietnam as wrong. They should now take the same stand they did previously.” America is a “weak horse,” as bin Laden famously said, noting American retreat from Vietnam, Iran, and Mogadishu, and our failure to retaliate for the other terrorist attacks that culminated in the carnage of 9/11.

Those who quibble with bin Laden’s historical accuracy about these events are missing the point. The perception of American weakness he articulated became a motivator of action, and the same perception is now arising following the withdrawal from Iraq. There is no question that this politically rather than strategically motivated retreat puts at risk whatever gains have been made over the past eight and a half years. A politically fragmented Iraq is faced with myriad problems and dysfunctions. It is ruled by a Shia clique that in the absence of American power is unlikely to respect the autonomy and rights of Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis. Sectarian violence is already accelerating. Al Qaeda and other violent terrorist outfits are still active, and will no doubt step up their attacks on sectarian enemies, foreign workers, and oil facilities. Shia Islamists like Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mumahidoon party, virulently anti-American and backed by Iran, are likely to become a more powerful force in Iraq after the Americans are gone, either dominating the government or forming a Hezbollah-like autonomous state-within-a-state. Not encouraging are the billboards that have sprung up in Baghdad showing al-Sadr trampling a U.S. flag.

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  • randy

    What about the 100,000 innocent people killed in iraq from bush,s illegal war?

    • intrcptr2

      What illegal war?

      Or did you mean the one Iran fought from 1981 to 1988?

    • ProudInfidel12

      Not all of them were "innocent", and those who were, weren't necessarily killed by our doing. Saddam Hussein was doing a nice job of murdering his own people, for decades. Then, of course, the fanatical muslim element was also murdering people whom they considered to be collaborating with the coalition (even if they had no proof; it didn't matter; any excuse to kill is good enough for them).

      Iraq wasn't an illegal war. Congress backed it, and, in its own way, so did the UN, with its 563655345935934 resolutions to approve it. Of course, our own Dear Leader Hussein Obama, got zero support, nor the green light to interfere in Libya, but he went ahead and did it anyway. So, WHO'S the war criminal?

    • wsk

      mucking foron! Besides 100,000 Muslims is a good start.

  • Brujo Blanco

    The left keeps referring to Bush’s illegal war. Bush had obtained by law congressional authorization to do what he and our for es did. Obama engaged in war in Libya qnd did not get approval. Now who broke the law?

    • trickyblain

      Something does not have to be illegal to be a stupid decision.

      • wsk

        You're right. It is legal to vote for a Democrat……….

  • joe

    we should not have gotten involved in the first place– it was a big fat lie. as for iran being embolden… we should have thought of that before going to war … duh… we have over 20 million children in the US living in poverty… banks looting us to the hilt…. 46 million people on food stamps… 3.5 million homeless people… a completely corrupt dysfunctional government….too big to fail crooked monopolies raping the hell out of us…an obscene wealth gap…. a broken healthcare system… a utterly stupefying educational system….an immigration nightmare…a failed drug war….massive unemployment and debt… our freedoms brings systematically destroyed… a surveilllance beast grid …. things everywhere are going crazy … we should fix these things first and take care of our people!

    • Lady_Dr

      Joe – I would have preferred bombing Iran to bombing Iraq but what's done is done. As to the 20 million children you refer to, they live as well, or better than middle class children almost anywhere else in the world . According to the US Census Bureau, 80% of poor households have air condition, 92% have a microwave, 75% have a car or truck and 31% have two or more, 50% have a personal computer, 43% have internet access. I could go on but you get the idea. The number of people on food stamps has dramatically increased under Obama and all the rest – can be clearly laid at his feet. WHY? Well largely because he benefits by it, and he has hindered business development (closed down oil and coal production, an the list goes on). Kenysian economics never works. The free market economy does. So learn some history before you start ranting because you are evidently not clear about some things.

    • Steve Chavez

      I agree! Under Saddam at least they had electricity to be electrocuted with. He also led to aiding the Planet by removing hundreds of thousands of those who were using its resources. Their dead bodies, and blood, provided a much needed mulch and compost to replenish the ground and make it productive.

      Saddam's setting fire to his oil fields was also a good thing since the smoke which circled the world aided in cooling down the planet which would have been hotter due to Global Warming.

      Saddam also aided Iraq by investing in Gold for his bathroom faucets and his insight was amazing since Gold is now at record highs. This "Oil for Food" money also aided in the obesity problem and he put his whole country, except for his family and circle of friends, on a much needed diet. That too aided the Earth since food didn't have to be produced which was using water resources.

      Saddam also created and saved many jobs especially for back hoe operators who are digging up mass graves as we speak.

      Saddam had vision!

      • aspacia

        Morbid humor to be sure.

        • intrcptr2

          Gallows humor, n'c'est pas?

          Mais apropos, quoi?
          Sadly, I've discovered in my travels that leftists are an utterly humorless lot.

  • Amused

    It's more of a "gift " to the American People . Our sons and daughters need not provide target practice for an ungratefull people anymore .
    We gave them their shot at Democracy [ for 9 yrs] if they STILL don't get it -SCREW'EM !
    Obama DID what he said -hunt down and kill Bin Laden , and troops out of Iraq – a great Christmas present to American mothers ,fathers , sons , spouses and daughters .

    take a chill pill Thornton .If you're worried about Iran , then Bush should 've let the best deterrent to Iran in place …the Saddam regime , So now if the Iraqis need another exterminator for the Iranian cochroach problem , let'em go find one , they got the oil and the money to do so .

  • Amused

    Besides that ….how many tours did you do over there Thornton ? You can still volunteer man ….there are still thousand of private contractors there , go pack yuour bags !

    • Ken

      Not that you would ever do a tour anywhere in support of your country!!

      • Amused

        I already have chump , and I'm amazed at the ease at which "the chicken-hawks " of this country beat the drums . Especially went it ain't their assss shipping out .

  • Steve Chavez

    DID OBAMA MAKE A DEAL WITH IRAN to not invade, or attack nuke sites, in return for Iran stopping all meddling, directly and indirectly, which they would surely cheat on too, IN IRAQ?

    If Iraq returns to chaos, in all forms, OBAMA WILL BE BLAMED FOR PULLING OUT PREMATURELY AND IT WILL HURT HIS ELECTION CHANCES.

    As it is, I CAN'T UNDERSTAND HOW ANY MILITARY PERSON, EVEN RETIRED, can vote for the President, the Democrats, and his circle since it is they who said "THE WAR IS LOST" EVEN WHILE THE TROOPS WERE ON THE BATTLEFIELD!!! NOW THEY CLAIM "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" AND VICTORY? Victory for who?

    • Ken

      Thank you, Steve!!! And, as retired military, I GUARANTEE I will not be voting for those you mentioned.

  • vlondo

    lraq wasnt worth the death of one Allied soldier. And what about whats left of Iraqs' Christians, are we bringing them out or leaving them there to be picked off and killed one by one or in small groups?

  • Steve Chavez

    The LEFT was screaming at protests: "Bush, Stop the Genocide in the Sudan."

    WOW! Why did they want Bush to save the Sudan when at the same time he STOPPED THE GENOCIDE IN SADDAM'S IRAQ? Saddam murdered and bulldozed hundreds of thousands of his own people SO IS THAT NOT GENOCIDE TOO?

    How many millions were tortured, ears and tongues cut off, fingers and hands cut off or smashed, and thrown off buildings?

    How many women and girls were raped by his sons?

    SILENCE ON THE LEFT FOR THESE CRIMES? Saddam's actions were worse than any of the Arab Spring dictators, especially those who were U.S. allies and who signed a peace treaty with Israel. SYRIA'S ASSAD is committing genocide too so where is OBAMA NOW when he had a "moral duty" to join in the attacks on Libya?

    IRAQI'S were given the opportunity to plot a peaceful future based on reconciliation especially for its religious differences, and OUTSIDERS LIKE IRAN, WHO WAS A PROXY OF KGB PUTIN, WHO WANTED TO AID IN CHAOS AS REVENGE for the United States aiding in the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. "PUTIN'S REVENGE" aids any group or country that aids in our defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the whole Middle East with the destruction of Israel as the icing on the cake. OBAMA, HILLARY, PANETTA WERE SOVIET KGB/CPUSA DUPES IN THE 80'S SO NOW THEY ALSO AID THEIR SOVIET COMRADES THAT THEY WERE BRAINWASHED TO LOVE MORE THAN THEIR OWN COUNTRY!!!!!!! It's totally clear to me!!!

    • joe

      all the iraqis should have overthrown saddam… it was their problem… our young people should not have been targets over there… and we did not deserve to be lied to to start this war. just when you think you got it all figured out is when you should step back and take another look

    • wsk

      POP!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another liberal empty head exploded!

  • rubiconcrest

    The war was a strategic mistake. We can't even identify, let alone defeat, the stealth jihad forces within the USA. How are we supposed to defeat Islamic terror another country? Iran is weak; trying to exert influence in Iraq will lead to further weakening of this terrorist state. It is time to pull out of the region. Explain clearly that they are on their own and they will sink or swim based on their own policies and economies. They will fail and will have no one but themselves to blame. Meanwhile we should free ourselves of foreign oil by exploiting the resources we have, secure our borders, concentrate on lowering our national debt and growing our economy.

  • aspacia

    We would be doing the world a favor if we neutron bombed most of the ME

  • Kurt

    Much that I want to agree with you, I con't help but feel that this is the right course of action for US and the West.

    We just need to secure our borders tight, stop all immigration for muslim countries and apply travel restrictions on those that are already here.

    I do not want to see a single dollar or a drop of Western blood spliied in these countries. Leave them be.

    • BLJ

      Kurt I am with you, but our politically correct culture will never allow us to do these things. Our enemies understand this.

  • mrbean

    Containment as a war strategy is a illusion that is equivalent to Mr Alligator please eat me last. It did not work in 1952 with Korea as North Korea now has nuclear weapons and missles and a hunderd plus people in Iran helping them develop nuclear weapons. And we know how well it worked in Vietnam. The only reason North Korea has not attacked and conquered South Korea is China not the cannon fodder we keep on the 38th parrallel, Iran will "absorb" Iraq within 3 years as both countries are dominated by Shiite Muslims. We can do nothing about it as Russia and China will side with Iraq. That is what happens when you put little ivy league indoctrinated mommy's boys like Billy Clinton, GW Bush, and Barack Obama in the oval office. TheThe Romans taught us the art of war at Carthage, No remaxes.

  • Wee Willie

    The function of government is to provide justice and tranquility so that citizens have maximal freedom. A legitimate monarch with the powers of the American President (The Founding Fathers crafted the Presidency on the ideal Monarch) must be considered for. much of the world. Can anyone tell me of any people that were better off after the overthrow of their legitimate Monarch.

  • BLJ

    Yet Obama continues to keep out troops in Afghanistan. A place that has no value to anyone. Iraq has the potential to be an American ally in the region and a counter balance to the Iranians.

    • Al Dente

      False: the Chinese are mining rare Earth metals from the soil of Afghanistan in all-Chinese enclaves…with impunity…while our guys are putting their butts on the line for…well, for what? Look at the map and you can see how both it and Iraq are strategically where we should be…IF we had a healthy economy, did not have a non-vetted president who just finagled a one billion dollar contribution to the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, and if we otherwise wanted to take on Syria and Iran in concert with Israel. Now that the chips are going down, we're pulling out, which is correct if we would protect our own borders and clean house of the imperialistic, sharia-bent elephant in the room. Rotsa Ruck with that now.

      • wsk

        Did not know about the rare earth elements. Is there problems with radiation or other health hazards when extracting?

        • wsk

          are there not is there . ESL class needed.

        • Al Dente

          That I do not know. It was reported that the Chinese promised the Afghanis jobs working there, then reneged after their tightly insulated communities were installed on site. The Afghans are complaining, but to no avail. One candidate was sent to Beijing ostensibly to learn about mining, but it was a propagandistic move and not a fulfillment of their initial promises.

  • US power is no more

    ¡Allende vivirá por siempre! Gringos asesinos.

  • US power is no more

    Se van pa' la mierda aderechados gringos ignorantes ajajajajjqaj… se les acabó su cuartico de hora y ni siquiera llegaron a dominar el escenario mundial por 100 años seguidos. Los sionistas a los que su gobierno ha vivido arrodillado se irán a otro lado con las maletas llenas de dinero pero ustedes estarán jodidos por un tiempo mucho más largo que 100 años.

    • rubiconcrest

      Estas quivocado amigo. Ya conocemos el enemigo mejor y no es nosotros.

    • mrbean

      Métetelo por el culo Puto!

  • Quinterius

    Bruce Thornton must be utterly desperate to reach as far back as the 1979 Embassy takeover in Tehran. Americans are obsessed with this event. Did anyone die? Does he know anything about the history of US interference in the internal affairs of Iran? All this nonsense about Obama the clown is nonsense. He had no choice about leaving Iraq. Good riddance. What Iran and Iraq do together, is not anybody's business.

    • intrcptr2

      Only the troops Jimmy sent to rescue our people.

      And I suppose the Iranians have completely erased the debacle from their memories, right?
      Hmm, 30 years, yeah that's an eternity.

      Everyone always has a choice…

      • Quinterius

        That is all you know? You don't know about the overthrow of the Iranian government by the CIA in 1953? You don't know about the US Navy shooting down the Iranian passenger plane in 1988 killing all 290 aboard? You don't know about the US support for Saddam during the war between Iran and Iraq? You don't know about the US support for terrorists in Iran? Well, what do you know?

        • intrcptr2

          Intriguing.
          I don't recall the posting rules demanding that we put every last thing we're aware of on each and every post.

          What's your point, smart guy? So you're a resurrected Isolationist; YAY!!! Care to explain how that works again? Here's your hint; think Normandy.

          Get back to me when you need help filling your gas tank.

          And for the record; yes, yes, I know all that.
          Maybe if the IRG hadn't been playing chicken with the Vincennes (And the 747 had her IFF turned on), those folks would still have been alive to get shot last summer in Tehran.

        • wsk

          I'm in favour os all of the above. Shoot down every Iranian airliner. They are probably carrying terrorists.

  • Jim_C

    Should have thought of the consequences 9 years ago Thornton, you utterly craven fool.

    Thanks for bringing them home with honor, President Obama.

    • BLJ

      Obama could give a rats rump about any of our troops. They are just a political football to him. Putting the word "honor" and Obama in the same sentence is an insult to the term.

      • Jim_C

        You're projecting, and making a statement based on what you divine are his "motives," which you know nothing about.

        He's ending this war. The troops ARE coming home with honor.Thanks for making good on another promise, President Obama.

  • Irandissident

    You all know that every few years the political balance in America changes and one of the two main parties takes over. So one lesson you have to learn, is TO FINISH YOUR PROJECT BEFORE THE INEVITABLE CHANGE.
    Ending an unfinished war by Obama is a sad result of having US forces directing traffic in Baghdad or encircling themselves within protected zones, playing referee to Iraqi factions and dealing with the Iranian government and its hostile armies in Iraq…. instead of fighting . An unfinished war is a terrible thing to continue.

  • KKKK

    i do think it may have been a mistake to go into Iraq at the begining, however, once we were there we should have stayed as long as it takes to truly establish security in the country. i fear for the Iraqi Christians, Manderans, and other religious minorities in Iraq, who will likely suffer even more now that we are gone. an unfinsihed war is not done until its truly done. we should have stayed a little longer, in my opinion.

  • scum

    I seem to remember Bush saying all major operations were over – ages over. The idea that Obama has 'retreated' from Iraq (a war no longer supported by God himself, David Horowitz), is some slippery language. Moreover, if you think the troops wanted to stay, you obviously missed the cheering as they left the borders. The REAL gift to Iran was to demobilize Iran's enemy, Saddam the Idiot.

  • SSG. W Clark (RET)

    Bruce, you should do some research on Vietnam to which President Nixon a Republican promised to end the war. Does anyone actually win a war. The Policy of elder President Bush plays a role in our current outcome more his Son (GW). Under the elder Bush, Donald Rumsfeld sold Nerve Agent (VX) to Saddam to use on if Iran crossed the boarder. Our relationship with Saddam deteriorated when he used the Nerve agent on the Kurds. Rumsfeld was positive Saddam had WMD, he sold it to them.

  • SSG W. Clark (RET)

    The President has the War Powers Act – he can mobilize troops to defend US interest without approval of Congress. But to sustain a war he needs the approval of Congress. Bombing Libya was within the powers of the president.

  • pjpolllard9

    Obama has given a great gift to Iran and i think that nothing can be better than this gift that Obama has given to them And they can make their christmas more beautiful

  • http://www.youtube.com/changeling9au Nigel

    Why are so many people still suffering under the illusion that the "gift to Iran" is anything much other than a DELIBERATE policy objective? http://www.hirhome.com/iraniraq/guide-iraniraq.ht

  • Density shifter

    Do not worry. A bird case nuke in the ESB -top floor- is coming to you soon, with all it’s radiation.