(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/03/photo_john_kerry.jpg)All the rumors from Lausanne indicate that the U.S. is on the brink of a disastrous deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. If these leaks are true, a final agreement will leave the Islamic Republic, as it calls itself, in possession of centrifuges and other facilities––27 that we know of–– needed for producing nuclear materials and weapons. Token concessions, such as limiting the number of centrifuges, will count for little given that the Iranians claim that key sites such as Fordo will remain off limits to IAEA inspectors, as will other sites devoted to missile development and other military applications.
In the end, it won’t matter if sanctions are phased out quickly or slowly, if Iran ships its enriched uranium to Russia (an unreliable monitor, to say the least), if some sort of easily gamed “inspection” process is established, or if some “sunset” clause ends all these restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development in 5 years or 10. Iran will still possess the technical knowledge and infrastructure for enriching uranium and manufacturing a nuclear weapon, its economy now unhampered by the dismantled sanctions regime. But to paraphrase the Taliban, we Westerners may have the watches, but the slaves of Allah have the time. This deal means one thing: sooner or later Iran will become a nuclear power.
How we got to this dangerous pass involves the obvious leadership failures of Barack Obama. But equally to blame are the bad ideas shaping the minds of many Western leaders.
Obama came into office proclaiming a new era in American foreign policy. According to the narrative created by progressives and their court scribes in the mainstream media, George Bush’s alleged unilateralism, “torture,” “gulags” like Guantanamo, and itchy trigger finger had damaged U.S. relations abroad and functioned as a recruiting poster for jihadist terror. In contrast, Obama was going to “reinvigorate,” as he put it, multilateralism, diplomatic engagement, and international institutions, and “extend his hand” to our inveterate enemies, especially Iran.
Hence from the beginning of his presidency, Obama has courted the mullahs, sending holiday greetings, personal letters, and solicitous offers to negotiate in order to improve “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations,” as he wrote to Khamenei in May 2009. Even after Iran was caught lying 5 months later about its enrichment facility at Qom, Obama reassured Khamenei, “We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran.” Don’t forget, during this same time Iran was killing our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, facilitating training and travel for terrorists to those same countries, and fomenting terror across the region and beyond. And of course, it was spinning the centrifuges and honing the technical skills necessary for creating nuclear weapons.
Indeed, true to Obama’s wish, we now have de facto “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations” with Iran, cooperation that benefits the mullahs at our expense. We are coordinating our air support with the Iranian fighters and their Iraqi Shi’a clients in northern Iraq, and our negotiators in Lausanne are the regime’s best advocates, defending the Iranians from our own Congress, and from our allies like France, which has reservations about the pending deal. Indeed, according to a member of the Iranian team who recently defected, “The U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”
We can speculate endlessly on Obama’s motives, and argue whether he is actively trying to undermine our influence in the region out of hatred for America, or is blinded by his exaggerated estimation of his powers of persuasion, or is hungry for some legacy achievement to offset the myriad foreign policy disasters for which he is responsible. There is also the dubious “realist” view that America’s activism in the region is creating disorder and blowback, and hence a “rebalancing” of our foreign policy commitments is in order. But one thing is beyond speculation and debate: his behavior reflects bad ideas that go beyond his personal incompetence or dark designs.
One particularly dangerous idea is the notion endemic to progressives that the U.S. is a bad international actor, a neo-imperialist, neo-colonialist instrument of capitalist depredations, racist oppression, and greedy exploitation, one responsible for all the world’s ills. This Marxist-inspired distortion of history has long been gospel for Western intellectuals. In 1941 George Orwell wrote, “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality,” and for leftists “it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.” Today these attitudes have spread beyond the intellectual elite into school curricula and popular culture. They are second nature to progressives, and have enabled the appeasement of our enemies ever since the Cold War, just as Orwell saw that the fashionable self-loathing of England’s intellectual elite contributed to the appeasement of the 1930s.
Given that this myth permeates American culture high and low, it is no surprise that the historically challenged Obama, a creature of the university, accepts it as fact. Thus any notions of America’s role as a unique force for good in the world are just irrational prejudices typical of similar parochial attitudes found in other countries. Hence the constant apologies that have marked his tenure, which in turn reflect his notion of America’s sins, the fundamental assumption of his foreign policy. Who can forget the Cairo speech in 2009, when our president blamed tensions with the Muslim world on “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations”? Thus in 2007 he promised he would conduct foreign policy “not in the spirit of a patron but in the spirit of a partner––a partner mindful of his own imperfections.”
The corollary to this self-loathing is the superstition that all conflict can be resolved through the give-and-take and rational discussion of negotiations with foes whose enmity is probably our fault anyway. After all, everybody prefers peace to war, and physical comfort to spiritual or ideological certainty. This is an old belief, still clung to by many in the face of numerous bloody examples of its failure. Even as Hitler’s tanks were rolling into Poland, an American senator said, “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” This same delusion has driven Obama’s engagement with the rest of the world, again confirming the promises he made as a candidate to favor diplomacy over force or even the threat of force.
History should disabuse us of these assumptions. If both sides share fundamental principles about peace and tolerance and human rights and mutual respect, negotiation can create agreements that defuse conflict. But even then, national self-interest can trump the desire to make a deal, principles be damned. In 2002 Georg Bush spent several months negotiating with our allies for a U.N. Security Council resolution approving the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for violating 17 previous resolutions and the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire agreement. For reasons of national economic and political self-interest, Germany and France lobbied against the resolution, going so far as actively pressuring other Council members to vote against it. The delay caused by these ultimately successful efforts––the resolution was withdrawn lest it be voted down–– gave Hussein precious time to dismantle his WMD programs and destroy or export stockpiles to other countries.
Yet when the adversary does not share fundamental beliefs and principles, negotiation merely offers the enemy an opportunity to buy time by dickering over or even approving an agreement it has every intention of gaming and violating. The history of nuclear arms treaties with the Soviet Union and Russia, and the dismal failure of diplomacy to keep North Korea from creating a nuclear arsenal are recent examples. As those failures show, an enemy intent on achieving a strategic aim will lie, cheat, conceal, and misdirect until it can announce success with a fait accompli. This pattern can be seen as early as the 1920’s, when the Germans undermined the Versailles Treaty’s disarmament clauses with harassment and deception of the Inter-Allied Commission of Control, secret weapons research facilities, the construction of factories easily converted to military uses, delays in meeting obligations, and lies about various organizations the purpose of which was to train officers and study military innovations and theory. When Hitler came to power in 1933, everything was in place for a rapid reconstruction of Germany’s war machine.
The Iranian regime does not accept its dishonorable subordination to an alien, infidel power any more than Germany had accepted the reduction of its national power and influence after World War I. On the contrary, the expansion of Iranian aggression and influence in the region from Syria to Yemen testifies to its aim of becoming the region’s hegemon at the expense of the U.S. and its allies, a role its possession of nuclear weapons will make inevitable. Given that aim, our current negotiations, predicated on the mistaken belief that Iran wants “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations,” as Obama said, are doomed to fail. Of course Iran will negotiate for more time, of course it will “cooperate” with us in destroying ISIS. But as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy. And as its actions for 35 years have shown, the current regime in Iran is our most inveterate enemy.
The stark contrast between our beliefs and interests and those of Iran make a negotiated resolution of our conflicts a pipe dream. Only force can decide which side will prevail. We need to remember this tragic truth, one understood by Abraham Lincoln. In his December 1864 address to Congress, he reminded his fellow citizens of this hard fact:
“On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader [Jefferson Davis] could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the Union, precisely what we will not and cannot give. His declarations to this effect are explicit and oft repeated. He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He cannot voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory. If we yield, we are beaten; if the Southern people fail him, he is beaten.”
These words accurately describe our struggle with Iran. Unfortunately for us, Barack Obama is no Abraham Lincoln. He “can and will give” the Iranians what they want, his understanding of the “issue” is the direct opposite of “distinct, simple, and inflexible,” and he is eager to “voluntarily yield” nuclear weapons to the enemy. Unless Congress, including Democrats, intervenes to stop this disaster, Iran will win, and we will be beaten.
Don’t miss Shillman Fellow Daniel Greenfield on The Glazov Gang discuss Why Obama is Making it Easy for Iran to Get the Bomb (starts at 14:35 mark).
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