Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
That phrase is how Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described the 20th century’s catalogue of horrors: two world wars, fascism, communism, Nazism, mass slaughter, the Cold War and its apocalyptic stakes–“oceans of blood and mountains of corpses, Auschwitz and the Gulag,” as George Weigel put it. And that catalogue continues today in Ukraine, with mechanized violence and wanton inhumanity on a scale we haven’t seen since 1945.
Yet today our social, political, and cultural dysfunctions are more insidious, as over the last few decades they have distributed, promoted, and indulged failures of morality, technocratic hubris, and common sense of the sort that were the predicates of all the disasters of the 20th century. Only now they are at a level of surreal silliness and stupidity that would be mordantly funny if the stakes for our civilization weren’t so high.
Now comes proof in the news that the indirect negotiations between the Biden administration and the genocidal clerical regime in Iran are nearing completion. Since its beginning in the Obama administration, this diplomatic attempt to keep nuclear weapons out of the mullahs’ hands has defied facts and logic, and relied on magical thinking. How else other than surreal can we describe a process that aims at merely delaying, rather than preventing, an illiberal, fanatical cabal from obtaining weapons of mass destruction?
This is a regime, remember, that in 1979 was born in sectarian hatred for the West and its ideals of unalienable human rights, tolerance for religious pluralism, and individual and political freedom; a creed that preaches the coming of a leader who will spark an apocalyptic struggle that will destroy the liberal-democratic, infidel global order, and usher in the Shia utopia of righteousness and submission to Allah.
What has made our foreign policy establishment since 1979 think that such religious beliefs could be open to a transactional diplomatic process that requires negotiations and concessions? When a regime calls you the Great Satan, murders and kidnaps your citizens and soldiers, fires 13 rockets near your embassy, and openly declares war on you and threatens to destroy your civilization, why would you trust any agreement it signs? Why would we believe the promises of the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism, which was created in part to “export its revolution to the world” by means of jihad, as the Ayatollah Khomeini promised in 1979?
Yet trusting an inveterate, self-proclaimed enemy is just what the Obama administration did in 2015. The Iran nuclear deal showered billions of dollars on the mullahs and relaxed economic sanctions, in effect financing the processing of uranium for nuclear weapons; the continuing research and development of missiles capable of delivering them as far as our east coast; and increasing the Republican Guards’ support abroad for terrorists gangs attacking our close allies like Israel, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
What the West got in return has been more mayhem in the region from Iran’s proxies, and continuous violations of the agreement’s terms, as revealed by Israel’s acquisition and exposure of Iran’s secret history that document it serial violations.
What’s worse is that we already had an example of how easily such naïve diplomatic processes could be gamed. North Korea spent 30 years making and breaking promises while pocketing concessions from the West until it had nuclear weapons. Now it is untouchable.
It’s bad enough that the “rules-based international order” allowed itself to be gulled by a pygmy gangster state driven by greed and hunger for power. But an atheist communist regime seeking pelf and power in this world is one thing. An apocalyptic cult endorsing sacralized violence and “loving death” and the next world as heathen Westerners love life is another. Yes, there’s a fair chance that the mullahs are hypocrites and hedonists similarly motivated by power and wealth. But given Islam’s 1000-year record of successful conquest of Christian “polytheists” in the name of Allah, we should take seriously a country seeking nukes and openly promising to reprise that revered history and restore Islam’s lost global dominance.
As feckless and weak as Obama’s deal was, Biden’s team has been desperately striving to renew it, undoing all of Donald Trump’s success in imposing maximum pressure on the regime after he left the deal in 2018. Why the eagerness to return to the deal? Why–– after the debacle in Afghanistan has weakened our prestige and clout to the point that Saudi Arabia won’t take the president’s calls, and is now canoodling with China––are we crawling back to the mullahs and virtually begging them for a deal that will endanger our interests and security? It’s a measure of how surreal things are getting that there’s no rational strategic answer to that question. In fact, the deal won’t stop, but rather accelerate Iran’s march to the bomb, and its financing of terrorism.
The only plausible answer is political: the Dems think the deal was Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement and a high point of his presidential legacy, so its restoration will lift Biden’s abysmal poll numbers. But it won’t take long for the new agreement’s monumental failure to become manifest. Or maybe the global “rules-based order” clerks want to undo Trump’s exposure of their decrepit paradigms about the efficacy of “diplomatic engagement” for resolving conflict peacefully. But it took Biden just one year in office to show that the shibboleths of foreign policy establishment are not just ineffective, but downright dangerous. Or do they think it is merely a coincidence that nothing like the abandonment of Afghanistan or Russia’s rape of Ukraine happened on the watch of Donald Trump, a skeptic of such foreign policy idealism?
Finally, there are details of the current negotiations with Iran that don’t just violate common sense, but are downright surreal in their shamelessness. There’s word that the Biden administration may buy oil from the mullahs once the sanctions are listed. And he may concede Iran’s demand to remove the terrorist designation Donald Trump in 2019 put on the Revolutionary Guard Corps and its expeditionary Quds Force, whose head honcho was evaporated by Trump. If Biden caves to that demand, which of these two actions do you think enhances America’s power of deterrence?
In a sign of our flabby prestige, Iran refused direct negotiations so what’s even more sinister and incoherent is that the go-between for the U.S. is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He’s claiming says he has a “written guarantee” from Biden that no sanction on Russia related to the nuclear deal will be enforced. This means Russia’s energy sector can earn $10 billion building Iran a nuclear reactor. How many Kh-47M2 hypersonic missiles can Putin buy with that windfall?
If this happens, we will truly have left reality for surreal satire. At the same time we are sanctioning Russian oil and banks for its heinous invasion of Ukraine, daily denouncing Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, and supplying arms to the Ukrainians, we––with Russia’s help––are on the brink of providing the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism more money to spend on terrorism and developing nuclear weapons, and relaxing sanctions on the Russian devil so it can build a nuclear reactor for an enemy sworn to our destruction, while earning more funds to continue the war in Ukraine.
Such stupidity and slavery to state orthodoxy are suicidal, the predicate for another “rage of self-mutilation” that may, if Iran gets the bomb, equal or even surpass that of the 20th century.
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