The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I spent an hour listening to Barack Obama’s “major foreign policy address” this morning. Although much of his commentary on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan rehashed old themes, his commentary on those three countries was reasonable, if a bit idealistic and in the case of Pakistan, just a tad provocative. In fact, he’s come so far to the center over the past few months that it’ll soon be difficult to differentiate his position from that of John McCain.

To be blunt, now that the heavy lifting has been done and the surge has worked, Obama has conveniently forgotten his opposition to the surge (his website was purged of all comments in that regard this week), and the Democratic nominee has adjusted his position accordingly.

But when he discussed Iran, his true ideology seeped through. In his speech Obama stated:
We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States.

So far, so good. There are few Americans or Europeans who would oppose that sentiment. But then:
No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium.

Hmmm. And what exactly is the “failed policy” that Obama is referring to? Matthew Continetti fills us in:
Obama might not admit it, but for about five years now the Bush administration has followed a course of action rather similar to his preferred policy. Bush has pursued multilateral diplomacy through international institutions (the U.N., the IAEA) and through an ad hoc coalition called the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the United States) in order to induce Iran to suspend its enrichment activities. Obama's policy would be a tad more unilateral, because he would prefer to have direct negotiations with the Iranians and thus remove our allies from the equation altogether.

And that’s exactly what Obama proposed today:
I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy - diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions.

There will be careful preparation. I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort. Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That's why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence - including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.

We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives. If you refuse, then we will ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions in the Security Council, and sustained action outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime. That's the diplomacy we need. And the Iranians should negotiate now; by waiting, they will only face mounting pressure.

Matthew Continetti continues:
But does any serious person believe that an offer of direct negotiations without preconditions would change the basic situation? Most reasonable advocates of such talks advocate them just so the United States can say it has "gone the extra mile" in trying to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Iran has been immune to peaceful persuasion. Since 2006, the Security Council has adopted five resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities and comply fully with the IAEA. And because those resolutions were summarily ignored, the Security Council has also enacted four rounds of punitive sanctions directed at the Iranian regime. No change.

Meanwhile, the P5+1 has made two direct offers to the Iranians, one in June 2006 and the other in June 2008, to lift sanctions and implement security guarantees if Iran "suspends" -- not ends -- uranium enrichment. As the P5+1 foreign ministers put it in their latest appeal to their Iranian counterpart, "We are ready to work with Iran in order to find a way to address Iran's needs and the international community's concerns, and reiterate that once the confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of your nuclear program is restored, it will be treated in the same manner as that of any Non-Nuclear Weapon State party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty." This isn't exactly what you would call provocative language.

So it appears that Obama’s foreign policy will be the same as the “failed policy” he rails against, except that it will be more naive, more time consuming and not any more effective.

It appears, that unlike Pakistan (a true nuclear power he wants to attack),Obama is much more circumspect about Iran (a wannabe nuclear power). Continetti notes:
Asked how the United States ought to respond to last week's Iranian missile tests, Barack Obama told CNN that it was important "we avoid provocation." Just as last year, Obama criticized a Senate bill designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization because it was too "provocative." This has us wondering: Is the problem with Iran that the United States seems provocative?

We should avoid provoking Iran? That’s the same Iran that is scurrying to build weapons of mass destruction, has threatened to obliterate Israel and close the Gulf of Hormus? The same Iran that is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our troops in Iraq? That Iran? And the thing we should avoid is any “provocative action.”

Yeah, that’ll work. But I suppose if your only lever is talk and more talk, sanctions and still more sanctions, the last thing you want to do is to be “provocative.”