Sturm: Spinning White House yarns and Iranian nukes
December 19, 2013
Unable to ignore millions of cancellation letters and a rare presidential apology, fact-checkers at PolitiFact and the Washington Post designated "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" as their "Lie of the Year."
Reeling from Obamacare's deceptive sales tactics, Americans dread its fallout but know that our system allows us to Think Again. We can repeal and replace bad laws.
But we can't reverse the fall-out from Iranian nukes, which explains President Kennedy's warning that while "domestic policy can defeat us, foreign policy can kill us."
It also explains the backlash from allies and Congress against the recently signed interim agreement with Iran, the world's most dangerous regime and self-described deceiver. As Alan Dershowitz suggested, it "could be a cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions."
The secretly negotiated Iranian deal is a painful reminder of a Turkish general's observation: "The problem with having the Americans as your allies is that you never know when they'll turn around and stab themselves in the back."
The pact departs from our long-standing bipartisan consensus to prevent — not contain — a nuclear Iran, and it undercuts our negotiating position before winning proportionate concessions. Just as ratcheted-up sanctions were forcing Iran to choose between economic collapse and dismantling its nuclear program to comply with six U.N. resolutions, we've relieved its pain in return for no irreversible concessions, sending $8 billion to $10 billion into its beleaguered economy while effectively ratifying what the U.N. wouldn't — Iran's right to enrich uranium.
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As with Obamacare, the truth is that if we like what we have — a world in which the planet's largest exporter of terrorism is denied the most devastating weapons capability — this pact means we can't keep it despite breezy assurances from the Obama administration that painstakingly conceived coercive sanctions can be flicked on like a light switch.
Former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger are concerned, writing in the Washington Post that the agreement leaves Iran "in the position of a nuclear threshold power — a country that can achieve a military nuclear capability within months of its choosing … with profound consequences for global nonproliferation policy and the stability of the Middle East."
"We must avoid an outcome," they concluded, "in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments."
Haven't we learned from the failed North Korea deals that bribing nuke-obsessed tyrants doesn't work? When U.S. forces were in Afghanistan and Iraq, sanctions backed by a credible military threat induced Libya's nuclear abandonment and a two-year Iranian timeout.
Feeling backstabbed and abandoned, America's Middle Eastern allies insist the pact undercuts mutual interests — safety, sovereignty and open thoroughfares — by guaranteeing Iranian domination of the Gulf. They believe "it doesn't do anything about Iranian ambitions; it just takes the United States out of the equation as a force that's helping box Iran in," according to Jon Alterman, of the Center for Strategic Studies.
"It's an issue of confidence," Saudi Prince al-Faisal said, when allies aren't sure that "what you say is going to be what you do."
Now, after displaying indecision, inconsistency and weakness in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Iran, America has less influence than at any time since before World War I, rendering the warring region unstable and the world more perilous.
Americans have noticed. At an all-time high in Pew Research's half-century of polling, a 53 percent majority believes America is less important and influential than it was a decade ago, up from 20 percent in 2004.
Yet having learned the lessons of the Cold War — that international peace, security and prosperity depend on America's credibility and commitment to defend our interests — we know that all aspects of American statecraft are necessary to defeat menacing despots and existential threats. Successive presidents backed by overwhelming bipartisan congressional majorities have affirmed America's peace through strength strategy, insisting "all options are on the table" to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Was it President Obama's intention to break with these time-tested American principles when he was caught on an open mic assuring Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he'd have "more flexibility" after the 2012 election?
Guided by these principles, and understanding the ancient credo "those who are kind to the cruel, in the end will be cruel to the kind," President Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall in 1987. In making the moral and security cases for freedom and Western resolve, he entreated, "If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, … if you seek liberalization, … tear down this wall!"
Twenty-nine months later, the wall was rubble. May Obama heed these lessons so Iran's nuclear installations meet the same fate.
Think Again — woe to humanity if ever Obama's pledge to prevent an Iranian nuke is declared "the lie of the year."
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at email@example.com.
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