Obama is serious about his (bad) ideas
By John Podhoretz
November 27, 2013 | 2:10am
Give President Obama credit: You can’t trust his promises, but when it comes to his ideas, you can be certain he means what he says.
As a politician, he’s as dishonest and slippery as any we’ve ever seen, but as an ideological leader, he tells you the truth about what he really believes.
Thus, you can’t trust that the ObamaCare Web site will be fixed by Nov. 30, but you know he meant it when he said it is “doing what it was designed to do.” What it was designed to do is fundamentally reshape the relationship of the American citizen and the government.
You couldn’t trust his promise that he’d strike Syria for its use of chemical weapons because that evil regime crossed the “red line” he drew. But you know he meant it when he said earlier in 2013 that he hoped to have “the kind of constructive, cooperative relationship that moves us out of the Cold War mindset” with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
So far out of the Cold War mindset is Barack Obama that he allowed Putin to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. He did so on the implicit grounds that non-intervention is superior to intervention even after he vowed to intervene, and in a way that guarantees the ultimate triumph of the regime he had promised to punish for its unconscionable behavior.
The same is true of the Iran nuke deal — or pre-deal, or framework, or sellout, or Munich or whatever you want to call it.
The president has spent years talking tough on Iran, but his tough talk was often astoundingly disingenuous. For example, the administration has been taking credit for imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime that brought it to the negotiating table, but in fact he and his people opposed and fought the imposition of those sanctions.
In 2011, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) harshly upbraided Obama Treasury Department official David Cohen for testifying against new sanctions in contravention of a private deal between Menendez and the administration.
“At your request, we engaged in an effort to come to a bipartisan agreement,” Menendez raged. “And now you come here and vitiate that very agreement” by testifying against it. “I find it pretty outrageous.”
Obama didn’t like the sanctions because he believes maintaining a posture of confrontation is counterproductive. “We have sought a new era of engagement with the world,” he said at the United Nations in September 2009.
What could that mean? The Bush administration had scads of engagement with the world. It went to the United Nations twice before invading Iraq. It convened a six-nation parley on North Korea. There was a five-nation group to deal with Iran. It negotiated a region-wide free-trade agreement with Central America.
Obviously, what Obama meant was a different sort of engagement — an engagement in which the United States made special efforts to engage with those who’d conventionally be considered adversaries.
He was, he has said repeatedly, elected to end wars, not to start them — and one might add to this that he believes US foreign policy is successful to the extent it finds common ground with hostile nations and actors, presumably in the hope that this will make them less hostile.
The Iran deal is the perfect example of this. The Iranians were brought to the table because the United States and the world have been dealing with the regime as a hostile force. That would seem to validate the approach, and that tougher sanctions would work even better.
Not for Obama. The presumption of the deal is that we will engineer trust and good will by unilaterally ending or lowering sanctions, and that will in turn change Iranian behavior when it comes to its nuclear program.
But if the mullahs retain the nuclear material and machinery that caused the sanctions to be imposed in the first place, what incentive is there for them to go beyond the freeze-in-place to which they’ve agreed?
The administration says the threat in the deal is that the United States will reimpose sanctions it has lifted, and that the United Nations will do the same. Maybe, but in the meantime the mullahs will have gotten their hands on $20 billion.
One of the president’s chief promises is that Iran won’t get a nuclear weapon. That promise should be considered in light of the promises on healthcare.gov and on the Syrian red line.
But nobody has any right to be surprised he’s letting Iran have what it wants. He’s made it perfectly clear this is where his foreign policy has been aiming all along.