Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama accidently abrogates America’s right to oppose Iran's nuclear weapons

By Barry Rubin

“No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.” Thus spake President Barack Obama in his Cairo speech. After a pause for contemplation, I respond, “Why the Hell not?”

Obama went on to explain himself. But while he no doubt thinks he was being quite clever, his argument entangled him in gigantic problems. I call this an accident because presumably Obama didn't mean to tell Iran that he thought it should have nuclear weapons if it wanted them. He just didn't think through the implications of what he was saying:

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."

Indeed this statement—like many in the speech (though there are some good ones, too) is so disastrous in its implications that the mind is boggled. A re-boggle occurs when things like this are allowed to pass, among people who should know better, as acceptable or even as brilliant statesmanship.

Consider all the things wrong with Obama’s sentence:

First, a nation, especially a great power, should certainly decide whether it wants certain nations to hold nuclear weapons. Once having done so, it should try to implement its goal. In effect, he sabotaged the United States by saying that it has no right to seek to deny Iran nuclear weapons. So why should there be any sanctions at all? He may not have intended it—but to attribute major policy statements of the president of the United States to ignorance is no compliment. He said it.

Second, does this mean that a single nation can ally with other nations to pick and choose? After all, despite mythology, the previous Bush administration was extremely multilateral in its policy toward Iran’s nuclear weapons. It actually delegated the diplomacy to Britain, France, and Germany who tried but failed completely. So is Obama implying that if you get a UN resolution then that’s ok?

Third, it is horrifyingly a repeal of any counter-proliferation policy. The United States thus has no right to pick and choose against North Korea, or Cuba, or Venezuela or anyone else from having nuclear weapons.

Fourth, what was his full argument? Perhaps he wanted to say that Iran has the right to have nuclear weapons until that day (which will never come) when nobody else--including the United States--has them? Yes, that might be something the Iranian regime could agree to: We get nukes and let us know when you've gotten rid of yours.

Yet, of course, Obama is committed to stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, isn’t he? So how can one reconcile this contradiction?

Such statements, which transcend specific declared policies, are signs of an ideology that abdicates America’s leadership role in the world, abandoning everything we should have learned from the 1930s and seemed to have learned since December 7, 1941. Obama says, in effect, that America is not moral or wise enough to tell others what they should do (except Israel, of course). Forget about George W. Bush, this is a betrayal of everything Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton believed and practiced.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton must be spinning in her limousine seat.

Is America a free, successful, democratic country whose stances for freedom and decency give it a right as a “single nation” to fight regimes and movements which are murderous, dictatorial, and brutal?

Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it (and this is an undercurrent in Obama’s world view)? How dare we say that the United States is “better” as a society and government than that which prevails in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Venezuela or North Korea? Doesn’t America have its sins? (Yes, but they have always been far smaller,  have diminished further in recent decades, and it has worked hard to correct them.)

What, one might ask, does a “single nation” have the right to do, assuming that the nation is the United States? Answer: apologize, listen, and show respect for others?

Incredibly destructive change you can believe in. Yes we can…demolish the influence of the United States, the greatest hope for peace, stability, and progress among the best elements in the world.

Now the greatest hope is either that Obama learns better, he is persuaded by more knowledgeable members of the administration, or November 2012, whichever comes first.

Of course, there is an element of exaggeration in what I’ve written here. But it is shocking how accurate it is nonetheless. Ignorance, inexperience, and an extremely destructive ideology are very much present.

Here’s the best response of all to Obama’s Cairo speech. It comes in private conversation
with an Arab Muslim whose country is ruled by a dictatorship:

“We don’t want Obama to act like a Muslim or Arab,” he said, “We want him to act like an American.”

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