That there might be icebergs ahead on the evening of April 14, 1912 was no secret to the captain and crew of the RMS Titanic
. Ships had been sailing the North Atlantic for centuries. More to the point, other commercial vessels that had transited the area ahead of Titanic had transmitted clear, unambiguous warnings of the presence of a large number of sizeable icebergs in the area at that time.
It did not matter. The ship pressed ahead through the dark at 22.5 knots only a hair less than its maximum speed of 23 knots. This was its maiden voyage. It was important, the captain thought, to make the crossing in a good time. Besides, the ship was a marvel of modern engineering, virtually unsinkable in the eyes of many. There was no need for concern.
The rest, of course is tragic history. One thousand five hundred and seventeen people died in the one of the most horrible maritime disasters of all time, killed by a toxic mix of hubris and the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It has been one hundred and two years, since Titanic sank. Her loss seems ancient history. The horrible cost we pay for arrogance, though, remains the same.
President Obama has been in office for six years. His foreign policy is a smoking disaster from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. The Russians have seized the Crimea and are gnawing at Eastern Ukraine. China has all but annexed the South China Sea. Iraq is unraveling before our eyes. Syria has dissolved into a nightmarish maelstrom fueled by hate and ideology. Nigeria is threatening to fall under the control of Boko Haram. Libya is mired in civil war.
Our responses to all of these crises are tepid and slow. We seem to have no strategy, and it has been a very long time, since we seemed to be ahead of events.
Under such circumstances, one would expect that the President might be moving cautiously. One would also expect that he might be reexamining his ideas about how the world works, who can be trusted and what is realistically achievable.
Not this man. Three years into his Presidency Jimmy Carter was signing a finding to authorize arming and training Afghans fighting against the Soviet invasion of their country. He had come to office with all sorts of idealistic visions of world peace and transcending old rivalries. He was not, however, a fool. He understood he had miscalculated, and he began to take steps to adjust.
Obama is a different creature entirely. He ideas about the world, and his own messianic place in it, are apparently carved in stone. He is not reacting to criticism and failure by taking a look in the mirror and allowing for the possibility that he might have made mistakes. He is doubling down and digging in.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in regard to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Negotiations with the Iranians regarding their nuclear program are not only still ongoing, they are intensifying with the goal of reaching some kind of final agreement before a November 24, 2014 deadline set in previous, preliminary discussions. All indications are, from both the President and his Secretary of State, that we intend to make every effort possible to reach an agreement with the Iranians and that pursuant to such an agreement the sanctions regime created to put pressure on the Iranians will be effectively dismantled.
Bashar Hafez al-Assad, born September 11, 1965, is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. |
The scope of the disaster this portends would be difficult to exaggerate.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, since its creation in 1979, has been an unequivocal enemy of the United States and its allies. It has sponsored terrorist actions worldwide against American and Israeli targets. It has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American citizens. It has actively worked to undermine our interests and the stability of the Middle East for decades.
None of this has changed.
Hezbollah remains an Iranian client and a threat to both Lebanon and Israel. Within the last few weeks a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Peru as he prepared to stage attacks on Jewish targets in that country. This would have been only the latest in a long string of such operations worldwide.
Throughout our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Iranian intelligence operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members assisted our enemies, armed them and worked hard to increase the lethality of their tactics and their weaponry. Large numbers of American servicemen and women were killed or wounded as a result. Many of them will spend their lives in wheelchairs or struggling with prosthetic limbs courtesy of this Iranian activity.
In Syria, Iran and its Hezbollah creature are busily propping up the brutal Assad regime
, which drops barrel bombs and chlorine gas on its own citizen and stifles all dissent. In Iraq, Iran is actively working against American interests, and its influence has contributed heavily to the present crisis inside the country and the revolt of Sunni tribes.
In regard to its nuclear program, Iran's record is also clear. It lies through its teeth until caught doing so. Then, and only then, does it admit anything. Once having done so, as soon as international attention on its actions begins to wane, Iran returns to its normal course of action. It lies. It restarts its clandestine nuclear efforts. It resumes inching forward toward the day when it will announce that it has conducted a test and that it is now a nuclear power.
Any deal we sign with the Iranians will be a catastrophe. In its immediate aftermath, as sanctions are lifted, and money begins to flow into Iran again, the Iranians will energize their anti-Western actions worldwide. IRGC and Iranian intelligence activities throughout the Middle East will increase. A region already teetering on the verge of a Sunni-Shia regional war will become further destabilized and even more dangerous.
Other nations, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, left to fend for themselves, will be forced to take actions that may lead to the unthinkable. Israel will be forced to face head on the question of whether to preemptively disarm the Iranians or prepare for an eventual nuclear exchange. The Saudis, who have no intention of living across the Persian Gulf from a nuclear Shia Iran will likely arm themselves with nuclear weapons with the help of the Pakistanis.
The world's most unstable region will be balanced on a knife-edge one tremor away from a plunge into the abyss.
There is still time to hope that we will come to our senses. There is still some chance that someone involved in these talks will realize that the Iranians are not to be trusted and that any hope of a meaningful deal with them is fantasy. For now, though, it appears we are pressing ahead. Out there somewhere in the dark and the fog is disaster, and we are steaming full speed for it.