You are in negotiations with Iran, a mortal adversary. Your enemy has for decades declared that you are the Great Satan and dedicated itself to opposing you across the globe. Your enemy has also relentlessly pursued nuclear weapons capability.
Finally, after years of hesitation and half measures you have imposed meaningful sanctions. Your adversary's economy is suffering. Disenchantment at home with its hard-line policies abroad is rising. For the first time in many years there are some indications that perhaps pressure is beginning to pay off.
What do you do?
If you understand the realities of foreign policy and national security you double down on your resolve. You understand precisely what your adversary is signaling to you. They are beginning to feel the pain. You are winning. You have turned a critical corner. If you maintain course there is a chance, for the first time in decades, of significantly permanently altering the behavior of this deadly opponent.
But not if you are this administration.
The Obama administration does not make foreign policy decisions based on reality or a clear-eyed appraisal of the facts on the ground. The Obama administration sees what it wants to see.
In Libya after the fall of Qaddafi the Obama administration did not see chaos. It did not see a nation with a virtually nonexistent central government. It did not see a nation filled with warring private armies all armed to the teeth and many of them overtly hostile to our interests.
The Obama administration saw the equivalent of a civil rights movement. It saw a nation filled with secular reformers all yearning for a liberal democratic government. It saw friends. It saw like-minded progressives.
In that light, the Administration believed that it was a reasonable thing to do to place small numbers of Americans in exposed locations like Benghazi with no American security presence of any consequence. It believed that an emergency action plan that relied upon the good faith of local militias to save us was prudent and realistic.
In Egypt when Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power the Obama Administration did not see a radical organization dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state. It did not see an underground organization that for decades had maintained an ideology virtually indistinguishable from that of Al Qaeda. It did not understand that the Brotherhood would ride the wave popular discontent created by desperate economic conditions in Egypt and utilize that discontent to impose its own agenda.
The Obama Administration saw a kinder, gentler Brotherhood. All the rough edges had been sanded off. Its Islamic rhetoric was purely for show. Deep down it was committed to pluralism, liberal democracy and gender equality.
One might have thought that the specter of a dead ambassador and a burned-out consulate in Benghazi might have changed this worldview. One also might have thought that the chaos that has consumed Egypt and resulted in a military coup might have given the Obama administration pause.
One would have been wrong.
Nothing, apparently, will interfere with this predetermined view of the world. And now we stand on the brink of another foreign-policy disaster.
The Obama administration is currently involved in direct face-to-face negotiations with the Iranian regime regarding their nuclear weapons program. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama administration is willing to reach a deal in which it will agree to begin to back off from the sanctions, which have driven the Iranians to the negotiating table. This despite the fact that the Iranians have indicated no willingness to discuss dismantling their nuclear weapons program. The only thing they have signaled any willingness to discuss is freezing their nuclear efforts at their current level.
This ploy is obvious. The intent is to get us to back off on the sanctions that are working while maintaining the nuclear program at its current level of advancement. And then as time passes, we lose interest and focus, and the world moves on, the Iranians will, as they always have, begin surreptitiously to restart their program and press ahead.
The stakes here are enormous. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a hostile state, which has supported groups like Hezbollah, for decades. This is a group, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization other than Al Qaida. The Iranians have also armed and supported our foes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They continue at this very moment to channel support to the Assad regime in Syria.
The Iranians are a direct threat to our interests in the Middle East and to the continued existence of the state of Israel. There is no realistic scenario under which we can tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Once in possession of such a weapon, and emboldened by its power, Iran would become an even more deadly and uncontrollable adversary.
We should also remember that this is not simply a matter of the threat Iran poses to Israel and the West. Iran is a Shia nation. We are already seeing what looks increasingly like the beginnings of a full-scale civil war in the Middle East and South Asia between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The death toll in Iraq from attacks on Shia by Sunnis mounts daily. The situation in parts of Pakistan is not much better. With every passing day, the character of the conflict in Syria becomes more and more a matter of Assad and the Alawites in alliance with Shia Iran and Hezbollah fighting against Sunni Syrians and the flood of foreign Sunni fighters entering the country.
Imagine if you will that you add to this situation the acquisition of atomic weapons by Iran. The Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, already alarmed by the regional situation, will not stand by and watch that happen without response. The Saudis for one will acquire their own nuclear weapon post haste, likely by simply buying a stack of Pakistani nuclear weapons.
We will go overnight from a situation in which we are worried about Iran eventually getting a weapon to one in which multiple Middle Eastern states, separated by centuries of animosity born of religious and cultural differences, are faced off in a nuclear confrontation. In a region characterized by weak government and instability, that is a prescription for disaster.
Over the last six months, we watched as the Obama Administration set new records for incompetence with its Syrian policy. First, it veered toward overt military intervention, without any clear definition of our goals or how our armed forces would achieve them. Then, it stumbled its way into a deal brokered by the Russians, which did not nothing to remove the Assad regime from power or to end the slaughter on the ground.
The only discernable objective of this agreement was to allow the Obama Administration to back its way out of a trap that it created in the first place. United Nations personnel are now on the ground in Syria destroying those chemical weapons that the Syrians are willing to admit they have. What other weapons they may be hiding is unknown and unknowable. None of this impacts in any way the ability of the Assad regime to maintain itself in power and to slaughter its own population using every weapon other than chemical agents in its arsenal.
Whether we should or should not intervene in Syria is a matter for sober debate. What is not subject to debate, however, is that our actions, in first threatening military strikes and then walking away from the threats, signaled weakness and a lack of resolve to Assad. He has emerged from this, as have his Iranian allies, more confident in his ability to cling to power and crush his opposition.
That will also be the precise impact of the deal we are preparing to make with the Iranians. Having pushed them to the wall and made them feel the pain of sanctions, we are now preparing to back off and cave in. Speaking about the emerging outlines of an agreement between the United States and Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had this to say. "This proposal will allow Iran to preserve its ability to build a nuclear weapon. Israel is completely opposed to these proposals. I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions and they should be completely rejected."
Amen. Judgments in the realm of foreign policy and national security should be made calmly and soberly after careful deliberation and study. Once made, though, they should be pursued with steely resolve. The world is a hard, dangerous place, no matter what the Obama Administration pretends.