National Security

Are We Doomed to Repeat the Past?

Obama, Iran and Congress all jockey for position on the nuclear deal.

John J. Bastiat · Apr. 16, 2015

Seven decades after one of the most embarrassing lessons in modern military history, every nation is now familiar with the infamous promise of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when he haplessly enabled Adolf Hitler’s World War II kickoff by appeasing the enemy: “Peace in our time.” Unfortunately, America’s leaders have not learned that lesson because they also failed to internalize the wisdom of 19th-century philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

There are, of course, the standard lessons and adages. These include the lesson of hubris — that is, a leader will unvaryingly become politically blind when arrogance and pride take over — as well as the lesson that nations should measure each other by their actions, not by empty words. And then there’s the truism that a leopard cannot change its spots. All of these are especially applicable, of course, in dealing with Iran.

But by far the most important maxim for the leader of any nation faced with a critical issue is this: “There is wisdom in the counsel of many” (Proverbs 15:22). His Anointedness, Barack Obama, has ignored this time-tested axiom repeatedly since taking office, choosing instead to go it alone in setting national priorities, including national security priorities. While the stakes in these conceits have always been high, they are now, well, thermonuclear hot.

This fact comes glaringly to light in the wake of congressional efforts to rein in President Peace-Deal-at-Any-Price and keep him from giving away the store, essentially allowing Iran to develop and deploy nuclear weapons without any real consequences. The most recent battle climaxed earlier this week when Obama learned he would likely face a swift override of a presidential veto on a bill requiring a Senate vote on any deal with Iran. That resulted in Olympic-level back-peddling by Team Obama, which attempted to recast itself as a staunch supporter of congressional involvement in the nuclear talks process. Uh, sure, we believe you…

Credit goes to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), who marshaled a 19-zip vote by senators in that committee to approve a compromise bill giving Congress 30 days to review and approve or reject any deal the administration brokers with Iran. Unfortunately, to gain support for the bill, Corker had to add a few warts and flaws. Obama could veto a rejection, for instance, and then both houses of Congress would have to vote to override that veto — something that hasn’t yet happened in either of Obama’s terms. Also, 30 days is half the time originally proposed, compressing the timeline for decision-making and potentially leading to errors or political weakness on the part of congressional members. To be sure, the fact that Democrat leadership is lining up in lockstep behind the compromise bill stands the hair on the back of our necks straight up.

Also troubling is the fact that Obama wants to delegate enforcement responsibility for any nuclear deal we make with Iran to the UN. Still, it’s possible public pressure against a nuclear-tipped Iran will prevail against single-minded visions of winning another Nobel Peace Prize. We should stipulate in passing that we feel a second such prize would be just as richly deserved as the first … (ahem).

Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues apace. A thousand centrifuges churn out weapons-grade nuclear bomb material day and night, non-stop, at Iran’s Fordow nuclear enrichment facility. North Korea continues to supply Iran with long-range ballistic missiles and missile technology. The latest shipment, in clear violation of UN sanctions on Iran, occurred during nuclear talks with the U.S. and included upgraded, large-diameter engines to power Iran’s long-range missiles even farther. China just agreed to build five new nuclear plants for Iran. Oh yeah, one more: Russian President Vladimir Putin also just authorized the sale of five highly capable S-300 surface-to-air missile squadrons to Iran to help protect nuclear facilities from air strikes.

Here are a few silly questions: If Iran truly seeks only “peaceful uses of nuclear power,” why the ballistic missiles? Why the upgrades? Why the centrifuges? Why more nuke plants? Why the SAMs? And what does it say about Obama’s deal that our adversaries are lining up to take advantage?

In light of the stakes, a closing question: Why, when this agreement looks like, smells like, quacks like and has all the trappings of a treaty, does Congress not treat it as such, and hence mandate a two-thirds-majority treaty ratification vote by the Senate? Requiring such a measure would at the very least kill virtually all of the buffoonery-laden provisions of any deal Team Obama negotiates with Iran.

Perhaps the clowns on the negotiating team have been listening too much to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who flatly stated, “We are in talks with the major powers and not with the Congress.” But unlike in Iran, the U.S. — despite Obama’s best efforts — does not feature a Supreme Dictator. That said, we suspect the only reason Obama is agreeing to go along with Congress now is so that when it becomes apparent the deal has failed he can blame Republicans.

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