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Obama, Putin, and Rouhani: The Sources of War

August 9th, 2013 - 9:31 am

Some leaders make history, others are products of their times. Unfortunately, very little of the punditry with which we are afflicted tries to distinguish between the two types.

It’s only natural that “reporting” on, and discussion of, international affairs is so often reduced to psychobabble about personalities. We live in an age when attention spans are short, vocabularies brief, and knowledge of the past is miniscule and subject to constant change. And it’s a lot easier to ponder the psychology of a celebrity than to do the hard work of understanding the world.

But political leaders have to be analyzed in context, not just as case histories drawn from their free associations and recurring dreams. Leaders operate within certain parameters — they have greater or lesser possibilities to reshape their world depending on the content and strength of those parameters, which include the presence and power of countervailing forces.  They are not free to do everything they may desire, and in some (rare) cases they may not be able to do any of the things they wish.

Not that personalities don’t count, especially in international affairs. The Reagan-Thatcher friendship was a major part of the West’s victory over the Soviet Empire; the Bush-Blair friendship was similarly important in the years after 9/11; the Obama-Erdogan friendship has been a key ingredient to American behavior in the Middle East since 2009; the interplay among FDR, Churchill, and Stalin reshaped the world in the last century; and Reagan and Thatcher, along with John Paul II and several others (King Juan Carlos of Spain, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, and Deng Xiaoping), shaped their world.   So it is neither surprising nor improper for us to try to understand the personalities of the day.

Of which three, at least, are currently treated as crucially important: Putin, Rouhani, and Obama.

Of the three, Rouhani has the least ability to act freely.  He is a cog in a machine, not a free agent.  He is not the leader of his country. Even if he were everything his apologists claim — a moderate reformer who wants to have good relations with us and wants a more tolerant Iranian society — he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own. Any fundamental change in Iran requires the say-so of the supreme leader, who doesn’t want good relations with us and doesn’t care about the misery his regime has visited upon the people.

As for the nature of the man himself, there is considerable evidence Rouhani’s credentials are phony. His doctorate seems to rest on a dissertation that appears to have been plagiarized. His nominee for justice minister, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, has been credibly accused of crimes against humanity. There is little evidence he has any interest in good relations with America; indeed, as Sohrab Ahmari wrote in the Wall Street Journal, earlier this year he proclaimed:

We need to express “Death to America” with action. Saying it is easy.

And, as Reza Kahlili shows us, Rouhani has bragged about tricking the West into believing Iran was stopping uranium enrichment, when in reality the project was surging.

In short: Rouhani is not in charge, he is a cog in a machine, and he doesn’t seem to be at odds with the hateful doctrines that have defined the Islamic Republic since 1979. It’s hard to make a convincing case that the United States, or the West in general, should make a major strategic investment in friendship with the new Iranian president.

Putin is the opposite. He has much more freedom to act and he has imposed his will on Russia. Leon Aron has laid out the nature of “Putinism” with admirable brevity and elegance: Putin knows what he wants, both at home and abroad, and he pursues his goals ruthlessly and relentlessly. He truly rules his nation, and there is very little guile in his strategies. With Putin, you get what you see.

The similarities between Putin and Rouhani are doctrinal. Both are contemptuous of democracy, both are resolved to crush opponents of their regime and to eliminate pockets of liberty. Both are therefore profoundly anti-American, recognizing that the very existence of a strong and successful United States is a threat to their own legitimacy.

As with Rouhani, there isn’t likely to be a warm American relationship with Putin. But, it is worthwhile to deal seriously with Putin, precisely because he can deliver if he chooses to.

Putin and the Islamic Republic are enemies, but you can make deals with enemies-who-can-deliver. Which is why it is so strange that Obama strains to make a deal with Iran, but throws a hissy fit with Russia. Logic, as the White Rabbit once said, grabs you by the throat and makes you see what’s what. Except if you’re Obama.

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Top Rated Comments   
Obama is small.

Per one of your previous columns, he went to the same types of schools as the cohort of whom you once referred. He would like to tell you that he, too, had been bullied, except it wasn't so. He wants to have a story of coming back from behind, except he never did. Never lost with honor. Never ate the dirt of failure and got back up again. He hates nearly everyone who has a normal story of life's triumphs and defeats, because they remind him of his lack of authenticity.

We run into his type all of the time. Putin can read him like a book.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (32)
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But Obama understands only too well American Exceptionalism.

And he DOES NOT like it. Don't you remember while campaigning for the job of POTUS he, with second from his ever loving spouse, volunteered he was "ashamed of the country"? And that after taking the Chair of Executive of the USA toured the world apologising for this Exceptional America?

Dislikes it so intensely he is determined, in any way possible, to CHANGE it.

To, in contrast to political promises as sops for election to seats on the gravy train of government, to keep his promise to CHANGE, to "Fundamentally Transform the Nation"

Which Change, thanks to the "guardians" in Legislature and Judiciary looking the other way when not actively encouraging and supporting him as standard bearer of the "Democratic Party" intentions, is succeeding apace.

STILL approved, if polls are to be credited, by virtually half of those "exceptional Americans".

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rouhani or anyone else in Iran who promises change in regime's behavior must meet 2 qualifications: 1- Have the political/ideological will to bring the type of change and 2- have the authority to deliver change. Even IF Rouhani is not deceiving the west and the Iranian people and he honestly wants to fundamentally change the regime's 33 years of hostile policy toward the west and oppression of Iranian people, he does not have the constitutional authority to deliver the promises, after all if he was someone who'd seek to fundamentally change IRI or in other words challenge Khamenei and regime's think tanks' long held policies, he wouldn't be prequalified by Khamenei from 1000s of other presidential candidates who didn't meet the qualification ! He is 100% loyal to Khamenei and is one of the 5 among the 10,000s of candidates that Khamenei trusted as his handpicked candidates for the Iranian people to chose from and it was obvious that the regime wanted Rouhani to win. So it all depends on what Khamenei wants Rouhani to do on his behalf, not what Rouhani wants and if Khamenei desired change in regime's policies in the past, he had as much control over the regime during Ahmadinejad and Khatamai as now had during Rouhani's presidency. The REAL head of state is Khamenei AKA supreme leader, not the president, an IRI president has less authority than foreign ministers of some nations in many ways, no matter who he appoints as members of his cabinet, still Khamenei has the final say on almost any matter in the country and Khamenei's advisers other than the Russian ones are some of the most fanatical Islamists
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Recent history would seem to contradict what Mr. Ledeen states in this post. We are and have been the most powerful nation on earth for decades and what has it gotten us? A truce in Korea, a truce in Vietnam, a highly debatable Cold War "victory" (the USSR failed and we helped but only to a limited degree), Iraq was a net draw, Afghanistan a draw, etc. Being the world's great power hasn't worked out very well (Panama and Grenada aside) and no amount of crowing about American Exceptionalism is going to change that. We've wasted trillions of dollars and millions of lives for what? A country in decline.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Blert, you think the new Chinese ballistic missile fleet is to get them out of range of a Russian first strike? That's interesting. I still don't understand the scenario under which the calculus favors Chinese conquest of far Eastern Russia - nor Russian conquest of China. China's destiny has always seemed more naturally East and South to me, not West or North.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Their stuff is so close to Russia it's a scream.

Worse, Russia's command and control super-bunker is too close to Red China.

That's all fine and dandy... until they realize that each other HAS to be their primary threat.

America is never coming. That's why she's the perfect excuse for ramping up strategic assets.

These dynamics gain a momentum of their own. Entire careers are built on building -- atomics.

Like the Soviet tank park, too much is never a reason to stop building. Everything morphs into a jobs program.

A variation of this is seen in the US medical super complex.

Or, Egyptian pyramid building...

Putin has already demonstrated (by practice runs against American bases) that his strategic bombers can reach anywhere inside Red China with practically no notice at all.

If such 'practice' / demonstration runs had actually been performed against Red China the world would already by glowing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem with dealing with Putin is that the one dealing with him would be 0bama.

Consequently, stasis is best for all concerned.

Even Putin has figured that out.


Red China already has more throw weight than America and Russia combined, making any further atomic reductions ruinous for world peace -- and the borders of Russia.

The creation of a ballistic missile submarine fleet, by Beijing, is entirely predicated upon getting their atomic echelon out from under the proximate shadow of the Russians.

It has zero utility against either the Japanese navy or the USN.

Naturally, it's a top, top, top, priority program for the PLAN.

Do the math.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
From God's word the Bible The sources of war. Does the spirit of the antichrist live in me or you the spirit that put the son of God Jesus Christ the savoir on the cross the reason given here. Then to call this a holy act WOW!

ames 4

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

4 From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members?

2 You covet, and have not: you kill, and envy, and can not obtain. You contend and war, and you have not, because you ask not.

3 You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.

4 Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.

5 Or do you think that the scripture saith in vain: To envy doth the spirit covet which dwelleth in you?

6 But he giveth greater grace. Wherefore he saith: God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

7 Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into sorrow.

10 Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11 Detract not one another, my brethren. He that detracteth his brother, or he that judgeth his brother, detracteth the law, and judgeth the law. But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

12 There is one lawgiver, and judge, that is able to destroy and to deliver.

13 But who art thou that judgest thy neighbour? Behold, now you that say: To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and there we will spend a year, and will traffic, and make our gain.

14 Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow.

15 For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. For that you should say: If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that.

16 But now you rejoice in your arrogancies. All such rejoicing is wicked.

17 To him therefore who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm trying to picture ANY American leader following the lead of a Canadian or Australian politician. I can't imagine it, even among past presidents. It's even harder to conceive with the know-it-all presently occupying the White House.

The problem with American exceptionalism is that it tells us that we are almost better and smarter than people who aren't American. Who's going to listen to someone who ISN'T American? Look, the Canucks and Aussies seem nice enough but they're second- or third-rate powers. Are we really going to take their advice when we are the greatest power in the world?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, I meant to post that as a reply to DavidWLincoln.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The similarities between Putin and Rouhani are doctrinal. Both are contemptuous of democracy, both are resolved to crush opponents of their regime and to eliminate pockets of liberty. Both are therefore profoundly anti-American, recognizing that the very existence of a strong and successful United States is a threat to their own legitimacy."

Although not bad, the above needs some work. i will fix it at no charge.

The similarities between Barack Hussein Obama and Barry Soreto are doctrinal. Both are contemptuous of democracy, both are resolved to crush opponents of their regime and to eliminate pockets of liberty. Both are therefore profoundly anti-American, recognizing that the very existence of a strong and successful United States is a threat to their own legitimacy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Any country that would reelect Barack Hussein Obama, and it wasn't even close, is collectively exceptionally stupid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Russia is not a failed state.

The Rise Of The Bear: 18 Signs That Russia Is Rapidly Catching Up To The United States []
Just check out the following statistics. The following are 18 signs that Russia is rapidly catching up to the United States...

#1 Russia produces more oil than anyone else on the planet. The United States is in third place.
#2 Russia is the number two oil exporter in the world. The United States is forced to import more oil than anyone else in the world.
#3 Russia produces more natural gas than anyone else on the planet. The United States is in second place.
#4 Today, Russia supplies 34 percent of Europe's natural gas needs.
#5 The United States has a debt to GDP ratio of 101 percent. Russia has a debt to GDP ratio of about 8 percent.
#6 The United States had a trade deficit of more than half a trillion dollars last year. Russia consistently runs a large trade surplus.
#14 Russia has introduced a new "near silent" nuclear submarine which is far more quiet than anything the U.S. has...

The Borey Class submarine, dubbed Vladimir Monomakh, has a next generation nuclear reactor, can dive deeper than 1,200 feet, and carries up to 20 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Each of these "Bulava" ICBM's can carry ten detachable MIRV warheads, what they call "re-entry vehicles," capable of delivering 150 kiloton yields per warhead

#15 While Barack Obama is neutering the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal, Vladimir Putin is working hard to modernize Russian nuclear forces.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dated stats...
#1... America is climbing fast. Russia lives and dies on her oil exports.
#2... Red China has displaced America for the pole position. It made bid news.
#3... America is crossing past Russia in methane production.
#5... Absolutely no-one trusts Russian money. It imploded in 1998.
#6... America HAS to run a trade deficit since its currency is international money.
#14. Dubious. Ohio class SSBNs are as quiet as a church mouse.
Deep diving is a useless metric for SSBNs since they can't launch when deep.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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