But Iran’s President Rouhani, following Putin’s lead, apparently did. He wrote another therapeutic letter to the American people (albeit settling for the Washington Post rather than the New York Times; I guess the latter thought this nice dictator stuff could get habit-forming). The campus diversity czar, peace studies professor, or T-ball coach could have written Rouhani’s script — and no doubt they were all inspirations for his American speech handlers.
America, Rouhani reminds us, should pay attention to “identity” and avoid “zero-sum” attitudes. We must look for “root causes” of terrorism, seek “win-win” results, not get caught in a “Cold War” mentality, and we should “dialogue” — and for the “children,” no less. All Rouhani needs to let the centrifuges do their work, for the Republican Guard to finish up in Syria, and for his terrorists to keep blowing stuff up is to drop the lunatic Ahmadinejad mode, go T-ball therapeutic, and find in Obama a decent sort of Stanley Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain. The glee with which American elites have received Rouhani’s creepy letter suggests, aside from the fact that they read and write that stuff on campus all the time, how well Iranians understand us.
But more importantly, Rouhani meets an Obama not just weakened over his Syrian embarrassment, but actually convinced that he is “empowered” by it! Although he admits some loss of his usual panache and style, Obama brags that his diplomacy was brilliant, a virtual blueprint of thing to come.
After all, who could go 360 degrees in two weeks, from imminent bombing to legitimizing Assad and elevating the Russians, all at once ignoring and courting and ignoring the Congress — only to call it all a head-spinning success, ending with Putin shrugging that it will take lots of time to find WMD, though he (and now Rouhani!) deplores its use that led to one percent of the deaths in Syria? It is as if soaking yourself, and everyone in the vicinity, with gasoline and not lighting the match in your hand is better proof of your prudence than never going for the match and gas can in the first place.
Again, Rouhani is intrigued by such thinking. The fact that Obama legitimized the Assad, Hezbollah, Iranian axis in Syria, ignored the body count, confused and divided the nation and Congress, outsourced matters of WMD proliferation and use to Vladimir Putin, turned red lines into no-lines and bombing in 24 hours into talking for years — and called it all a smashing success — is, well, something worth following up on. Syria is history; Iran is now.
Most like Rouhani accept that Obama is interested only in a symbolic and rhetorical presidency that follows the path of least resistance. What the name, ethnic profile, and ideology of Obama represent to particular domestic and global constituencies — rather than what he does or even says — alone counts. And, of course, Obama has grasped and profited from that reality since he left Hawaii. It is a sort of codependency that Rouhani wishes to share for a while.
Yet if Obama’s psychodramas at home and abroad are critical in dividing the nation to win election or reelection, apart from the election cycle, they have little to do with actual governance and so quietly fade away, crisis by crisis. Obama’s existential Syrian civil war already has. In between a new war against evil gun owners and a renewed offensive against nihilist Tea Partiers, we will have now had another melodramatic “breakthrough” with Iran. As Obama said of his “success” with Syria, so too the Iranian diplomacy will not be “very smooth and disciplined and linear,” but instead will be only “about getting the policy right.”