Getting Real with Iran

Critics, both on the left and right of the ideological spectrum, claim President Obama has no foreign policy strategy. But they are wrong. The president has two strategies: One is lost and the other is out looking for it.

Time and again, President Obama has promised that a reduced global presence would achieve a benevolent world order. A multi-polar concert of powers would be derived through a careful balancing of the national interest and mutual displays of goodwill, the president professed repeatedly. Serious statesmen and a conscious public genuinely believed that if America just moderated its behavior, her enemies would make reciprocal gestures.

So far, exactly none of that has happened. Abdication of U.S. leadership has brought only chaos and consequences of regional and global proportions. From radical Islam to Iran to Russia to China, departure from dominance has given rise to dangerous enemies, each seeking to exploit our very retreat by arming themselves to the hilt.

Reversing these setbacks into gains requires performing honest and meaningful introspection about the nature and direction of American leadership, which has spiraled downward in recent years.

A sea change occurred in Cairo on June 4, 2009, when President Obama addressed the Arab world and apologized for American hegemony. He expressed his belief that America is exceptional – just like every other country is exceptional. It’s hard to underestimate the significance of that statement. Then the president proceeded to hollow out the military, and he did things like ban use of the term "radical Islam" from security training manuals. America’s enemies took notice.

Substantively, the president’s speech and subsequent actions cast serious doubt about whether or not he would sustain the means and motivation necessary for ensuring American leadership. Diplomatically, it meant his administration would seek to downgrade ties with allies and strengthen its enemies. What’s followed has been nothing short of a stunning reversal of key U.S. interests, especially in the Middle East.

First and foremost, the president has sought to achieve a grand bargain with Iran over its nuclear program. His administration has continued to conduct nuclear negotiations, even as Tehran continues to fund and support terrorism against the U.S. and the Western world more broadly.

The allies America has abandoned have been forced, as a result, to take defensive measures into their own hands. They are forming regional alliances, not with the U.S. but around it. The Middle East has fragmented and formed into regional blocs, with an Iranian-dominated camp aligned opposite a group of America’s traditional allies. The U.S. has become an observer rather than shaper of events.

Lest Iran's terror activity spoil the nuclear negotiations, President Obama has simply decided to downplay the danger posed by the regime. Israel, which has warned the world of the consequences of signing a bad deal, not Iran, the leading state-sponsor of terror, has become the main problem.

History demonstrates that American leadership remains the best chance for imposing peace and stability. On a constitutional level, the commander in chief’s basic job is to win America’s wars and guard its shores. If the criticism of President George W. Bush is that he took the mission too far and didn’t carry the nation enough, President Obama has barely accepted the mission and largely ignored the nation.