Obama Overlooks Perils of Reaching Out to Iran

There is a certain sense of arrogance, of cowboyish élan that -- under normal circumstances -- the leftists of the world deride in American conservatives. It takes many forms, but generally it is manifested in the idea that if only the United States decided that something ought to be done, then it would eventually be accomplished. This "can do" attitude has led to grievous errors in judgment, they claim, ones which have cost the United States far more than they have benefited it.

Now these same leftists find themselves in the curious, unaccustomed position of being the ones seeking to accomplish something through sheer force of (good)will. I refer to the elusive goal of all Democrats since the Carter presidency: the normalization of diplomatic relations with Iran.

Sure, it may not involve men leaping out of helicopters to their doom, or Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire as they mouth anti-American epithets, but this passive form of adventurism still stands a particularly good chance of harming the United States' interests, both at home and abroad. That harm has already begun to be felt in Iran, with the chief Iranian government spokesman (and renowned Holocaust denier), Gholam-Hossein Elham, responding to President Obama's public peace feelers with contempt.

"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed."

I'm sure that President Obama means well in attempting to negotiate with the Iranians. The problem is, in the end result, what he intends doesn't matter. In pursuing a soft line, he is bringing very real harm to the United States (most specifically in the realm of foreign relations) for one very important reason: credibility.

The United States is the world's only superpower. As such, when it deigns to have its commander in chief speak directly to the heads of state of foreign nations, the foreign leaders and the regimes over which they preside are afforded a certain amount of credibility. If they weren't credible, the leader of the free world wouldn't be speaking to them (or so the rest of the world presumes). This has significant sub-effects which may not be immediately apparent to a president as inexperienced as Obama.

Firstly, in the case of unstable dictators ruling over despotic regimes (as Ahmadinejad and the current Iranian government can be charitably described) it has the "Munich Effect" of emboldening them. Most charismatic despots throughout history have led from behind a veneer of invulnerability. Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- these men were not substantial individuals, either intellectually or physically. But they wielded an emotional control over those around them which was entirely dependent upon continued success. Had Hitler been seriously opposed in seizing the Rhineland, the Wehrmacht's standing orders were to withdraw. But the troops were not opposed and this initial weakness of allied resolve was magnified tenfold at the later Munich Agreement, where Hitler's aggressive leadership was given ultimate recognition -- and credibility -- by Neville Chamberlain. World War II was then made inevitable, chiefly by the allies' eagerness to negotiate.

The second spin-off effect is the power that is gained through the de facto U.S. presidential recognition of the leader and the regime he rules over. In the case of Hitler, here was the chancellor of the once-broken nation of Germany, forcing the formerly victorious allies into a humbling agreement which had cost Germany nothing. Those within the Reich who may have doubted him at the time were thereafter persuaded to change their positions, or at least mute their criticisms. The exact same principle applies to Ahmadinejad and the belligerent state he leads. In drawing sniveling appeals from the president of the United States, he is entrenching himself and his party, consolidating their absolute grip on power.