Ron Radosh

Obama Forgets the Past at Our Peril

Every day brings more evidence that President Obama is conducting his foreign policy under a kind of delusion. He believes that making concessions to tyrants, making deals with them, will bring about a peaceful world. He thinks this will earn him a legacy he can be proud of, thus saving him from leaving office with a disastrous foreign policy record.

At last week’s Pan-American Conference, Obama met with Cuban dictator Raul Castro and expressed his desire to forge a new U.S. policy towards Cuba. “This is obviously an historic meeting,” the president said to Fidel Castro’s brother. Castro responded: “We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient. … We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”

Indeed, he expects that Obama will eventually accept many, if not all, of the Cuban regime’s demands.

Even before the two met, Castro publicly demanded that the United States hand the Guantanamo naval base to Cuba and stop interfering in Cuba’s internal politics. He listed all the affronts to Cuba for which the U.S. had to apologize before any real progress could occur. Indeed, the Cuban dictator demanded that the U.S. embargo be formally suspended, that broadcasts to Cuba from Radio and T.V. Marti from the United States end, and that the U.S. give “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’ve suffered.”

In a move to show Castro that he was listening, our president took Cuba off of the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

He removed them even as the leaders of Colombia’s Marxist narco-terrorists violated their agreement to a ceasefire and resumed fighting and killing Colombians; he removed them while these leaders were sitting in Cuba as honored guests of the regime. And, as James Kirchick reminds us, Cuba also has been smuggling valuable munitions into North Korea.

What did we get in return? It appears we got nada. Cuba did not agree to honor human rights, end the constant arrests and persecution of dissidents, or institute democratic procedures leading eventually to nationwide free elections.

The president’s constant refrain is that the Cold War “has been over for a long time, and I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born.”

His statement is reminiscent of his statements during the 2008 campaign, when he was charged with associating with terrorists like Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, and candidate Obama responded that what Ayers did took place long ago.

This is an astounding mindset for a man who is the president of the United States. It certainly shows a complete ignorance of history aside from demonstrating a frightening narcissism.

When it comes to Iran, Obama’s words and actions reflect a similar thought process. Ayatollah Khamenei made it crystal clear in his comments last week that there could be no inspections of atomic work on military sites, and no snap inspections.

Obama appears to be caving on the sanctions. Rather than leaving them in place or even increasing them, the administration did its best to show Khamenei that they understood his concerns. The answer, the president said, was to engage in “creative negotiations.” He said that if any violations of an agreement by Iran were discovered, we could “snap back” sanctions at a moment’s notice. Just as the Ayatollah wanted, the president declined to say that he would not lift all sanctions immediately when an agreement was reached, rather than phase them out slowly as leverage to force Iranian compliance.

Evidently, the same regime that is not supposed to be believed when its leaders say destruction of Israel is non-negotiable and that it will have a nuclear weapon when it wants one is to be believed when its leaders tell us that they, too, want a non-nuclear Iran, that they will act in good faith when the negotiations are concluded and an agreement is signed.

When it comes to dealing with Communist Cuba and the theocratic regime in Iran and its fundamentalist leaders who sponsor terrorism around the world — including an attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador in the U.S. capitol — the administration’s response is the same: trust, deal with their leaders, and hope that it will work out.

Here is where Obama might learn a thing or two from events that happened before he was born. In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that the Munich Agreement he had signed with Germany would mean “peace for our time.” When he got home, he stood outside of 10 Downing Street and told his countrymen that he had returned home bringing “peace in our time. … Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” Obama might also gain some wisdom by considering the words of Shakespeare, who said, “what’s past is prologue,” and George Santayana, who believed that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”