Thursday, December 4, 2014

Obama wrong, neocons right

What Neoconservatives Know

Despite a reputation for bluster, neoconservatives take their lumps better than most. As has been acknowledged repeatedly, we overestimated the contact infectiousness of democracy in Iraq. Similarly, we underestimated the task of its implementation. A willingness to acknowledge mistakes was behind neoconservative support for the strategy change in Iraq known as the Surge. But once the Surge happened, neoconservatives overestimated the American political will to secure our gains in the long term.
If critics won’t hear our confession, so be it.
But they should still listen to our warnings. For if we’ve been too optimistic about freedom’s allies, we’ve been depressingly accurate about its enemies. Neoconservatives warned that if Barack Obama pulled out of Iraq according to his timeline, the country would fall into dangerous hands. Obama did so and ISIS gained a state. For years, while realists and liberals swore that Bashar al-Assad was a reasonable target for U.S. engagement, neoconservatives pegged him as an unflippable servant of both Baathist and Shiite terror. When the Arab Spring came to Syria, Assad devoted himself to mass atrocity and became the main engine of instability in the Middle East. Once the Syrian civil war began, we warned that jihadists would exert control over the rebels unless the United States assisted the non-radicals among them. Washington choked while ISIS and the Nusra Front took the lead in the fight against Assad.
Neoconservatives warned against placing faith in Vladimir Putin (even as George W. Bush claimed to see the good in Putin’s soul). We said Obama’s attempted reset policy was a fool’s errand and Putin was an aggressor by nature. That policy is now in a shambles and Putin, like a modern-day Catherine the Great, has seized Crimea and put the region on notice. Neoconservatives warned that the Palestinian leadership had no interest in peace with Israel. The Obama administration doggedly pursued peace talks that tottered on up until and even through the point that Hamas launched a new round of violence and murder, sparking a war. Neoconservatives have long warned that a premature U.S. exit from Afghanistan will invite an unmanageable Taliban resurgence. On this point, Obama seems to be relenting, having recently approved plans to broaden the role of American forces in that country after 2014.
Then there’s Iran. Elite opinion has invented a new position in the Iranian government: the Office of The Moderate. If you think I’m exaggerating, do a Google search for “the moderate Hassan Rouhani.” Describing Iran’s president thus, you’ll get 113,000 hits. Then search “the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” the descriptive title of the real Iranian leader. You’ll get a meager 32,800 hits. Iran’s elections may be fixed but there’s no rigging the global court of elite wisdom. President Obama is the most consequential proponent of the notion that Iran is becoming a moderate power open to diplomatic negotiations on its nuclear program. The administration has entered into its second extension of the P5+1 talks with Tehran ostensibly aimed at denying the mullahs a bomb.
Now, the neoconservative warning: The Islamic Republic of Iran is founded on a delusional theocratic hatred for the West. A nuclear weapon is the longstanding desideratum of a regime that has made “Death to America” a plank of national self-affirmation. For Ali Khamenei, the idea of being defanged by the Great Satan lies somewhere between impossible and unthinkable. Rouhani is a false moderate with false authority. All told, Iran’s leaders are more dangerous and more implacable than any of those mentioned above, and the consequences of taking them lightly are almost too grave to countenance.
Nothing about the Obama administration’s recent dealings with Iran suggests this characterization is wrong. From the few reports that have leaked out, Tehran has been unwilling to budge on any major aspect of a deal to halt its march toward a nuclear weapon. Last week, in the wake of the extension announcement, the New York Timesreported, “In the Iranian Parliament, lawmakers erupted in their usual chants of ‘Death to America’ after a lawmaker commenting on the deadline extension spoke of ‘the U.S.’s sabotaging efforts and its unreliability.’” Yesterday, Khamenei called for an arms buildup. “Peacetime offers great opportunities for our armed forces to … build up on preemptive capacities,” he said.
It would be nice if the neocons got this one wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment