One of the recurring themes of this blog is that we’ve already seen the style of diplomacy that Obama advocates in action:
“Trust me, Speaker Pelosi. I promise I’m not building a nuclear plant with the North Koreans.”
But there’s another angle to all this, which is how Obama appears to drastically underestimate how much these various rogue states could harm Americans and their interests. Examining some comments from a recent Obama speech:
“Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That’s what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That’s what Nixon did with Mao. I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela – these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union.
Geographic size and population size are not the first measure of whether a nation or organization is dangerous.
They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.
The Soviet Union never killed 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania by crashing jets into skyscrapers. The definition of a “serious threat” is different today than it was a generation ago.
And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet. And ultimately that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war, and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall. Now, that has to be the kind of approach that we take…
In Obama’s vision, face-to-face summits with Gorbachev ended the Cold War.
You know, Iran they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military.
Again, in an era of asymmetrical warfare, a group’s budget and spending do not necessarily reflect the scope or danger of the threat. The 9/11 Commission report stated the attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, plus the cost of training the 19 hijackers in Afghanistan; the short-term costs alone to the U.S. from the attacks are estimated at $27.2 billion
If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn’t mean we agree with them on everything. We might not compromise on any issues, but at least, we should find out other areas of potential common interest, and we can reduce some of the tensions that has caused us so many problems around the world.” (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks, Pendleton, OR, 5/19/08)
Let’s look at those nations Obama describes as “tiny.”
Iran: Effectively demonstrated the impotence of the Carter Administration and humiliated the United States for 444 days. Killed 19 American servicemen when they sponsored the bombing of Khobar Towers. Sponsored and supported Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic jihad. Manufacturing IEDs to use against American troops; runs training camps for insurgents.
Finally, I note the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission: “While it found no operational ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network had long-running contacts with Iraq’s neighbor and historic foe, Iran.”
Venezuela: Chavez’s sponsorship of FARC and destabilization of the region. From a House hearing: “Venezuelan passports can be forged with ‘’child-like ease’’ and that the United States is detaining at our borders an increasing number of third-country aliens carrying false Venezuelan documents. According to a 2003 U.S. News report, ‘’Thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon. There are other worrisome reports of radical Islamist activity in Venezuela. State Department officials have expressed concerns about ‘’groups and individuals’’ in Venezuela with ‘’links to terrorist organizations in the Middle East.’’ The al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah cells in South and Central America are tied to fundraising and to so-called charity and transnational criminal networks that are key to terrorist mobility.”
Cuba: Ask Jimmy Carter about the Mariel Boatlift, and whether a “tiny” country can have an enormous impact on the daily lives of Americans in Florida.
UPDATE: More thoughts from Jen Rubin and the guys at RedState.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader wonders whether Obama would have said the Taliban in Afghanistan “don’t pose a serious threat to us” on September 10, 2001, because they were a tiny country with limited military spending…
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Some genius lefty blogger:
Apparently Jim Geraghty at NRO has downgraded “serious threat” from one that could kill 90% of the population to one that can kill less than 0.0001%. Seriously, what in the phrase “Mutually Assured Destruction” does this guy not get? In another two decades Geraghty fully expects a “serious threat” to be defined as “I might get a papercut”.
Hey, 9/11, no big deal. It’s only 0.0001 percent of America’s population. Almost a paper cut, really.