Speaking at American University today in defense of his nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama twice invoked President John F. Kennedy. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, while we did not serve with Jack Kennedy, here are five reasons why President Obama is wrong to compare himself to Jack Kennedy:
1. For one, JFK never forked over $100 billion in sanctions relief to the Soviets as an inducement to make an arms-control deal. Obama plans to do exactly that.
2. JFK never expunged hundreds of KGB operatives from our sanctions list. Obviously, we didn’t sanction KGB agents back then, but Obama is now preparing to ease strictures on hundreds of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members and businesses. They were put on the sanctions list not only for their role in nuclear proliferation, but also for terrorism, human-rights violations, and more.
3. JFK never agreed to a deal that would guarantee a stronger USSR in ten years. President Obama is preparing to do just that by providing Iran with a “patient pathway” to a nuclear weapon. All Iran needs to do is wait out the terms of the agreement, and in ten years it will be in possession of an industrial-sized nuclear program with the blessing of the international community. If Iran violates the agreement — and Iran has violated many agreements in the past — it can have nuclear weapons much sooner.
4. During his speech, Obama said the world was “more dangerous” during the Cold War. True, the threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD) was a palpable fear. But however aggressive and even evil the Soviets might have been, they did not believe in martyrdom — they did not believe that sacrificing their lives for their revolution would bring great rewards in the afterlife. The fundamentalists of Iran — and their Arab proxies, such as Hezbollah — most emphatically do. As historian Bernard Lewis has pointed out, for religious extremists, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent — it’s an inducement.
5. President Obama ended his remarks by citing President Kennedy’s “wisdom” and lauded Kennedy’s “warning” that we should see conflict as inevitable. But President Kennedy also said that there was “one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.” Iran’s rulers have caused thousands of Americans to be killed and maimed in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They continue to openly proclaim their long-term goal: “Death to America.” They believe that the U.S. has indeed submitted. If Congress approves this agreement, that perception will not be without justification.
So much for following in the footsteps of JFK.
— Cliff May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Jonathan Schanzer is vice president of research for the foundation.