The Corner

Understanding Obama on Iran

Call me thick, but I continue to be baffled by a lot of the commentary, cited by Rich and others, which gives as the rationale for President Obama’s diffidence his purported determination to preserve the opportunity to negotiate with the mullahs on their nuclear program. Obama is resigned to Iran getting nukes (perhaps even having them already) and has no intention of doing anything meaningful about it. 

The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society. In this he is no different from his allies like the Congressional Black Caucus and Bill Ayers, who have shown themselves perfectly comfortable with Castro and Chàvez.  Indeed, he is the product of a hard-Left tradition that apologized for Stalin and was more comfortable with the Soviets than the anti-Communists (and that, in Soros parlance, saw George Bush as a bigger terrorist than bin Laden).

Because of obvious divergences (inequality for women and non-Muslims, hatred of homosexuals) radical Islam and radical Leftism are commonly mistaken to be incompatible. In fact, they have much more in common than not, especially when it comes to suppression of freedom, intrusiveness in all aspects of life, notions of “social justice,” and their economic programs. (On this, as in so many other things, Anthony Daniels should be required reading — see his incisive New English Review essay, ”There Is No God but Politics”, comparing Marx and Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb.) The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated — “equal rights” and “social justice” are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies.

The key to understanding Obama, on Iran as on other matters, is that he is a power-politician of the hard Left : He is steeped in Leftist ideology, fueled in anger and resentment over what he chooses to see in America’s history, but a “pragmatist” in the sense that where ideology and power collide (as they are apt to do when your ideology becomes less popular the more people understand it), Obama will always give ground on ideology (as little as circumstances allow) in order to maintain his grip on power.

It would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs, so Obama’s instinct was to do the next best thing: to say nothing supportive of the freedom fighters. As this position became increasingly untenable politically, and as Democrats became nervous that his silence would become a winning political round for Republicans, he was moved grudgingly to burble a mild censure of the mullah’s “unjust” repression — on the order of describing a maiming as a regrettable “assault,” though enough for the Obamedia to give him cover.  But expect him to remain restrained and to continue grossly understating the Iranian regime’s deadly response. That will change only if, unexpectedly, it appears that the freedom-fighters may win, at which point he’ll scoot over to the right side of history and take all conceivable credit.

I think Victor had this right on Saturday: “Obama is almost more at ease with virulent anti-Westerners, whose grievances Obama has long studied (and perhaps in large part entertained),” (though I’d have omitted the ”almost”). Mark Steyn made the same point in a post last week (about a Robert Kagan column that Pete Wehner also discussed). 

It’s a mistake to perceive this as “weakness” in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters’ side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn’t done that, and he won’t. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely.  That’s not weakness, it’s strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Religion

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More