I will reprint The Washington Post’s lead editorial here nearly in full. I will have comments after, though I will make this one now: every character trait and leadership deficit the Post points to was evident to objective observers—like me—from the beginning of Obama’s administration. That one of the most consistent and prominent Democratic Party and liberal policy boosters in the national news media finally mounts the integrity, honesty and integrity to admit it now is not all that satisfying.
Here is, with a few omissions so you will link to the site and read the whole thing (it’s only fair), is the damning and undeniable editorial:
Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided he would vote against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, he explained his reasoning in a 1,700-word essay. On balance, he concluded, “the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.” We disagree with that conclusion, but not with serene confidence; we share the senator’s concern that Iran will use the lifting of sanctions to intensify its toxic behavior in the region. We understand and respect Mr. Schumer’s decision; also, it’s generally better to treat policy disagreements in good faith.
That has not been the spirit in which Mr. Obama and his team have met his Iran-deal critics. The president has countered them with certitude and ad hominem attacks, the combined import of which is that there are no alternatives to his policy, that support for the deal is an obvious call and that nearly anyone who suggests otherwise is motivated by politics or ideology. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric reached its low point when he observed that the deal’s opponents value war over diplomacy and that Iranian extremists were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.”
This was self-contradictory when the president said it; one of the announced GOP opponents, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.), is a man Mr. Obama himself praised, just four months ago, as “sincerely concerned about this issue” and “a good and decent man.” The White House lost further consistency after Mr. Schumer’s announcement. If there’s anyone who’s not a Republican partisan, it’s the arch-Democrat from New York, who’s planning a bid to lead the Democratic Senate caucus after the current leader, Harry Reid (Nev.), retires. As payback, the White House and its allies are openly encouraging Democrats to deny him the job.
…[B]y not sticking to the merits of the deal, Mr. Obama implies a lack of confidence in them. The contrast is striking between the president’s tone today and his 2008 speech accepting the Democratic nomination: Looking ahead to debating his GOP opponent, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), he pledged that “what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and each other’s patriotism.” There’s a sad progression from that aspiration to an approach that is all about winning, even if it has to be winning ugly.
1. As I have noted in previous posts, the Iran deal can’t be defended on the merits, because what we know will happen as a result of it—increased terrorism funded by Iran—is horrible, and what are supposedly its good features are unlikely to come to fruition. It is literally the embodiment of the worst of all rationalizations: #22, “It’s not the worst thing.”
2. It was negotiated from weakness, based on Obama’s open unwillingness to use American military power, with an untrustworthy and hostile partner, by an administration whose judgment in foreign policy had been proven wrong and deadly again and again. As Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, not exactly an anti-Obama zealot, wrote last week:
One obvious lesson is that intelligence on nuclear capabilities is notoriously unreliable. The Iraq war was fought on the basis of “one of the most public — and most damaging — intelligence failures in recent American history,” the Robb-Silberman commission concluded in 2005. On nuclear weapons, the intelligence community regularly has been caught by surprise, in Iran and Iraq but also in North Korea, Pakistan, India and the Soviet Union.Judging by his certitude on the United States’ ability to detect Iranian violations, it’s safe to say that’s not the Iraq war lesson Obama has taken to heart. “If Iran cheats, we can catch them, and we will,” he boasted last week.
No, the lesson Obama has in mind is that war is unpredictable and destructive and should always be a last resort. I agree with that, as, I think, would most critics of the Iran deal, notwithstanding the president’s suggestion that they share “a preference for military action over diplomacy.”
The difficulty is that it is easier in hindsight to label wars as being smart or dumb, of choice or of necessity, than when making policy decisions in the face of many unknowns. Nothing illustrates that better than Obama’s own record.
He waged his own war of choice in Libya, a seven-month air campaign that dislodged dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. Obama then refused to commit U.S. resources to postwar stabilization, with the result that Libya is now fractured in a brutal civil war that has opened havens for Islamist radicals.
He withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq when it had achieved unity and relative stability, and he denied assistance to moderate pro-democracy forces in Syria when that nation’s dictator turned ferociously on them. The foreseeable, and foreseen, result of both decisions was growing instability and extremism. A malignant terrorist-run state put down roots at the heart of the Middle East.
This has been not only a humanitarian calamity, something Obama’s foreign-policy team considered intolerable when depredation on a similar scale was taking place in Darfur during a different presidency, but also a strategic disaster, as judged by Obama’s own metrics. He has been forced to return thousands of troops to Iraq, to conduct thousands of bombing sorties over Iraq and Syria — in short, to favor military action over diplomacy, and from a position of no-good-option weakness.
This is the leader whom we are being asked to trust, and that Israel is being told has its best interests at heart.
3. The arguments in favor of the deal by Obama’s knee-jerk peanut gallery in the pundit world, in contrast, don’t pass the giggle test. Here is perpetually submissive E.J. Dionne, who never saw the results of an Obama decision that he couldn’t find reason to cheer:
The president was not wrong when he said that “many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.”
E. J. somehow omits the interesting fact that the negotiator of the Iran deal also argued for the war in Iraq, and before the Bush Administration did…John Kerry. No, Obama wasn’t wrong…he was deceptive and misleading. As usual.
4. Is Obama the biggest narcissist we have ever had in the White House? I am beginning to think so. If not, at least the other narcissists were competent….well, more competent.
5. I just re-read the earlier Ethics Alarms posts on the Iran deal. The comparison with Munich and Chamberlain remains fair, apt and obvious, and the only new developments have cast more doubts on the wisdom of the deal, not fewer. Arrogant incompetence is the defining characteristic of this President and his administration, and no objective observer could reach any other conclusion. This may be the most tragic example yet.