- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Was it only April? There was President Obama, speaking (as is his wont) in Prague about the Iranian nuclear program and ballistic missile capability and saluting America’s plucky allies: “The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles,” he declared. “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.”

On Thursday, the administration scrapped its missile defense plans for Eastern Europe. The “courageous” Czechs and Poles will have to take their chances. Did the threat from Iran go away? Not so as you’d notice. The dawn of the nuclear ayatollahs is perhaps only months away, and just in case the Zionists or (please, no tittering) the formerly Great Satan is minded to take ‘em out, Tehran will shortly be taking delivery of a bunch of S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from (ta-da!) Russia. Fancy that.

Joe Klein, the geostrategic thinker of Time magazine, concluded his analysis thus:

“This is just speculation on my part. But I do hope that this anti-missile move has a Russian concession attached to it, perhaps not publicly (just as the U.S. agreement to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey was not made public during the Cuban Missile Crisis). The Obama Administration’s diplomatic strategy is, I believe, wise and comprehensive — but it needs to show more than public concessions over time. A few diplomatic victories wouldn’t hurt.”

Golly. We know, thanks to Jimmy Carter, Joe Klein and many others, that we critics of Mr. Obama’s health care policy are by definition racist. Has criticism of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy also been deemed racist? Because one certainly can detect the first faint seeds of doubt germinating in dear old Mr. Klein’s soon-to-be-racist breast: The Obama administration “needs to show more than public concessions over time” — because otherwise, the entire planet may get the vague impression that that’s all there is.



Especially if your pre-emptive capitulations are as felicitously timed as the missile-defense announcement, stiffing the Poles on the 70th anniversary of their invasion by the Red army. As for the Czechs, well, dust off your “Neville Chamberlain’s Greatest Hits” LP: As he said, they’re a faraway country of which we know little. So who cares? Everything old is new again.

It is interesting to contrast the administration’s “wise” diplomacy abroad with its willingness to go nuclear at home. If you go to a town-hall meeting and express misgivings about the effectiveness of the stimulus, you’re a “racist, angry Nazi evilmonger, right-wing domestic terrorist.” It’s perhaps no surprise that that doesn’t leave a lot left over in the rhetorical arsenal for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But you’ve got to figure that by now the world’s strongmen are getting the measure of the new Washington.

Diplomacy used to be, as the late diplomat and Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson liked to say, the art of letting the other fellow have your way. Today, it’s more of a discreet cover for letting the other fellow have his way with you. The Europeans “negotiate” with Iran over its nukes for years, and in the end Iran gets the nukes and Europe gets to feel good about itself for having sat across the table talking to no good purpose for the best part of a decade. In Moscow, there was a palpable triumphalism in the news that the Russians had succeeded in letting the Obama fellow have their way. “This is a recognition by the Americans of the rightness of our arguments about the reality of the threat, or rather the lack of one,” said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma’s international affairs committee. “Finally the Americans have agreed with us.”

There’ll be a lot more of that in the years ahead.

There is no discreetly arranged “Russian concession.” Moscow has concluded that a nuclear Iran is in its national interest — especially if the remorseless nuclearization process itself is seen as a testament to Western weakness. Even if the Israelis are driven to bomb the thing to smithereens circa next spring, that, too, would only emphasize, by implicit comparison, American and European pusillanimity. Any private relief felt in the chancelleries of London and Paris would inevitably license a huge amount of public tut-tutting by this or that foreign minister about the Zionist Entity’s regrettable “disproportion.” The U.S. defense secretary is already on record as opposing an Israeli strike. If it happens, every thug state around the globe will understand the subtext — that, aside from a tiny strip of land the on eastern shore of the Mediterranean, every other advanced society on earth is content to depend for its security on the kindness of strangers.

Some of them are very strange. Kim Jong-il wouldn’t really let fly at South Korea or Japan, would he? Even if some quasi-Talibanny types wound up sitting on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, they wouldn’t really do anything with them, would they? OK, Mr. Putin can be a bit heavy-handed when dealing with Eastern Europe, and his definition of “Eastern” seems to stretch ever farther west, but he’s not going to be sending the tanks back into Prague and Budapest, is he? I mean, c’mon. …

Mr. Putin is no longer president, but he is de facto czar. And he thinks it’s past time to reconstitute the old empire — not formally (yet), but certainly as a sphere of influence from which the Yanks keep their distance. Mr. Obama has just handed the Russians their biggest win since the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Indeed, in some ways, it marks the restitching of the Iron Curtain. When the Czechs signed their end of the missile-defense deal in July, they found themselves afflicted by a sudden “technical difficulty” that halved their gas supply from Russia. The Europe Mr. Putin foresees will be one not only ever more energy-dependent on Moscow but security-dependent, too — in which every city is within range of missiles from Tehran and other crazies and is, in effect, under the security umbrella of the new czar. As to whether such a continent will be amicable to American interests, well, good luck with that, hopeychangers.

In a sense, the health care debate and the foreign-policy debacle are two sides of the same coin: For Britain and other great powers, the decision to build a hugely expensive welfare state at home entailed inevitably a long retreat from responsibilities abroad, with a thousand small betrayals of peripheral allies along the way. A few years ago, the great scholar Bernard Lewis warned during the debate on withdrawal from Iraq that America risked being seen as “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.” In Moscow and Tehran on the one hand and Warsaw and Prague, on the other, they’re drawing their own conclusions.

Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller “America Alone.”

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide