Tuesday, January 19, 2010

De la Demagogie en Amerique.

by Emmanuel Navon

In Tocqueville's days, traveling to America was such a big deal that you had you write a book about it –especially if you were an aristocrat with political ambitions in post-revolutionary France. Hence the masterly and classic De la Démocratie en Amérique.

Today, even writing a blog upon returning from the new world would seem preposterous; yet I venture to claim that my recent journey there makes a worthwhile story.

I happened to be in Washington DC right after the "deadline" set by the Obama Administration on Iran had been missed. With a few exceptions, most people on Capitol Hill barely took notice that America's credibility and deterrence were being tested. Congress' attention was primarily focused on healthcare reform as well as on some explosive underwear made in Nigeria.

Iran continues to produce stocks of enriched uranium. It was offered a deal by which Russia and France would have taken much of its stock of low-enriched uranium and turned it into special higher-enriched fuel for a Teheran-based research reactor. The deadline for taking that offer was the end of 2009, and Iran rejected it.

Iran is proving to the world how easy it is to ignore the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It knows that there are two good reasons why the UN Security Council will not approve tougher sanctions. China has piled money into Iran's oil and gas industries thanks to the withdrawal of Western companies. Russia would be delighted to witness an American humiliation in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to a nuclear Iran whose support for the United States' Middle East enemies would be immune from retaliation.

Thus has the Obama Administration publicly cornered itself to the choice between an Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran. Publicly, because the Bush Administration conducted unofficial negotiations with Iran, as did all US governments since the 1979 revolution. Indeed, as Michael Ledeen writes in his eye-opening book Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War against the West (St. Martin's Press, 2009): "Future students of international affairs will no doubt marvel at the persistence with which president after president ran after the mullahs, trying desperately to reach some sort of agreement." And as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates candidly admitted even before President Obama's official negotiations with Iran: "Every administration since 1979 has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed."

The Clinton Administration, for example, tried to reach a "grand bargain" with Iran. President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright lifted sanctions and publicly apologized for America's alleged misdeeds. Yet they were brushed aside by Iran's supreme leader.

Even the Bush Administration pursued accommodation with the mullahs. In 2008, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw convinced Condoleezza Rice that the Iranians were ready for a deal: they would suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions. Rice, in turn, convinced President Bush to support the initiative. By mid-2008, the Americans were convinced they had reached an agreement with the mullahs. Condoleezza Rice was getting ready to publicly announce at the UN General Assembly in September that the US would lift sanctions and that Iran would stop its enrichment activities. This never happened, however, because Ahmadinejad tricked the US. When he addressed the General Assembly, he did not announce the end of Iran's nuclear program. Instead, he spoke about the imminent arrival of the Twelfth Imam.

In December 2008, former Iranian President Rafsanjani declared, referring to the United States: "For the past thirty years, you have desired dialogue with us and we didn't talk to you." Indeed, and there is a reason for this: How could the mullahs cease their enmity to America when this enmity is a founding element of their regime?

America's failed attempts to accommodate Iran are remindful of Israel's failed attempts to accommodate the Palestinians. But Israel seems to be the only one to have finally gotten the point. The United States apparently persists in believing that striking a deal is just a matter of trying again and harder. While I was in Washington, there were rumors that Rahm Emanuel had "threatened" Israel and the Palestinians with a US walk-out. What a good riddance this would have been.

If the Obama Administration wants to bridge the gap between Israel and the Palestinians, it should fist neutralize Iran and stop its regional trouble-making. Why should the Palestinians come to their senses while Iran operates Hamas and Hezbollah freely? And why should they compromise when the prospect of a nuclear Iran understandably makes them feel that negotiations with Israel are not worth their time? Those in the Obama Administration who claim that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would help neutralize Iran have the causal relationship backwards.

Whether this is naïveté or demagogy is already beside the point. Tocqueville sensed that America's ultimate purpose would be to preserve freedom. But he did not live through the twentieth century to realize that the Jews can only rely upon themselves to preserve their own freedom and indeed their very life.

Emmanuel Navon

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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