At Large

Leading From Weakness

In Obama's case, that means running away from leadership, as in the case of the Iranian bomb.

By 4.10.09

Send to Kindle

President Obama's highly publicized revival of the left's Cold War mantra of creating a nuclear free world by creating complex arms agreements provided an excellent cover for the testing of a far more practical and immediate strategic policy change.

When the White House wanted to launch a policy trial balloon in the past it would drift a few suggestions in the direction of the Washington Post or the New York Times. The Obama administration under the guidance of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, however, has introduced a little misdirection into that old political device. For Obama the new water carrier is the British-owned, internationally distributed, Financial Times.

"US may cede to Iran's nuclear ambition," read the April 4/5 headline, well timed to follow their favorite American politician's self-proclaimed triumphal European tour and simultaneous with Obama's nuclear arms reduction speech.

The "balloon" carried the very sensitive test message that, as the FT suggested, unnamed U.S. officials "are considering whether to accept Iran's pursuit of uranium enrichment." A policy review by the Obama White House supposedly is investigating if the U.S. has any choice but to accept Iran's position that it will not stop developing its capability to create weapons grade material.

Now the White House sits back and waits to see if its new tack in international security affairs will gain any traction. First, the FT story has to be picked up by the international media. The American media can go along with the White House debutante-like silence until the clever boys of Al Jazeera pick up the story.

It will take a very strong denial now to convince the Obama-enthralled foreign press that there is no truth to the story. Absent that effective denial, the Obamaniks will have built the first steps in making acquiescence and appeasement the foundation of this administration's foreign policy. The Israelis are already prepared for this eventuality and are honing their scientific and technological counter measure skills for the Iranian nuclear contingency.

Meanwhile the Saudis have already made the White House aware of their intention to match any Iranian nuclear weapon development. Key to this security plan is the recent appointment of the well-known, vigorous and conservative 76-year-old Prince Naif ibn Abdel Aziz, the long serving (30 years) Minister of Interior as the monarch-in-waiting behind his ailing older (85) full brother Crown Prince Sultan.

The Saudis have already made up their mind that the Obama government will not stand up to the Iranians militarily. The Al Saud are planning for the future with a new head of state who already has gained a reputation as a vigorous defender of Saudi security through his campaign against al Qaeda attacks seeking to destabilize the traditional regime. When the Iranian nuclear weapon development is finally acknowledged, the new Saudi sovereign, Naif, already will have been well on the way to creating a Saudi nuclear counter-balance.

In the meantime, as an interim ploy to quiet Saudi fears, as well as those of the other Gulf Nations, the Obama diplomats have been pushing the line that the Iranians may be seeking the capability to develop nuclear weapons without actually fabricating the weapons themselves. It's a weak but workable theme for those wanting to keep their head in the sand while the Israelis are proceeding apace with their own plans for a unilateral defensive action.

Barack Obama has become convinced that he has no more chance to hold back Israel if it feels threatened than he has to stop the eventual development of the Persian bomb. His solution is to let the Israelis do what they believe they have to -- and hope they are successful -- while positioning the U.S. in a new international posture as the great peace- maker.

The British term for such calculation is "too clever by half" -- and it may be right. The Obama era in American strategic affairs is to be marked by an active withdrawal from any vestige of the post-WWII "containment" philosophy.

Obama's plan appears so far to be based on the premise that world leadership is neither desirable nor an inevitable responsibility of "the greatest power in the world." It would be well for the new American president to read the histories of the ancient world. Great powers have no choice. The exercise of military power is always implicit in the maintenance of political power. And the pain never can be avoided -- only diminished.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.