Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By LEE SMITH
Last week’s announcement that the White House intends to restore normal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is part of Barack Obama’s larger project to overturn what he perceives to be wrongheaded, or at least outdated, foreign policies. From Obama’s perspective, the Cold War ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, so let’s catch up to the new reality.
For President Obama, amelioriating this country’s relations with Russia, Iran, and now Cuba amounts to a Grand Reset, a reevaluation of America’s position in a post-Cold War world. However, it’s not clear that either the president or his administration really understands what the Cold War was all about.
According to the White House press release last week: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” That is true, but of course the main obstacle to that empowerment lies not in Washington but in Havana. As many critics of the White House’s about-face on Cuba have noted, the infusion of cash from remittances and tourism alone is tantamount to a bailout of the Castro regime. In other words, normalized relations with a repressive ruling clique are no more likely to empower the Cuban people than the embargo.
However, it is important to remember that the original purpose of the embargo was not simply to empower the Cuban people. Rather, the larger purpose was to protect Americans.
In the wake of World War II, the United States became a global power largely in response to the Soviet Union’s designs in Europe and around the world. The continental United States spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and thanks to the defeat of the Axis and a blue-water Navy, Washington enjoyed hegemony in both, with key trading partners in Western Europe and Asia. The U.S. role was to protect those allies and thereby ensure growth, prosperity, and peace at home.
What threatened those pillars of postwar peace and stability was the Soviet Union, an expansionist power driven by a totalitarian ideology that reduced mankind to its lowest common denominator—want. However, what transformed the Soviet Union into a global threat wasn’t communism, or even the Red Army. Rather, it was Moscow’s nuclear arsenal that compelled the United States to fight or wage proxy battles on four continents for nearly five decades. Cuba was a problem not simply because of the Castro regime and its efforts to spread revolution throughout Latin America, but because it was the satellite of a nuclear-armed superpower, one that decided to base missiles there in 1962. Cuba was the means by which the Soviets brought the threat of a nuclear attack to our doorstep, a mere 90 miles from Florida.
This is the Cold War lesson apparently lost on Obama. If you believe the embargo was a failure, then it means you do not understand its original purpose—to push back against an expansionist totalitarian regime that threatened America at home. The administration’s Middle East policy is further evidence that Obama does not understand how nuclear weapons can turn even the sickliest regime into a destabilizing threat.
The White House believes that bringing Iran in from the cold, and even partnering with Tehran in Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State, will help normalize the regime. Then Washington will be able to cold-bloodedly balance Iran against traditional U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, a “normalized” Iran will allow the White House to continue to draw down in the Middle East, a region that seems to have little love for Americans no matter how much blood we shed or money we spend—and one that from Obama’s perspective has never done him anything but political harm.
The way he sees it, now’s the time to get out of the Middle East. Above all, we no longer have the same Cold War vital interest in Persian Gulf energy that kept us policing the Strait of Hormuz for decades. We might not be energy independent, but America’s energy revolution means that we’re moving toward being much less dependent on foreigners’ energy. Once he restores ties to Tehran, as he’s just done with Havana, Obama no doubt believes he’ll have a free hand to “focus on nation-building here at home,” as he likes to say.
12:01 PM, Dec 17, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Imagine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
The evolution of Ali Khamenei from sensitive lover of Western literature to enforcer of Islamic revolutionary orthodoxyDec 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 15 • By ALI ALFONEH and REUEL MARC GERECHT
The Blind Man’s friend: Don’t suffer because of the past. You censored books for the sake of God. . . . What is
it you are taking?
The Blind Man: Valium. I’m taking it to forget everything, even God.
12:10 PM, Dec 8, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Bret Stephens is the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist. He is also author of a new book, America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming World Disorder, detailing the Obama administration’s foreign policy blunders. Recently I spoke with Stephens about his book, how this White House has caused trouble for America abroad, and if there’s hope on the horizon.
Lee Smith: Is retreat a choice?
10:01 AM, Dec 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Foreign Policy reports that the U.S. believes Iran is cheating on U.N. nuclear sanctions. "The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium," reports Colum Lynch.
Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
It's heartening these days to see an outbreak of bipartisan seriousness, given how rare those instances have become. Herewith some excerpts from a statement delivered by Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the committee’s December 3 hearing on “Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” which The Scrapbook enthusiastically cosigns:
Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
So the November 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program—itself an extension of an earlier deadline—has come and gone with a whimper, and with another extension. The frenetic, feverish, and foolish pursuit of a deal by the Obama administration, marked by one concession after another to Iran, raised the real possibility that the United States and its international partners would make a historically dangerous mistake that could ensure a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran in short order.
The ‘complex’ negotiations with Iran.Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Predictably, President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have decided to extend again the Joint Plan of Action, the interim nuclear deal they concluded in November 2013. Unlike the last extension, which was for four months, this one is for seven months; the “political” parts of the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry assures us, should be done by March, while further “technical and drafting” details may take until July.
5:25 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By MICHAEL LEDEEN
He did it again, as we should have expected. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walked us right up to the finish line, spat on us, and walked away. Months and months of secret and public talks, letters, back channels, and gestures produced nothing of the sort the president, assorted foreign ministers, pundits, and politicians had been predicting. Instead we are to keep talking, and keep paying the Islamic Republic for the pleasure and privilege.
12:05 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Today we learned that it has been impossible to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Even a short "framework" agreement or one-pager was beyond reach. And this, despite the extension of the talks from the original deadline last spring.
11:12 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Emergency Committee for Israel calls for Congress to "reimpost" Iran sanctions and to "limit the president's authority to waive sanctions."
"After relaxing sanctions and making ill-advised concessions on Iran's nuclear program, the Obama administration has nonetheless been unable to close a deal," the ECI statement reads.
8:40 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action ended it seems without a final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. It’s not yet clear what happens next.
Dec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By LEE SMITH
As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?