Pres­i­dent Obama’s dreamy dreams

Vladimir Putin is work­ing on an am­bi­tious le­gacy, too

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Words enough to fill an unabridged dic­tio­nary went into the ten­ta­tive “frame­work” that Pres­i­dent Obama and the West­ern pow­ers reached with Iran to ad­dress Iran’s pur­suit of nu­clear weapons. All those words could be dis­tilled in John Len­non’s naive re­frain: “All we are say­ing is give peace a chance.” While Barack Obama was pre­oc­cu­pied with erect­ing his “frame­work,” Vladimir Putin was busy, too, re­mind­ing his Euro­pean neigh­bors that Mao Ze­dong’s fa­vorite and not-so-naïve re­frain still ap­plies: “Po­lit­i­cal power grows out of the bar­rel of a gun.”

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two themes is plain and stark: Mr. Obama says Iran has fi­nally un­clenched its fist to shake the hand he ex­tended six years ago in his first In­au­gu­ral Ad­dress. Once the frame­work leads to a pact in June, he says, the mul­lahs in Tehran will be pre­vented from build­ing their bomb for 10 years and this will make the world safer. (In the 11th year, which no­body wants to talk about, maybe not so much.) While its diplo­mats share the bub­bly (seltzer wa­ter only, we pre­sume) with West­ern diplo­mats, Iran’s army of ji­hadis work to desta­bi­lize the gov­ern­ments of four neigh­bor­ing coun­tries — Iraq, Syria, Le­banon and Ye­men. “The world is on fire,” says House Speaker John Boehner. A nu­clear frame­work notwith­stand­ing, Iran con­tin­ues to fan the flames.

The “world on fire” is rem­i­nis­cent of the Cold War years. Mr. Putin tosses out the “n” word, bran­dish­ing his nu­clear ar­se­nal to de­fend his con­quest of Crimea. He ar­gues that abuse of eth­nic Rus­sians prompted him to in­vade eastern Ukraine, and there’s a sim­i­lar threat in the Baltic states of Lithua­nia, Latvia and Es­to­nia. Mr. Putin is not sub­tle. Nei­ther is his­tory. Hitler em­ployed sim­i­lar not-so-sub­tle threats to jus­tify his oc­cu­pa­tion of the Sude­ten­land in 1938.

Rus­sia di­rects sim­i­lar nu­clear threats against NATO neigh­bors. The Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Den­mark warns that Dan­ish war­ships “will be tar­gets for Rus­sia’s nu­clear weapons” if Den­mark par­tic­i­pates in a NATO plan for a Euro­pean mis­sile de­fense radar sys­tem, and Rus­sia vi­o­lates Nor­we­gian air space with in­creas­ing fre­quency and even crosses the English Chan­nel with iden­ti­fy­ing transpon­ders switched off in stealth fash­ion, dis­rupt­ing air traf­fic. In word and deed, the Rus­sians have not forgotten how to be­have with Cold War malev­o­lence.

Mr. Obama has al­most two years left to fur­ther dam­age the in­ter­ests of the na­tion he swore to pro­tect and de­fend. He can fin­ish his deal with Iran by June, pocket his le­gacy, such as it will be, and leave trou­bles and dilem­mas to his suc­ces­sor. He could, of course, pur­sue his cru­sade from a new plat­form to pre­vent Iran from restart­ing its nu­clear pro­gram when such an agree­ment ex­pires in 10 years. We won’t hold our breath. Be­yond “fun­da­men­tally trans­form­ing” the United States, there’s the rest of the world to save. Mr. Putin, for his part, is es­tab­lish­ing a le­gacy of his own, the restora­tion of the Soviet em­pire be­hind the threat of nu­clear might.

The lovers of peace and good­ness can rail against nu­clear weapons from now ’til dooms­day, but be­fore they can dis­suade rogues in Moscow and Tehran from evil and es­tab­lish a peace­able king­dom on Earth, they must deal with the mal­ice that de­files the hu­man heart. En­treaties for brotherhood are nice, but the only ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent is the strength of arms. Peace through flac­cid weak­ness is folly.

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