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Obama’s Surrender of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Can Clarify American Interests

Obama is making sure that nothing will stand in the way of Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Veiling that with a transparently insincere claim to be “freezing” Iran’s quest, and leaving in the lurch governments and peoples that had counted on his promises, he dishonors America. Thus does he guarantee that many more governments will acquire such weapons, and consigns to history the very ideal of nuclear non-proliferation.

But let us look on the bright side: There is value in leaving no doubt about reality.

In reality, nothing was going to stop Iran’s march to nuclear weapons, and nuclear non-proliferation was always a pipe dream. Governments of Europe and of the Middle East will now have to take responsibility for their own defense. And as soon as the inevitability of a world armed with nuclear-tipped missiles dawns through of Obama’s thin smoke screen, America’s ruling class will have to get serious about missile defense – a half century after it should have.

iStock_000014140720XSmallA generation of American statesmen had dreamt of staving off Iran’s nukes. But the Clintonian Liberal Internationalists’ offers of development aid never stood a chance of derailing a project that is dear to Iranians of all political stripes. Nor did some Bushy Neocons’ talk of “regime change” or other Bushies’ empty threats of “surgical strikes” frighten the Iranians away from it any more than did the Obamians’ “smart sanctions.”

Preventing Iran from going nuclear would require war. War, not bombing, which would merely delay the inevitable, but war – meaning above all a total, deadly secondary trade boycott backed by a blockade. Any military operations would be aimed at crushing (easily) any Iranian attempt to interfere with Persian Gulf shipping. The war’s objective would be the imposition of a more tractable regime. Anyhow, nobody in power ever gave this a second thought. Too hard.

But the war’s effect, though more lasting than that of bombing, would also be temporary because it would increase ordinary Iranians’ animosity against us.

We should have learned long since that nuclear weapons themselves are not the problem. Rather the problem consists of regimes, and of the attitudes that make them what they are. That is why we do not fear French nukes, and fear Russian ones much more than we did when they were in Communist hands. We fear a nuclear-armed Iran because of its regime’s – and yes, of its people’s – proclivities.

This brings us to the central, practical problem: Who is afraid of Iran’s nukes, and why? Israel, of course. After all, the Ayatollahs have trumpeted their desire to annihilate it. Israel cannot be complacent about that, and neither should we. But note the old adage that barking dogs seldom bite. Note also that Sunni regimes, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms that rule substantial populations of Shia, fear Iran just as much as does Israel though the Ayatollahs never brandish their weapons against them. Why?

These regimes’ fear stems from their inability to counter Iran on the level of strategic weaponry, while they are utterly vulnerable to Iran’s political subversion of their Shia subjects. By the very same token, we and the Israelis can take substantial comfort from the fact – of which the Ayatollahs are by no means ignorant – that Israelis, never mind Americans – hold overwhelming strategic superiority over Iran in every sense, and are entirely immune from any subversion by it. That is reality.

This reality implies further intensification of the strife between Islam’s Sunni and Shia peoples. Whatever that portends for them, it means that the diminution of their cooperation against us that we have noticed in the past two years will continue. Chances are good that they will occupy one another in the future as they had until just a generation ago because, while the issues between them and the West are largely theoretical, the causes for strife between them are immediate, practical, and very deeply rooted.

So, while the contempt that Obama has brought on America is pregnant with the possibility of awful consequences, the certainty is no small comfort that any number of countries – those that had relied on us as well as their adversaries – will look to themselves and act as if America did not exist.

Americans should take this opportunity to focus on our own interests. In reality, few of what stirs the souls of Sunni and Shia concerns us. Yet we have allowed our involvement in their quarrels to divert us from what is irreducibly our business. For example, during the past generation, our national discourse on missile defense has been crabbed by a focus on Iran (and North Korea). Trying to limit our defenses to individual cases has diminished the efficacy of the devices we have built.

But our need for missile defense is comprehensive. The world is ever more awash in nukes and missiles. Technology makes it easier to defend against all than it does to defend against only some. The end of illusions about limiting the spread of nukes should stimulate healthy preparations for our own defense.

Reader Discussion

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on November 24, 2013 at 18:35:10 pm

Prof. Codevilla:

How's that for finding the "silver lining."
I am, regrettably, not so optimistic as are you in this matter. I agree that missile defense is long overdue. I just do not see it materializing when we have so many ' rights" to satisfy and an insufficient amount of printing presses to create fiat money to satisfy said rights.

take care
gabe

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gabe
on November 25, 2013 at 11:49:35 am

Your comment tries to lay some of the blame on Bush so - predictably - it is 100% silent on the "National Intelligence Estimate" that came out during Bush's second term (Dec. 2007) and completely undercut Bush's policy of containing the Iranians by conspicuously leaving the military option not just on the table, but front and center. The NIE was, plain and simple, political warfare of the bureaucracy against Bush's policy, and was recognized as such by thoughtful observers at the time. But it made a military strike politically impossible. Now the types behind the NIE are in 100% charge, and we see the result.

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Jefferson Knight
on November 25, 2013 at 12:06:12 pm

"But note the old adage that barking dogs seldom bite."

Yeah, but we're not talking about adages or dogs. Throughout the centuries, Jews have had more than a few examples of "barking dogs" that bit plenty hard. Hitler wasn't just barking when he wrote Mein Kampf. So I hardly think it's mere alarmism on their part.

And where do people get the idea that nukes require a missile for delivery? A missile defense, while helpful, runs the risk of being a Maginot Line in the sky. Delivery of a nuke is probably easier by some means other than a missile in a world that moves uncountable amounts of stuff via sealed containers.

As for war with Iran being "too hard", that's what the French thought about the Germans in 1936. We see where that got them.

Frankly, I think your "bright side" is of the whistling-past-the-graveyard variety. Let's just hope it's not our graveyard.

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Scott R. Lucado
on November 25, 2013 at 14:19:06 pm

[…] Angelo Codevilla thinks the same is true with Obama’s appalling agreement to allow Iran to continue building its nuclear program; namely, that it forces clarity (or, as he phrases it “reality’) on the world:  “But let us look on the bright side: There is value in leaving no doubt about reality.” […]

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Image of Bookworm Room » I prefer clarity to agreement, and Obama’s second term is getting increasingly more clear
Bookworm Room » I prefer clarity to agreement, and Obama’s second term is getting increasingly more clear
on November 25, 2013 at 16:41:48 pm

The trick is to get the creature in the WH to focus on America's interests. In one sense he does, how best to contravene them. Which is what's going on re Iran right now, including giving them some nine billion dollars, not to be used for Iranian food stamps surely.

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johnt
on November 25, 2013 at 16:50:32 pm

johnt;

No, but I'll bet that some "food stamp navigators" will soon be bound for Teheran - we can give them some of ours and demonstrate the success of another welfare program by growing it!! - isn't that how it is done!

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gabe
on November 25, 2013 at 20:40:10 pm

Obumble's closest 'advisor' was born in Iran. When the Boyz from Tehran light off their first nuke, "VJ Day" will take on a whole new meaning for our ahistorical younger generations of Americans. After that triumph of BHO, we can all settle in and await the first detonation in a shipping container in a U.S. port city. Hopefully, Chicago gets the honor.

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PD Quig
on November 26, 2013 at 10:20:19 am

"After that triumph of BHO, we can all settle in and await the first detonation in a shipping container in a U.S. port city. Hopefully, Chicago gets the honor."

Chicago is too tough to reach by ship. New York has been the target of the Muslims and will continue to be so.

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MikeK
on November 26, 2013 at 23:14:29 pm

[…] Angelo Codevilla on the Liberty Law blog […]

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Image of Around the Web: US-Iranian Peace Accords Edition | Notes On Liberty
Around the Web: US-Iranian Peace Accords Edition | Notes On Liberty

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.