Following through on its strategy of trying to make Congressional approval of the Iran nuclear deal irrelevant, the Obama administration pushed through a resolution implementing the agreement today at the United Nations Security Council. Both Congressional Republicans and Democrats attacked that move, but that did not deter the president and his foreign policy team from following through on their plan to make an end run around Congress. This arrogant slight to the legislative branch will add fuel to the fire of critics of the Iran pact as they push to shame Democrats into making good on their past promises to insist on an agreement that would, at the very least, live up to the administration’s past promises about inspections and transparency. Yet even in the face of this presidential chutzpah and staggering betrayal of principle, the odds still heavily favor his effort to get the necessary votes from his party to sustain this strategy. Thus, while those Democrats who view their campaign pledges about both the Iranian threat and the security of Israel as still binding should be focusing on the gaping holes in the agreement, they should also ponder the presidential hubris that is at the core of this effort to marginalize their Constitutional obligation to weigh in on the most important foreign treaty signed by the United States.
That arrogance was on display yesterday as Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows. Their blithe assurances about the deal make the U.S. safer could be dismissed as mere hyperbole but their insistence that there is “no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere,” inspections of nuclear sites is not only a lie. It is also a direct contradiction of their past pledges on the issue. Indeed, Moniz specifically said, “We expect to have anywhere, anytime access” to Iranian military sites in April during an interview with Bloomberg. Kerry has been navigating a similar zigzag course on a host of other issues regarding the deal including that about Tehran coming clean on past military nuclear research.
We can and should continue to focus on these specifics during the course of the debate about the Iran deal. But the main point to be understood here is that no evidence about the weakness of the deal, its failure not only to stop Iran’s nuclear program but the ways in which it makes it stronger and more likely to eventually build a weapon will ever be sufficient to answer the administration. That’s because the motivation of Obama and Kerry and their minions are not merely wrongheaded notions about non-proliferation or misplaced faith in Iran’s intentions but rather a hubristic belief in their ability to change history.
Obama and Kerry can mislead the nation about the sunset provision in the agreement that will make it possible for Iran to proceed to a weapon with little interference after it expires because they think with this stroke they have transcended the petty details that encumber those who deal with real world facts about despotic religious states like Iran. Iran’s ability to either easily evade the deal’s restrictions or to patiently wait for them to end doesn’t give the president or the secretary pause because their object in these negotiations wasn’t merely a nuclear deal but an attempt to restructure American foreign policy in a way that would end decades of enmity with the Islamist state and give birth to a new détente with Iran.
That’s why at every point during two and a half years of negotiations with Iran the administration steadily gave ground. The point of the talks wasn’t merely bridging gaps between the two sides but an obvious belief that the details weren’t as important as the mere act of negotiation and agreement. The president came into office pledging amity for the Iranian regime and never truly deviated from it even as both Iran’s obstinacy and Congress forced him to accept sanctions that the White House never wanted. Iran’s refusal to give ground on each issue was rationalized not because it made sense to do so but because it was required if Obama was going to have his entente with Tehran.
Analogies to past efforts at appeasing dictators inevitably fall afoul of the problem of comparing any country — no matter how awful — with the Nazis and the Holocaust. But the point of comparison is not so much any supposed similarities between the two regimes as it is to the way in which those who sought to appease them consciously denied facts and arrogantly believed that their good intentions, desire for peace and vision for a world that would eschew conflict transcended what they saw as the small-minded and war-mongering attitudes of their critics. Tough-minded diplomacy — the real alternative to Obama and Kerry’s appeasement rather than war — would not have been as satisfying to these men.
It is that belief in his own righteousness that sustains President Obama as he lies to the American people about inspections, snap-back sanctions, the way the deal expires, and his belief that Iran will become “less aggressive, less hostile more cooperative” and “to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave” even after he will have given international approval to its nuclear program, enriched it, given it access to arms, and treated its support for terrorism and building of ballistic missiles as unimportant details. This foolishness is not merely a matter of bad judgment. This sort of epic folly is only the product of a hubris that sees such minor matters as insignificant when compared to the chance to make history.
Given the pull of partisan loyalties and the still potent hold of President Obama over many members of his party the chances of Congress stopping him are slim. But as those Democrats with troubled consciences over the choice facing them think about their votes, they would do well to understand that the root cause of this disaster isn’t merely a policy dispute but the conviction on the part of the president and his chief diplomat that the rules of history don’t apply to them. As it always does, the world may pay a terrible price in blood and treasure for appeasement on this scale.