MANY COMMENTATORS HAVE WONDERED WHAT CONCESSIONS BARACK OBAMA WRUNG out of the Russian leadership in exchange for canceling a major missile defense initiative in Eastern Europe this week. Some have speculated he attained, or at least sought, cooperation in stifling Iran’s nuclear program. Unfortunately, it appears the president sold out two close allies, rewarded Moscow’s belligerence, and sidetracked technology that could safeguard the free world from Islamic nuclear blackmail in order to curtail, not Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but our own. Obama, a passionate believer in universal disarmament, may have made this concession to draw Russia into negotiations that will further weaken the United States.
Dubious Rationale, Disastrous Results
The president announced Thursday he was abandoning the Third Site promised by the Bush administration: 10 long-range missile interceptor sites in Poland and radar facilities in the Czech Republic. He will instead deploy smaller, naval-based SM-3 missiles. (The Czechs are left empty-handed.) Obama insisted since Tehran’s threat is currently believed to be short- or intermediate-range missiles, interceptors for long-range missiles are unnecessary – and, some intimate, untested. In reality, long-range interceptors have been thoroughly tested, and it may be wise not to wait to counter long-range missiles until they exist – or, at least, until they are known to exist.
Obama claims the Iranian nuclear program is not as advanced as once believed. This seems dubious, as Adm. Mike Mullen in March that Iran has enough uranium for a nuclear weapon. Glyn Davis, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, added Wednesday that Iran has reached “possible breakout capacity” to build a weapon rapidly. Assuming the best and brightest actually hold this conclusion, we have little means of evaluating it, because we have virtually no human intelligence (HUMINT) penetration of this society. Human intelligence is nearly impossible in a totalitarian state like modern Islamic Iran. We had little ground intelligence in Iraq before Operation Desert Storm, and although “the best intelligence estimates” said Saddam was “at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons,” U.S. soldiers found he was perhaps within months of developing a weapon. Iran may be more or less advanced; there is no way to know.
Meanwhile, breaking an agreement with our allies Poland and the Czech Republic, both of whom are close allies with troops on the line in the worsening Afghan theater, damages our relationship and image around the world. The world knows America won’t – or can’t – keep its allies safe from aggression. The former deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic, Alexandr Vondra, called this “a U-turn in the U.S. policy,” a further sign of an erratic administration. “This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe,” John McCain rightly observed. But it may have more practical consequences and broader implications. Vondra warned “the United States may have a problem in generating support for out-of-area missions in this region.” Already, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk begun rejecting U.S. diplomatic phone calls. South Korea and Japan are undoubtedly watching closely. And anytime an innocent party is screwed over, it frays the relationship, possibly to the breaking point. The New York Times editorialized in a “news” story U.S. backtracking would make Europeans “become more realistic and less idealistic about United States foreign policy in the future, not to mention a lot less likely to fall in line behind the United States.” Only in its pages is this considered a positive outcome.
Back to the START
Why, then, would the administration push forward with this maneuver? In an ideal world, it would have secured guarantees to end all Russian support for the Iranian nuclear program and concrete agreements to impose crippling economic sanctions. That world would not be this one. It appears this was fueled by the president’s passion for universal nuclear disarmament. Sources reveal at least part of the consideration is bringing Russia back to negotiate START follow-on talks, which resume next week in New York. Circumstances bear this out.
One of those who delivered the U-turn news to Poland is Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, an implacable foe of Strategic Missile Defense (SDI) and a proponent of universal disarmament. Unfortunately, she has longstanding, naïve view of impending nuclear threats. In March, she excoriated advocates of missile defense for “warning about a long range threat from Iran that does not exist.” There is no need to fret, because “Iran has not developed a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States. Yet.” Similarly, Tauscher told the Progressive Policy Institute “we miscalculate if we confuse intent with capability. Al-Qaeda may want nuclear weapons but likely does not have them – at least not yet.” Phew! She was on board for the Bush administration’s premature rehabilitation of North Korea. (See my full profile of Tauscher, “Undersecretary of Naievete.”)
Tauscher advocates a quiet disarmament, in which aging and increasingly unstable missiles are not replaced. Obama enshrined this in his first budget, vetoing Reliable Replacement Warhead development against the wishes of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Obama has been dreaming of disarmament since at least 1983, when he wrote an article profiling far-Left campus groups at Columbia. Obama favorably quoted one spokesperson who wanted to “get rid of the military” and seemed to share the organizer’s opposition to the Solomon Amendment. The article showcased the conspiracy-tinged insights that would later endear him to the Democratic Party’s antiwar base, as Obama claimed the anti-nuclear movement tactics “suit the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion dollar erector sets.”
The Democratic Party has argued for at least 30 years that if the United States would but set a “good example,” the rest of the world would respond by beating their warheads into plowshares. Unilateral disarmament and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) became the cornerstone of diminished U.S. power. Then, at least the terror was offset by the knowledge the United States could launch a nuclear counterstrike and decimate the world’s population. Iran’s messianic fanatic has no qualms meeting the Mahdi.
Yet the Democrats continue to believe U.S. weapons cause others to weaponize. From its perspective, the administration did not “retreat” on producing missile defense systems. For Obama, Tauscher, et. al., destroying missile defense is not a concession; it is a positive good, because it downgrades our “provocative” defense arsenal. In this, they follow a long line of their intellectual forebears.
The current Iranian nuclear crisis is the fruit of the last three Democratic presidents’s foreign policies. As I outline in my book, Party of Defeat, it was Jimmy Carter’s decision to withdraw his support from the Shah that paved the way for the repression of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his modern followers. If an Iran run by the Pahlavi dynasty announced it had the nuclear bomb, no world leader would view it as an existential threat. Carter’s installation, recognition, and bribery of the Iranian regime renders this current situation perilous.
Our human intelligence deficit in the nation owes in part to Carter. Recruiting HUMINT is virtually impossible in a closed society, but we have no human intel partly because Carter did not recruit any while the Iran was still open and friendly. Instead, he and his CIA chief Adm. Stansfield Turner gutted the CIA, cutting 820 human intelligence positions. Without assets of its own, the Islamic revolution blindsided Carter. Thus, on New Year’s Eve 1977, he would toast the Shah’s Iran as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” Eight months later, the CIA issued the report Iran in the 1980s, in which the broken Carter intelligence apparatus assessed, “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a ‘prerevolutionary’ situation.” The Islamic revolution broke out the next month in the city of Qom. Carter recognized the government, bargained with it and ultimately paid it a ransom of $8 billion (the mullahs netted $3 billion in seed money for its current status as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism).
Iran is but one part of an axis empowered by leftist ideology. Much of “Iran’s” rocketry is imported from North Korea. Pyongyang’s nuclear stockpile would have been unthinkable without Bill Clinton’s decision (made at Al Gore’s behest) to allow Jimmy Carter to negotiate a sweetheart deal for the DPRK. The regime received oil, food, and a “civilian” nuclear reactor in exchange for promises. Kim Jong-il proceeded to quietly build a half-dozen nuclear bombs. President Bush’s commitment to the six-party talks did not advance the cause of disarmament, but his movement had been circumscribed by the Left, which had already destroyed his credibility as commander-in-chief, sent groups of pilgrims to tour Potemkin villages, and mobilized protests against any potential U.S. “aggression.”
Unlike his predecessor, though, Bush recognized the dangers of the nuclear proliferation. Bill Clinton announced his theoretical support for SDI during the 1996 campaign but withheld critical funding and deployment, kicking the can into the Bush administration. Bush moved forward, and the current limited system is proving effective, but Obama and his House allies under Speaker Pelosi’s watch threaten to strangle the program. A government that has money for every endeavor from chunking clunkers to posting roadside PR for its stimulus bill consistently underfunds the one constitutionally mandated function of Congress: national defense.
It is appropriate the missile defense retreat was sounded on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. Vladimir Putin and Russian “president” Dmitry Medvedev smile with iron teeth, longing to restore the imperial dignity of the fallen superpower. Medvedev greeted the news by calling it “responsible” and adding, “I am prepared to continue this dialogue.” Indeed, few walk away from the blackjack table when they’re winning. Medvedev is perfectly content to allow the United States to negotiate away its nuclear stockpiles, especially if it will lead to a multipolar world and its own Eastern European sphere of influence. As negotiations progressively dismantle our existing, disintegrating warheads, a retreat from missile defense leaves our nation vulnerable to the long-range weapons Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will pursue regardless of our “good example.” Obama has chosen to believe the doomsday threat will develop according to the most optimistic intelligence assessments.
A prudent statesman does not bet on the most benign outcome of a confluence of madmen.
This article originally appeared as the lead story on Friday, September 18, 2009, on FrontPage Magazine.