The Magazine

The Obama Complex

Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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We support the legislation. But the truth is that the long sanctions effort​—​dating back two decades now​—​may have run its course. It will be very hard to reverse the erosion that Obama has allowed to begin. And even if one could, there’s little evidence that sanctions could ultimately stop Iran’s nuclear program. The one time the program seems to have actually halted happens to have been the one time Iranians took seriously the threat of American military action: in 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, when Tehran briefly feared it might be America’s next target after Saddam Hussein. But it was not to be, and the program started back up as the Bush administration backed off. And now the idea of American military action, under this president, is not credible.

That leaves Israel. As a bipartisan group of national security experts convened by the Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs argued in a recent report: “The United States should move immediately to impose new sanctions and consider even tougher actions against Iran if no acceptable final agreement is in place 180 days after the JPA’s formal implementation on January 20. At that time, the United States should do nothing that would impinge upon Israel’s ability to decide what actions it must take  .  .  . and indeed should support Israel if it takes military action.”

The American public understands that Israel may have to act, since Obama won’t. And polls show the public would want America to support such an Israeli action if it’s necessary to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons breakout capability. When it comes to complexity, the public sides not with Barack Obama but with Ronald Reagan: “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” 

Obama is no Reagan. If he were, we might not have to use force, because a credible threat of military action often means you don’t have to use it. But no serious person now believes President Obama will act. And that’s why Prime Minister Netanyahu may well have to.


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