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Resignation

In the face of gathering dangers.

Apr 19, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 29 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Friday, April 9 was a day of resignation. Justice John Paul Stevens announced he was resigning from the Supreme Court at the end of this term. Representative Bart Stupak said he wasn’t running for reelection to the House of Representatives. And President Barack Obama made it clear he’s resigned to a nuclear Iran.

Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, Obama told George Stephanopoulos:

If the question is do we have a guarantee [that] the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior, of course we don’t. I mean, the history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime, is that, you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behavior, sometimes they don’t.

You try to do your thing with your buddies in the international community, and, you know, sometimes people choose to change behavior, sometimes they don’t.

In the case of North Korea, they didn’t. After years of “international pressure,” after countless multiparty meetings producing endless hectoring statements and plaintive pleas, with carrots proffered and sticks brandished by our State Department in bewildering succession, here’s the end of the story: North Korea has nuclear weapons. Now Obama is telling us that he intends to deal with Iran as we dealt with North Korea. So, as the Iranians follow in the footsteps of the North Koreans and move ahead to get nukes, we’re going to do nothing about it.

Jonathan Tobin summarized the situation on Commentary’s website: 

With Russia and China effectively blocking any hope for crippling sanctions, with the threat of force off the table, and with the president now openly preparing the nation for America’s failure, why should the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime do anything but use all the extra time Obama has gifted them with to forge ahead toward their nuclear goal?

Sure enough, within hours the Iranian regime was forging ahead. The same day as Obama appeared on Good Morning America, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at a ceremony in Tehran marking the Fourth National Anniversary of Nuclear Technology Day. He unveiled an improved centrifuge which would enrich uranium faster and taunted the United States for its failure to halt Iran’s nuclear program. “Iran’s nuclear path is irreversible,” Ahmadinejad said. “The Iranian nation has reached a new point where no power can deter it from moving full speed ahead to reach peaceful nuclear energy.”

Not to worry. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley wasn’t fooled. After deploring Iranian “chest-thumping,” he pointed out that a peaceful nuclear program would have no need for faster centrifuges. So, he said, “We have to conclude that Iran has nefarious intentions with its nuclear program.” Savvy conclusion!

What’s more, Crowley explained, the Iranian regime is going to get its comeuppance: “That’s expressly why we continue to work with the international community on additional measures, sanctions, to show Iran that there is a consequence for its failure to meet its obligations.” 

But the finger-wagging of the international community won’t stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. The non-chest-thumping Obama administration, it is increasingly clear, is not going to stop Iran either. The only country that may not be resigned to a nuclear Iran is Israel. Its government, at least, disdains resignation to the fact that nefarious regimes sometimes choose to change behavior, but, gee, sometimes they don’t. After all, this worldly attitude didn’t work out too well for the Jewish people—or the rest of us—in the last century. 

The Obama administration knows that Israel is weighing military action against Iran. This accounts at least in part for the administration’s turn against Israel in recent weeks—its attempt to further isolate the Jewish state in order to put pressure on it not to act. 

So we are pressuring our ally, rather than acting to stop our enemy. 

Liz Cheney had it right, speaking in New Orleans the same day Obama chatted with George Stephanopoulos:

Ultimately, the only way diplomacy will succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions is if the mullahs understand, beyond a doubt, that America will take military action if they don’t comply peacefully. No enticements can work—there is nothing the international community can offer Iran that is worth more to them than a nuclear weapon. And watered down sanctions carry their own danger—they buy time for Iran while imposing no cost. The dangers grow to us and our allies with every hour we waste.

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