9:35 AM, Apr 23, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
As always, Winston Churchill said it best. Here he is on March 24, 1938, speaking less than two weeks after the Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of Austria:
"For five years I have talked to the House on these matters—not with very great success. I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet. ... That is the position—that is the terrible transformation that has taken place bit by bit."
Churchill, needless to say, didn't resign himself to this transformation. "Now is the time at last to rouse the nation. Perhaps it is the last time it can be roused with a chance of preventing war."
Churchill failed. The government policy remained one of appeasement. The nation was not roused. Six months later was Munich. And then, a year later, war.
This week, for the first time since President Obama abandoned, after his reelection, the traditional bipartisan and international policy of pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, the United States Senate will have a sustained debate on the administration's Iran policy. For the first time! The op-ed pages and the journals have been full of arguments about the path the administration has been proceeded down. Indeed, what's remarkable is how many serious observers, including many sympathetic to the notion of a negotiated deal with Iran, have been critical of the administration's repeated cascades of concessions.
But Congress? No. The administration has succeeded in averting votes on various pieces of legislation, and therefore in preventing a real and sustained Congressional debate on its Iran policy. So the elected representatives of the American people haven't weighed in.
Now they have a chance to do so. The occasion is the Corker-Cardin bill, reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which establishes a process for congressional review of whatever deal the administration reaches. It's a toothless bill, setting up a process which allows Congress, in reaction to a deal, to stop the president from waiving or removing sanctions on Iran—which is of course something Congress could do in any case, at any time. So the bill sets up a process that allows Congress to do something they can do without that process.
There is no reason to think that passage of this bill, as it now stands, significantly increases the chance of reversing such a deal once it is agreed to. There is every reason to think, if the bill passes without serious debate, that it will have the opposite effect—of giving the illusion that Congress is really doing something to stop or slow down a bad deal when it is not.
So as it stands, the bill is at worst misleading, at best toothless. But there will be efforts on the floor of the Senate to implant teeth in the legislation's clammy gums. Various senators are planning to offer amendments specifying what provisions would need to be in a deal to make it worthy of congressional support. These amendments range from requiring that Iran stop denying international inspectors access to certain sites, to insisting Iran stops spinning centrifuges at such sites, to making sure that sanctions relief is gradual and based on Iranian behavior rather than immediate and based only on Iranian promises, to requiring that Iran stop engaging in terror against Americans or supporting attempts to destroy Israel.
Some of these amendments will be more important or more usefully targeted than others. But they each need to be considered, and debated, and voted on. Such a Senate debate, and votes, could put the administration—and the Iranians—on notice as to what Congress would and would not accept, so Congress would not be in the position of having to overturn later an agreement entered into by the executive branch with a foreign government because of objections that have not been clearly stated in advance. It could also clarify what is at stake in this deal—not just the status of Iran's nuclear program and the sanctions on Iran, but the broader question of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East and the likelihood of a regional nuclear arms race. It could rouse the nation to a serious consideration about the stairway we are, under the guidance of the Obama administration, descending.
5:15 PM, Apr 16, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
One of the important pieces of news to come out of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to the White House Tuesday is that Iraq will be receiving delivery of F-16s. At Commentary, Max Boot asks if this is such a wise move, “Why Are We Giving F-16s to an Iranian-Infiltrated Government?”
A better way forward in the Middle East.Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By MAX BOOT and MICHAEL DORAN
The ouster of ISIS fighters from Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, has been widely celebrated. Although this victory was brought about in no small part by American airpower, it was a triumph for Iran more than for the United States. The vast majority of fighters on the front lines belonged to Shiite militias, many of them trained, equipped, and advised by the Iranians. Their de facto commander is Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, which is charged with exporting the Iranian revolution.
Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By LEE SMITH
Ever since it announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran last month, the Obama administration has flooded the news media with technical details elaborating the many virtues of the proposed framework agreement. Indeed, the White House sent its energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, onto the Sunday shows to helpfully explain the knotty fine points that are likely to be lost on laymen—or anyone who doesn’t celebrate its signal accomplishment.
Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
What is to be done about Obama’s Iran “deal”? We could, fatalistically, lament the collapse of American foreign policy. We could, indignantly, gnash our teeth in frustration at the current administration. We could, constructively, work to secure congressional review of the deal and urge presidential candidates to commit to altering or abrogating it.
Or we can stop it now.
1:18 PM, Mar 27, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Matthew Continetti, writing at the Washington Free Beacon, explains why Jeb Bush has a problem in his foreign policy adviser James Baker. Baker recently spoke at a conference for the left-wing group J Street. Here's an excerpt from Continetti's column:
Hosted by Michael Graham.2:25 PM, Mar 26, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Michael Warren on how President Obama's Bergdahl and Iran Nuke deals keep just getting worse.
11:01 AM, Mar 5, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
When the revolt in Syria began in 2011, many policy analysts and former officials argued that the downfall of the Assad regime would be a major setback to Iran. I was one of them, and the claim was not complicated: Syria was Iran’s only Arab ally, provided its only ports on the Mediterranean, was a land bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon that allowed Iran an easy means of arming Hezbollah, and via Hezbollah gave Iran a border with Israel. The fall of Assad would deny Iran all these assets and all these possibilities.
Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Sometimes a speech is just a speech. Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech about Iran policy on March 3 will not be his first address to Congress. It will make familiar, if important, arguments. One might assume that, like the vast majority of speeches, it would soon be overtaken by events in Israel and the United States and the world.
9:10 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The crisis between the United States and Israel has been manufactured by the Obama administration. Building a crisis up or down is well within the administration’s power, and it has chosen to build it up. Why? Three reasons: to damage and defeat Netanyahu (whom Obama has always disliked simply because he is on the right while Obama is on the left) in his election campaign, to prevent Israel from affecting the Iran policy debate in the United States, and worst of all to diminish Israel’s popularity in the United States and especially among Democrats.
The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy.Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By LEE SMITH
Last week, outgoing chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz told an American audience that it’s important the international community defeat both camps of regional extremists. The way Gantz sees it, on one side there are Sunni radicals, like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate. On the Shiite side are Iran and the Revolutionary Guards expeditionary unit, the Quds Force, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias.
There’s no way Iran will ever help fight al Qaeda. Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Not long after his inauguration in January 2009, President Barack Obama penned a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. As a presidential candidate, Obama had promised to conduct “tough, direct diplomacy” with the Iranians. And Obama figured, correctly, that all diplomatic entreaties would end up on Khamenei’s desk. So, the newly elected president decided to write Iran’s ultimate decision-maker directly. And he has written several letters since.
3:38 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Islamic State, a self-proclaimed “caliphate” that rules over large portions of Iraq and Syria, has released a video showing a Jordanian pilot, Mu’adh al Kasasibah, being burned alive. He is shown standing and praying in the middle of a cage as a fighter sets fire to him. The video is horrific, but not surprising. We should know by now that there is no limit to the group’s brutality.
Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Otto von Bismarck may never have said what’s often ascribed to him: “There is a special Providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.” But he could have, and it probably sounds even better in German. In any case, one can certainly see, looking back, why the apparently apocryphal quotation became famous. It’s true, after all, that America has seemed providentially fortunate at times. It’s true that we’ve managed to survive some near misses, and to flourish despite a fair amount of folly.