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1:54 PM, Jun 16, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Jules Crittenden provides a very good history lesson to those who think that

History's age-old lesson is that sucking up to ambitious dictators is usually a bad idea, and facing them down from strength is usually better. After all, as Friedman rediscovered the other day, even the hated Bush for all his warmongering made the Middle East a better place.

I'd add that Obama isn't just worried about his big deal with Iran. It's not just putting a bow on a phony nuke deal. He also hopes to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible … not with real, enduring peace, but with the fig leaf variety. Hostility with Iran doesn't work. It's not that Obama cares whether Iran dominates the region. His policies virtually ensure that it will. But he doesn't want to risk anything that will derail his Iraq pullout, and lecturing, hectoring or punishing the mullahs in any meaningful way threatens a reaction.

If your goal is not to leave the region better than you found it, but to bail at the first opportunity, then your danger lies in being detained, and possibly leaving the region worse than you found it.

Politico follows the evolution of the White House message over the past few days, and notes a dilemma for Obama. He's all about the hope and change, but doesn't want to moralize in foreign policy. Yeah, well, you look at who wrought the greatest changes, making hopes real in the modern era, and none of them shrunk from moralizing, and were willing to take action. FDR, Truman, JFK, Reagan and both Bushes. You can dicker over aspects of the action and follow-through in most of those cases … foreign policy is a messy business, and war is even messier … but Europe and large parts of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are free as a result of their actions, and wouldn't be if all those presidents did was weakly dither.

In fact, what Obama risks with his odd policy that mistakes bowing and scraping for moralism, and seeks to boost America's image in the world by reducing its profile, is the surrender of the moral authority and leadership that has made America the world's best hope for peace, stability and prosperity in history. Hopes repeatedly made real by bolder visionaries than Obama shows any sign of being.