Iran’s Attack on Saudi Arabia Reveals Our Foreign Policy Muddle
We’re stuck in fossilized paradigms while our enemies grow stronger.
The mad mullahs aren’t mad, but moslem schemers that have to, at least, be contained, or otherwise ‘rendered inert’.
Hard upon President Trump’s misguided outreach to the Taliban, rumors are circulating of a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting. Trump has also publicly stated he doesn’t want regime-change in Tehran. This “let’s make a deal” mentality, even with foes who have repeatedly declared and carried out their malign intentions against us, bespeaks more than just the president’s volatile personality and experience in Manhattan real estate.
Indeed, after the probably Iranian-engineered missile attacks on Saudi oil refineries that knocked out half its productive capacity, Trump’s gestures of outreach to the mullahs have now become even more dangerous, and made the need for long-overdue significant military action to punish and deter the mullahs more urgent,
Equally urgent is the revision of a foreign-policy paradigm many years in years in the making and mired in received wisdom. It took root after World War II ended the malign ideologies of fascism, Nazism, and Japanese racist militarism. Even though those murderous movements put the lie to the long dream of a global “harmony of interests” institutionalized in transnational treaties and supranational organizations, the West created the UN, NATO, the World Bank, and other global institutions that would help contain the Soviet Union while the global economy increased wealth and distributed it more widely. The collapse of the Soviet Union fed the illusion that the triumph of liberal democracy was assured, and that its last ideological rival was dispatched without another world war.
But multinational institutions didn’t bring about the end of the Soviet Union, or the communist ideology still riling some parts of the world, and also gaining popularity in this country in its “kinder, gentler” manifestation as “democratic socialism.” Likewise, despite the orthodox paradigm of our foreign policy and national security agencies, NATO did not “keep the peace” in Europe. Peace was achieved by U.S. nuclear weapons, forward-deployed military forces, and “proxy duels” fought to contain Soviet-sponsored aggression. And Soviet communism as an ideology was discredited by visionary leaders like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. They saw beyond the shibboleths of “détente” and “outreach” and “summits,” and realized that given an “evil empire”–– as Reagan called it to the scorn of foreign policy savants–– that was ideologically committed to our destruction, the only strategy should be, “We win, they lose,” as Reagan famously said. Diplomacy works only when the enemy believes in your commitment to use lethal force.
Before that recovery of nerve, Jimmy Carter bungled our response to the Iranian Revolution and its jihadist mission to “fight all men until they say there is god but Allah,” as Mohammed instructed. Thus the Islamic Republic of Iran, came into being, a consequence of Carter’s foreign policy idealism, which empowered the mullahs rise to power. Carter ran an “international rules-based order” foreign policy, and he believed that American restraint and “principled” example on human rights would promote the spread of democracy and peace. His speeches and writings were redolent of the post-Vietnam “crisis of confidence” and “recent mistakes,” and counseled that America had “recognized limits.” Rather than the wars of containment, Carter highlighted “our commitment to human rights,” and promised that “we will not behave in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here as home.” “Moral principles,” he intoned, “were the best foundation for the exertion of American power and influence.” This statement is good example of what historian Corelli Barnett called the “moralizing internationalism” that had been developing since the late 19th century and reached its gruesome repudiation at Munich and the 60 million dead that followed.
The problem with such idealism is, as the cliché goes, the enemy has a vote about what comprises “moral principles,” and it’s unlikely that good examples, foreign aid, or restraint in the face of aggression will change their minds. A readiness to punish swiftly and brutally attacks on our security and interests, the willingness to employ the “mailed fist,” as Duff Cooper said of dealing with Hitler, rather than “sweet persuasion,” creates the prestige that deters aggressors. After 9/11 we did recover some of that lost respect with the swift victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those successes were the monitory “examples” that got Syria’s Bashar Assad out of Lebanon, and convinced Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi to dismantle his nuclear weapon facilities–– and to let us watch him do it.