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March 12, 2015 12:13 am

Barack Obama and the Fatal Myth of Appeasement

avatar by John Bolton

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President Barack Obama. Photo: White House.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s powerful speech to Congress about Iran’s nuclear weapons program now is behind us. America obviously benefited by hearing directly from him about the brutal nuclear reality Tehran’s ayatollahs have created and the risks posed by the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members (plus Germany).

Netanyahu was entirely justified in trying to influence debate about what he rightly sees as an existential threat to his country. The deal now pending is grievously flawed and, with near certainty, Iran will not comply with it in any case. Secretary of State John Kerry has been wrong to say that negative comments are unfair because no one yet knows the deal’s final terms. In fact, the administration routinely has leaked provisions thought to benefit President Obama; one can only wonder at the unleaked provisions they think might be problematic.

We should now put behind us the needless controversy preceding Netanyahu’s address, which was little more than Barack Obama’s offended sense of amour propre , a decidedly un-presidential response. The central focus should always have been the mortal threat to the United States, Israel and other friends and allies posed by the prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran.

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Its religious fanatics have been the world’s central bankers for international terrorism since the Islamic Revolution — their term to describe the events of 1979, not mine — seized power in Iran. Their militarized power base in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has armed and trained terrorists on an equal-opportunity basis: Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon, anti-American militias in Iraq, Sunni Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Iran’s sworn enemies, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The ayatollahs seized America’s Tehran embassy in 1979 and took our diplomats hostage — terrorist acts prohibited under long-standing treaty commitments and international custom. This hostage crisis was the first exposure most Americans had to the mindset that still grips Iran. It tells us everything we need to know about how likely the mullahs are to keep their word today.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. Iran has been killing Americans since Revolutionary Guards officers assisted in planning and carrying out the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. They have fabricated explosively formed projectiles, designed especially to penetrate armored vehicles, to use against American forces in Iraq.

Their assistance to the Taliban — what the Pentagon called “calibrated lethal aid” in a 2014 report — also is aimed primarily at killing Americans, either in terrorist attacks or more conventional combat. To Iran’s ayatollahs, we have always been “the Great Satan.”

So when the leader of Israel, which the ayatollahs are pleased to call “the Little Satan,” speaks to Congress, we should listen, focusing on substance rather than protocol. We urgently need to debate the deal’s merits before Iran graciously accepts Obama’s too-numerous-to-list concessions. Instead, in one of history’s cruel ironies, John Kerry couldn’t meet with Netanyahu in Washington because he was in Geneva, desperately trying to reach agreement with Iran’s negotiators. There is no better way to demonstrate the Obama administration’s true priorities.

Iran has, for more than 30 years, been pursuing a consistent, dogged strategy intended to achieve its objective of deliverable nuclear weapons. In seeking such an enormous military capability, Iran is prepared to make temporary, easily reversible concessions along the way — always keeping in mind the limited, time-bound nature of these arrangements. It has done so repeatedly in the past, and it is doing so again in the current negotiations. To the ayatollahs, deals are tactical maneuvers, not efforts to resolve disputes.

Particularly difficult for Americans to understand is that, when the deal is signed, the negotiating will not be over. In fact, to Iran, agreements are just hitching posts along the trail toward deliverable nuclear weapons, temporary resting places before Iran begins its inexorable search for further weaknesses, leverage points and terms of the deal it will violate.

By contrast, Obama is not pursuing a strategy but a myth called appeasement. Appeasers hope that buying off potential adversaries with concessions and demonstrations of goodwill would dissuade them from committing aggression. When dealing with insignificant threats in secondary regions at minimal costs, concessions of this sort might make sense. Or as an act of desperation, when no other alternatives are available, such concessions might also work.

But for mortal threats to security of our country and its allies — even their very existence — against an implacable opponent, where the costs of weakness are enormous, appeasement is a fatal mistake. Obama hopes that by making concessions on economic sanctions and perhaps even diplomatic recognition, he can somehow make the ayatollahs forget their own strategic objectives. This is delusional, as we shall regrettably see soon after the agreement is announced.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and, previously, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security. This article was originally published by The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

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  • Matthew Allen

    YALE said it all (and has an actual INFORMED knowledge of past history – and may have ACTUALLY read the Constitution ! )

    “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it “

  • I am not sure whether the author reads our comments. probably, not. But Mr. Bolton is absolutely right in everything. I’d like to add a couple of words to his phrase: “The ayatollahs seized America’s Tehran embassy in 1979 and took our diplomats hostage…” it’s not all: every year the Government of Iran together with all population celebrate this event. They demonstrate, dance sing and it turns into an all-nation fest. To whom Prez. Obama want to make a deal?!

  • steven L

    It appears that the US Pr. goals have very little to do with the goals of the country with the same name!

  • Yale

    If Obama’s objective is to put Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear wepaons on the shelf until after he has left the White House, when it won’t be his problem any more, then the current negotiations are achieving their end.

    If the objective is to contribute to the long-term security and welfare of the United States and the Free World, then they are a total failure.

  • Michel Olivier

    Obama is neither appeasing or naive. He is acting from great strength . Over the objection of most of congress and impervious to other contention, Obama is determined to enable nuclear arms for Iran. The negotiations are a charade. Iran entered into them first to lessen the risk of a military strike on their nuclear weapons building, and second to remove impeding sanctions

  • Rob

    As this writer demonstrates, anything outside of attacking a country and war is “appeasement” to the dualistic, twisted, Republican psyche. Historically, the Republicans and their wars have cost trillions in taxpayer treasure and millions of lives. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of US Veterans that are maimed and crippled for life; and all because of irrational and illogical rush to war by the fear filled Republicans. Before they do any more damage to this nation, The Republicans would be wise to remember that matters of foreign policy and of state are the perogative of the President of the United States. The Republicans were wrong about Iraq and WMD and they consistently underestimated the capability of Al Quaeda and other terrorists. This is because sound perception and judgement are obscurred by republican narcissism.

    • Yale

      Rob would benefit by looking to history.

      1. He complains about “Republicans and their wars”, but during the Twentieth Century *every* war started while a Democrat was in the White House, and that encompasses WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Prior to Afghanistan, the last “Republican” war was the Spanish-American War of 1898, an era when Republicans were the progressive party; maybe it is “progressives” who start wars?

      Bush’s war in Afghanistan was approved by no less than Barack Obama, and the war in Iraq was bungled, not by the military, but by politicians, ultimately including Barack Obama.

      2. The Iraq war was near victory when Obama, who is the actual narcissist in this scenario, came to power, and for purposes of discrediting Bush, basically snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and gave ISIS its opporunity.

      3. Conducting foreign policy is *not* the unique prerogative of the executive — the Constitution is designed so that there is no policy area where one branch can act entirely on its own — that’s why the Senate is required to confirm treaties. What makes the current situation so dangerous is that Obama has announced that he won’t bother to submit what could be the most fateful agreement ever produced by “diplomacy” for debate and approval in the Senate. It is Obama who is in violation of the expectations set forth by the Founding Fathers, most likely because he knows the current “deal” could not win approval, and wouldn’t even in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

    • Laura Burkhart

      The danger in your mentality is, a Nuclear capable
      Iran, and the Nation of their first strike, which,
      From my point of view, will not be Israel, but, in
      fact, the USA…make no mistake, the liberal’s in the USA, who lift sanctions and enable Iran, are as evil as silent “Christian Europe” during the holocaust.

  • David Hunter

    Does Mr. Bolton believe that all negotiation is “appeasement”? What details of the agreement (which doesn’t yet exist) are “appeasement”?

    • steven L

      Leaving intact the whole nuke infrastructure!!!!!!!!
      What kind of news do you have access to dear boy?
      Factories building ICBM rockets. This topic is not even discussed.
      Iranian terrorism is not discuss!!!!

  • James

    Oh John, will you ever get world affairs right? After Iraq, and declarations of our intervention as a benefit to world democracy, I don’t know why anyone should ever listen to you ever again.

  • Bill Nahay

    The analysis is spot-on! This President behaves in terms of maturity between a high school sophomore and maybe college sophomore — depending upon the day and the issue.

    He exhibits two consistencies (1) when shocking events are revealed, he heard about it on the news – what a sorry group of advisors; and, (2) he is the President of blacks and extreme left-leaning liberals only. When all else fails, he plays the race card.

    There is no statesmanship demeanor to the Office of President with this occupant; just that of a “community organizer” feeding off less able population groups with “ear tickling” sing-song rhetoric.

    History will judge how tattered the Constitution is at his exit – which cannot be soon enough.

    Bill Nahay

    • You have summed up the current administration profoundly.
      He has played ” The Race Card” truly to the detriment of our nation, I feel there is a greater division between the races now more than ever.
      He is not Presidential, never has been and hopefully will not be remembered as one, a better term the “The Great Deceiver”.
      Shalom

      • The much greater deceiver was George W. Bush. He deceived America in all: in his education, in his participation in Vietnam war, in the elections, in,-the most important,-in 9/11 tragedy. He then lied about al-Qaeda, about Bin-Laden, about his struggle for democracy, that Colin Powell declared
        (an absolute lie): “we will be fighting for democracy in every corner or the world”. It was a “flag” to destroy half of the Middle East and led to a nowadays terrible situation. But somehow almost nobody charge Bush in all this, and instead of bringing him to the International Criminal Court, as war criminal, everybody charge Obama. He was not initiator of all this war-tragedy that still has place now. Obama is probably under influence of foreign agents (presumably Russian, as it had been since 1985 and lasted almost a decade until revealed)as well as ultra-left forces who made him continue the wars and/but try this damned talks with Iran.

    • Reform School

      If the President of the United States was born August 4, 1961 (as alleged, amidst self-sealed personal history) documentation), he would be over 53 years old. The older people grow, the more their faces resemble their parents’ faces. That this person resembles neither Barack Hussein Obama nor Stanley Anne Dunham is as plain as the nose on Pinocchio’s face. That nobody has the integrity to fend off the history of charging anti-Afro-American racial bias against political opponents of a clown who never actually lived in an Afro-American home suggests Political Correctness run amok!

      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/494799._Dumbth_

    • Laura Burkhart

      Bravo!

  • Michael L Hays

    John Bolton defines “appeasement” negatively as “anything short of war.” Ergo, negotiations to secure Iran’s compliance with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are “appeasement.” It may be that nothing short of the threat or an act of war can dissuade Iran from seeking and acquiring nuclear weapons. However, the attempt to preserve the international regime provided by the NPT and to thereby protect the world from a widespread nuclear arms race, with its great risk of nuclear war among countries inexperienced with responsible management of a nuclear arsenal, is a chance for peace. Iran’s violations can always be opposed by force of arms, but force of arms, especially likely nuclear arms, should not be the first recourse of American policy.

    • In reply to Michael L. Hays:

      Michael, right here above in your comment, you tendentiously allege that John Bolton defines “appeasement” as “anything short of war.” Those are the exact words you claim, in quotation marks, as Bolton’s own. But truth be told, that precise phrase “anything short of war” appears nowhere in the current Bolton article. That you would so falsely attribute to Bolton a fake quotation is telling. Nowhere in the present article does Bolton literally say that “anything short of war” is appeasement. Nor would I accept the interpretation that, taken together, the general tenor of Bolton’s article amounts to substantially saying that anything short of war is appeasement. That’s just your own highly subjective, partisan appraisal which you attempt to dress up with a bogus Bolton quotation.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      The point, of course is that if there must be war, it must not be a nuclear one.

  • Sean

    I was wondering who would write something this stupid. Not surprised it was John Bolton.

    • Freonpsandoz

      Bolton isn’t stupid at all. Neither were Cheney, Netanyahu & Co. who pushed the US into the Iraq war. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the capability people like Bolton have to start a war with Iran.

      • zadimel

        Your allegation that Netanyahu “pushed the US into the Iraq war” is nonsense. Israel warned the US well before we sent troops to Iraq that it was not the problem – Iran was! Discuss facts not uninformed opinion.

    • stuart

      Those who refuse to acknowledge history are…..”stupid”

    • Laura Burkhart

      Sad!

  • Israel in the family of nations.
    ===============================================
    I do not know another nation on earth which since its
    founding, less than seventy years ago, had to sacrifice 23,000 soldiers.

    I do not know another nation on earth without recognized borders.
    I do not know another nation on earth whose population
    lives under a perpetual emotional strain.
    I do not know another nation on earth threatened to be wiped off the map.

    I do not know another nation on earth so threatened by boycotts all over the world.
    I do not know another nation on earth where winners tend to lose wars.
    I do not know another nation on earth which provides its own enemy with
    water, electricity, food, weapons, and medical treatment.

    I do not know another nation on earth where guests on official visits utter
    disrespectful and offensive words.
    But I also don’t know another nation on earth which has recorded so many miracles.

    Imagine a helpless, naked Jew at the gas ovens facing a Nazi official, who thinks he
    will get rid of the “Jewish cancer”, get rid of this unique phenomenon of 2,000 years.

    Could that helpless, naked Jew imagine that in 50 years
    other Jews will be flying F-16’s in the skies over Israel ?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel ‘s
    population today would be nine times that of 1948, the year of the state’s creation?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is much happier than all the European countries?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel has the highest production of scientific
    publications per capita in the world?

    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel has the highest
    worldwide publication of new books?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the only nation which began the
    XXI century with a net gain in the number of trees?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel has with largest number of chess
    grandmasters per capita of any city in the world?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the nation whose academics produce
    more scientific papers per capita than anywhere else in the world?

    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the nation
    with the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the country which, in proportion to
    its population, with the largest number of startup companies in the world?
    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the country with the highest
    percentage in the world of home computers per capita?

    Could that helpless Jew imagine that Israel is the nation with the
    largest immigrant-absorbing model on earth?
    Unfortunately, you will not find Israel ‘s goodness and superiority in the media (also Israeli),
    because it does not fit in with the stereotype of the colonialist Zionist occupier.
    In the world’s consciousness, the word ” Israel “ must be equated with fear.

    Israel just came out of another war against terrorists whose
    value is less than that of animals.
    Do you know of any animal species sheltering behind its own children?

    But the Jewish State, despite its media, its cynical politicians,
    establishment, once again showed the world it is the best humanity has to offer.

    This hope is impressed in the faces of Israel ‘s fallen soldiers, its
    wounded an injured soldiers. In those faces there is joy de vivre, not sadness or hatred.

    Terrorists and their Western appeasers want to destroy Israel because it is a light unto the nations.

    The only one in the world in which we live.

    • Freonpsandoz

      I was in agreement with you until I read the part about Israel’s opponents in Gaza being “terrorists whose
      value is less than that of animals.” That sort of dehumanizing racism is sad to see in 2015. It is even sadder to see coming from Jews, who have suffered so much victimization by that sort of thinking for ages.

    • antony

      can you immagine giving such species anoter chance to exist?

    • Yehudah

      Baruch Ha Shem

    • To : D J Draiman, thank you, your summery is spot on and thanks to John Bolton , his article is also spot on. He’s critics are imbeciles .

    • Elere

      may God of Israel increase your knowledge and life in Jesus name. Amen

    • Mitchell Guzik

      Outstanding synopsis

    • Laura Burkhart

      What precious true words. Unlike propoganda, much of what we hear in liberal media, do not these words bring joy!! Thank God for YJ Draiman!

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