MIDEAST MIRROR 14.07.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
Israeli newspapers were in something of a limbo on Tuesday morning, after the long-awaited nuclear deal between Iran and the six Western powers was put on hold on Monday. Nonetheless, all of them lead with the latest news from Vienna, where – after a marathon negotiating session lasting to the small hours – word finally came that an agreement had been reached.
According to the very partial details that have emerged at this time, the deal includes an extension of the United Nations weapons embargo on Iran, which will continue for the next five years. In addition, Reuters reports that, should the Islamic Republic break their side of the deal, UN sanctions could be restored within 65 days.
In his first statement following the Vienna announcement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the deal was 'a bad mistake of historic proportions.' Other Israeli ministers were also lining up on Tuesday morning to condemn the deal.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) described the deal as, 'a historic capitulation agreement of the West to the axis of evil led by Iran. The consequences of the agreement in the foreseeable future are very serious, Iran will continue to spread terror and it will metastasize everywhere, continue to stoke the flames in the Middle East, and worst of all make a huge step towards being a nuclear threshold state.' She went on to say that, 'the State of Israel will work via all diplomatic means to try to prevent the ratification of the agreement.'
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) also responded to the deal, saying 'Iran today received a license to kill, and it must be revoked before it is too late.' According to Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud), 'the only thing that is certain about the deal with Iran is that it won't be upheld and Iran will continue nuclear development threatening the peace of the entire world.' Science Minister Danny Danon (Likud) looked to the future following the arrangement. 'This is a dangerous agreement for the state of Israel and the entire free world,' he said. 'The funds that will flow to Iran will fuel first of all the terror on the streets of Jerusalem, Washington and London.'
Despite the belligerent rhetoric from Israeli politicians, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Israel appears to have reluctantly accepted the inevitability of an Iranian nuclear agreement and is now focusing its efforts on stopping the deal's approval in Congress. 'The assumption is that there'll be an agreement,' an Israeli official said and Netanyahu views the U.S. Congress as a 'last line of defense against a bad deal.'
Israel's diplomats were instructed to put an emphasis on the loopholes in the agreement, including concessions made on the number of centrifuges Iran is allowed to keep, research and development, the mechanism of supervision and most importantly, concessions made on Tehran's military program. 'We'll put an emphasis on Iran's conduct - the burning of flags, not meeting their commitments,' the official said. Israel, he said, will warn Congress that 'within 10 years, Iran will have a short nuclear breakout time, and until then it'll continue funding terrorism using the billions it'll get.'
In other news, settler-run news service Arutz 7 reports that leaders of the settler movement claim that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told them Monday night that settlement development has effectively been frozen. The settlers claim the prime minister told them during a tense meeting that, 'the settlements can no longer be developed and we must preserve that which exists.'
Following the meeting, the Yesha Council, which represents the settler movement, issued a scathing statement that, 'a government that does not build loses its right to exist.' The council rejected assertions that a halt to construction would help preserve existing settlements. 'The right way to protect the settlement project is only through development and construction. The best defense is offense.'
The head of the Har Hebron Regional Council, Yohai Damari, also issued a statement according to which 'the prime minister stated his intent to halt the settlement initiative.' Damari said such action would 'desperately hurt many communities.' Both the Yesha Council and Damari called on government ministers to prevent a construction freeze. According to Israel Hayom, however, sources in the Likud have denied that Netanyahu said that there is a settlement construction freeze in place
Elsewhere on the Palestinian front, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on Palestinians in Gaza with knowledge of two missing Israeli civilians to provide information about their possible whereabouts and conditions. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday the secretary-general was also calling for prompt action to facilitate their safe return to their families. Dujarric said Ban 'underscores the responsibility of all parties to protect and respect the rights of civilians,' and will continue to closely monitor developments.'
POST-AGREEMENT POLITICS: Writing in Israel Hayom, Zalman Shoval comments on the possible ramifications for Israel of efforts to thwart the safe passage of the Iranian nuclear agreement through the U.S. Congress.
"Even though the official and formal completion of negotiations between Iran and the six world powers is delayed, the principles of the understandings between the sides have been finalized. U.S. President Barack Obama wants to present his agreement with Iran as his main diplomatic legacy. The motivation for an agreement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program is his desire to bring Iran back into the regional geopolitical equation so that a new balance of power is created between Tehran and Saudi Arabia and to find some kind of answer to the ever-growing rift between the Shiite bloc (headed by Tehran) and the Sunni bloc (under the leadership of Riyadh). In other words, the United States will balance its contacts with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt with an equally close relationship with Iran. The Obama Administration also hopes that a nuclear agreement with Iran will bolster moderate forces inside Iran – despite the fact that many experts predict that it will have exactly the opposite effect.
Washington is ignoring the fact that, by bolstering the standing of Iran militarily, economically and politically, it will almost certainly advance the Islamic Republic's goal of regional hegemony. Washington also hopes – although, at this stage, has not said so out loud – that Iran will spearhead the struggle against ISIS; in any case, assuming a role of this kind is exactly in keeping with the goals of the Iranian leadership, which sees ISIS as a tool in its regional aspirations. One Iranian leader bragged recently that his country already controls four capital cities in the region – Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana'a. Why, then, should it not have the opportunity to complete the set? Needless to say, Washington is totally ignoring the fact that Iran has declared on many occasions that one of its goals is to destroy the State of Israel and the fact that Iran is the main supporter and perpetrator of terrorist actions across the globe.
The Vienna agreement not only puts Congressmen and Senators in a tight spot, it makes life uncomfortable for presidential candidates too – especially Hillary Clinton. She was secretary of state for four years under Obama and it was on her watch that clandestine contact with the Iranians was resumed. The Republicans, led by Jeb Bush, will not hold back on their criticism of the agreement, but Clinton, of course, does not want to alienate the president, since she would benefit greatly from his open support during the election campaign. So she's walking on eggshells; on the one hand, she says that she very much hopes there will be an agreement, but insists that even a nuclear deal will not solve all of the issues related to Iran's nuclear program in one fell swoop. Even if we should view Clinton's behavior through the prism of an election, it cannot be ignored entirely, since there have been indications in the past that she does not share the foreign policy vision of President Obama.
Prof. Michael Mandelbaum – the director of the American Foreign Policy program at Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert on U.S. nuclear policy – recently leveled harsh criticism against the concessions that have been made to the Iranians. Writing in the prestigious The American Interest journal in April, he wrote that, 'The only certain way to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons is to destroy its facilities for doing so.'
Israel, of course, does not need convincing that this is a bad and dangerous agreement. However, although Israel has conducted, under the supervision of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a largely successful campaign to warn the international community and American officials of the danger posed by the Iranian nuclear program, it needs to open a new chapter now. The goal: to nix the safe passage of the agreement through Congress and, if not to convince U.S. lawmakers to reject it, then at least to add some additional checks and balances. Israel, therefore, is now facing considerations and choices that will not only have an impact on the Iranian nuclear program, but also on relations with the United States – both in general and in terms of the Palestinian issue.
Whether Israel gets what it really wants, that is, for Congress to reject the agreement outright, or whether it is approved, we can certainly expect some kind of backlash from the Obama Administration. The question is how Jerusalem should act, given the political and security ramifications of whatever diplomatic, political or other actions it decides to take. These ramifications will no doubt be topmost in the prime minister's mind – and let's not forget that this prime minister has put Iran front and center of his manifesto – alongside the understanding that even once the deal with Iran is in place, Israel will need to be in close contact with the United States and the European Union."
FIVE COMMENTS: Writing on the NRG website, Amir Rapaport weighs in on the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers – and reveals that not everyone in the Israeli defense establishment opposes it.
"Details of the nuclear agreement that is about to be signed between Iran and the six world powers has yet to be published, but the Israeli prime minister and his defense minister have already declared it is a mistake of historical significance. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, here are five facts – some more familiar than others – about the agreement that will change the face of the Middle East and possibly the entire world.
1. The agreement is full of holes, like a Swiss cheese. Details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but already the giant holes it contains are well known, and not only through Israeli eyes. For example, the agreement does not include supervision of the nuclear facility in Parchin, where Iranian scientists are engaged in the adaptation of nuclear technology to military capabilities; a nuclear 'atomic' bomb, in fact. Iran could make progress in producing the components of the bomb and its missile program, and could break out with its completed nuclear program whenever it sees fit.
In addition, the agreement leaves over 30,000 centrifuges in Iranian hands, for them to use in due course. The agreement in not open ended and that is a problem too. Assuming that the Iranians will uphold all their obligations under the agreement, they will be able to return to the nuclear program in the next decade.
The Iranians are getting an immediate and significant removal of the sanctions. Chances are that the agreement will receive Congressional approval within 60 days. Even if it will not be approved on the first ballot, President Barack Obama would use his right of veto – and then a 2/3 majority would be required in order to prevent the approval of the agreement. That will not happen.
2. Israel did not really affect the talks. In the past, the Israeli involvement led by Yuval Steinitz was relatively profound. In recent months, however, Israel has been excluded from the negotiations by the U.S. – it was not exposed to most of the details regarding the agreement, and its influence was marginal.
3. Not everyone in the Israeli defense establishment opposes the deal. It is important to know that there are many voices within the Israeli defense establishment who argue that the agreement is merely the lesser evil for Israel, and that it would keep the Iranians away from obtaining a nuclear bomb far better than can be achieved through an air strike, which would postpone it for three years maximum. The same voices claim that using today's advanced intelligence means; it will be possible to track any deviation from the terms of the agreement, which will cause the Iranians an international problem or give Israel justification for a military attack. This is a minority opinion that is not heard in public, because the prime minister and the defense minister are the exclusive spokesmen for Israel's official position that the continuation of sanctions without an agreement is far superior to the bad agreement that is about to be signed.
4. The nuclear agreement brings the war with Iran closer. Stranger things have happened. After all, the determination of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to reach an agreement with Adolf Hitler in Munich in September 1938 did not prevent the outbreak of the Second World War one year later.
Even if the comparison is exaggerated, the agreement paradoxically creates a situation that is more explosive than the continuation of sanctions without an agreement. Attempting to prove to the world that Iran is continuing its military nuclear program despite the agreement will be a priority for Israeli intelligence in the coming years. If such evidence is found, the West under the leadership of a new American president will be required to determine whether they will attack Iran, or that Israel will recognize a legitimate reason to attack on its own.
5. The arms race has begun. Even if there will be no attack on Iran, the implications of the agreement are the efforts made by countries like Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey and Egypt in the long run, to reach their own nuclear bomb as a counterweight to Iran. The Iranians, for their part, will exploit the lifting of sanctions for defense procurement deals totaling no less than $30 billion, mainly with Russia. The U.S. will 'compensate' the Gulf countries with transactions of tens of billions of dollars to the delight of its defense industries and throw some sweeteners in Israel's direction, too, as a counterweight to the weapons the Arab countries will receive. Israel, however, will have to increase its defense budget, in light of the arms race that this peace agreement will spark."
A CAPITAL IDEA: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yoaz Hendel says that a proposal to introduce the death penalty for terrorists has effectively been shelved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – without any serious discussion of the matter.
"Let's start with the bottom line: Israel will not pass a law mandating the death penalty for terrorists. The conclusions of the committee that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set up will be ignored, even if the original proposer of the bill – Sharon Gal – is a member of the panel, along with a whole host of other vocal Facebook warriors. If the report that the not-yet-formed committee eventually produces recommends the imposition of the death penalty, someone will simply forget to publish those recommendations. And if the recommendations are somehow published, the government will simply ignore them. If it doesn't, the bill will fail to get past the ministerial legislation committee. This was its fate from the moment that it was launched as a trial balloon for media consumption.
Sharon Gal did not invent capital punishment. Even Netanyahu spoke about introducing the death penalty after the completion of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal. The moment that the issue faded from the public agenda, however, he stopped talking about it. Gal can take some comfort from the coverage that his bill got in the media. But anyone who hopes for a serious discussion of the issue, followed by a decision one way or the other, should not hold his breath.
Here is a summary of the problem: our politicians take a serious issue and turn it into a media issue. Sometimes their declarations lead to the establishment of a committee that will not influence anything. After a year or two, the whole issue is forgotten and all that remains in the national memory is a joke. They are serious in their intentions, but every time they raise a weighty issue for discussion, the rest of the country treats them like some political parody lifted straight from the script of 'Yes, Minister.' In one episode of the Israeli version of that classic British comedy, Likud members put forward a proposal for the annexation of Judea and Samaria, only to get cold feet when they realized that there's a good chance their proposal will be adopted.
Reality becomes parody; whether it's about the annexation of the Jordan Valley, the death penalty for terrorists, the Levy Report into the legality of the settlements or the nation-state bill. Whenever there's a serious issue on the table, you can count on someone to convert it into sound bites, declarations, committee and God knows what else.
I am in favor of capital punishment for terrorists, but not just terrorists. Why? Because it's right and moral. A terrorist who kills innocent people as part of a national struggle deserves to be executed. I do not believe that it will deter others, but at least it will prevent anyone feeling that they have missed an opportunity the next time that there's a prisoner exchange deal on the table. We owe it to those who oppose the death penalty to answer their criticism. They argue that it is a cruel punishment; that it is impossible to determine clear criteria for the imposition of the death penalty and, of course, they say that there would be ramifications if Israel were even to use the death penalty. The problem is that there is no one with whom to hold this discussion.
I believe that it is possible to determine when and how the death penalty should be imposed; if we are insufficiently expert in the matter, we can study countries like the United States and learn from their experience. To those who argue that we need a debate on the morality of capital punishment, I would say this: there is no difference between killing a terrorist during an operation and killing a terrorist as part of the system of punitive measures that are at our disposal.
We also need to address the claim that Israel's military courts already have the power to impose the death penalty but that they deliberately do not use it. In order for a military court to impose the death penalty, the legal team must comprise a lawyer who holds at least the rank of lieutenant colonel. The IDF, however, makes sure that in the most sensitive cases, the highest-ranking officer on the legal team is a major – in order to prevent the judges from imposing the death penalty. This is what is happening right now in the trial of the terrorist accused of killing a police officer on the eve of the Passover holiday. The suspect was one of the prisoners released as part of the Shalit exchange deal. His execution would have prevented another murder.
When it comes to discussing the imposition of the death penalty, there are philosophical, moral, legal and diplomatic issues that need to be discussed. However, no one in the government has any intention of asking or answering these tough questions. When it is clear that no such law will be passed, why bother discussing the issue? The most that proponents of the bill can hope for is to make some headlines.
The State of Israel does not have a constitution or a Basic Law that defines it as a Jewish and democratic state. We demand that the international community recognize us as such, but we have failed to pass a law to that effect. The same is true regarding the legal ramifications of construction over the Green Line. No one knows what's legal and what's illegal. It's also the case when it comes to punishing terrorists – irrespective of the death penalty. So what are we left with? Short-lived bills from people like Sharon Gal."
GRAY AREAS: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yifat Erlich says that IDF soldiers should enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for their actions during the heat of battle.
"Soldiers and officers serving in the IDF should go into the field of battle safe in the knowledge that their country is providing them with a legal Iron Dome and that they have full immunity from criminal charges. Our Knesset members enjoy this privilege, even though they are not endangering their lives for us and even though they do not have to deal with an insane reality in which the choice is not between good and bad, but between bad and terrible.
IDF soldiers are the Israeli people's emissaries and, far too often, they pay the ultimate price. Therefore, they deserve special protection. It is immoral and unacceptable that judges, who sit in comfortable offices and who do not know the complexity of any given situation, pass judgment on decisions that were made in the heat of battle. It is immoral to send soldiers into a terrible battle and then to accuse them of criminal activity.
Lawmakers' immunity from prosecution is not absolute and neither should that be of IDF soldiers. In extreme cases, the immunity should be lifted. Any soldier accused of looting, for example, would not enjoy immunity from prosecution. Similarly, any patently illegal act – such as deliberately targeting civilians or shooting when the soldier's life is not in danger – should be prosecuted. Any other case, which falls into the gray area of poor judgment should be investigated and examined within the framework of military justice. If the soldier in question exercised poor judgment, he can be disciplined, demoted or kicked out the army – but should not face criminal charges.
The case of Lieutenant Colonel Neria Yeshurun – who ordered his troops to bombard a clinic in the Gaza suburb of Shujai'iya in honor of Captain Dima Levitas, who was killed a day earlier by shots fired from the same clinic – is a perfect example of an incident that falls in the gray area. This would appear to be a case of poor judgment and not a deliberate attempt to harm civilians. In addition, it is beyond question that, while operating inside Shujai'iya, IDF soldiers' lives were at risk every single moment. Firing shells at a clinic that had been used to shelter terrorists who killed IDF soldiers is an example of the impossible dilemma into which we send our soldiers. But the dilemma was created by Hamas, which fired shots from within the clinic, not by Neria Yeshurun."
OBAMA VS. NETANYAHU: Writing in Haaretz, Chemi Shalev comments on the battle that is about to be waged in the United States over the Iranian nuclear deal – and warns that Israel stands to lose from any clash between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu views Iran as an incorrigible Great Satan hell-bent on regional hegemony and the destruction of Israel. President Barack Obama sees Tehran as a malevolent Little Satan, but one that can still be redeemed. This – rather than the timing of sanctions, the quantity of centrifuges or the quality of inspections – is the main reason for the impending apocalyptic political war that is destined to break out between Israel and the United States when a nuclear agreement is signed.
The fighting is supposed to be restrained: Both sides seem to have too much to lose. Netanyahu cannot afford a total rupture of his ties to an American administration that still has 18 months in power. Obama has no wish to risk an unprecedented breach, not only with Jerusalem, but with many American Jews who support the Democrats as well. But as the cliché has it, one knows how a war starts but not how it ends, especially for two leaders for whom failure is not an option.
Of course, Netanyahu honestly believes that the nuclear deal reportedly being concluded in Vienna strengthens Iran, brings it closer to a nuclear bomb, rewards terror and destabilizes the Middle East. But he also knows that after being denied influence on the content of the nuclear deal and failing to block it, after poisoning relations with Obama and the American left and putting all his money on Republicans and Evangelicals, losing in the expected campaign in Congress could be one flop too many, even for supporters at home. As he proved with his incendiary exhortations against Israeli Arabs on Election Day, Netanyahu’s self-control tends to dissipate when defeat stares him in the face.
Obama is just as genuinely convinced that an agreement with Iran will contribute to world peace, serve American interests and even strengthen Israel’s security. But he knows full well that his international stature, his personal prestige and his historical legacy will be severely tarnished if Congress rejects his Iran deal. After six years of acrimony, tension and a dangerous accumulation of bad blood, Obama and his advisers would probably rather die than see Netanyahu and his allies in Congress and Las Vegas emerge victorious with wide smiles on their faces.
The 2016 presidential campaign pours tons of highly flammable enriched fuel on this already simmering core. The Republican candidates – all 15 of them, with the possible exception of Rand Paul – may disagree on many issues, but they are united in their admiration for Netanyahu and their disdain for Obama. They will no doubt use the Iran deal in their campaign speeches and in the upcoming GOP presidential debates to bash Obama and, through him, Hillary Clinton as well, during the 60 days now allotted to Congress to reject it. Republicans might even view such a rebuke as a potential game-winning grand slam on their way to the White House.
The problem is that, just like Netanyahu, Republicans often allow their antipathy towards Obama to cloud their judgment, causing them to bite off more than they can chew. Just as Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March brought many straying Democrats back to the fold, a coordinated GOP onslaught on Iran could backfire, uniting the party behind Obama and deterring even those Democrats who don’t like the Iran deal or are wary of their pro-Israeli donors. The last thing they will want to face is angry primary voters from the newly militant Democratic left who may not take kindly to Democratic lawmakers seen as sabotaging their chances of keeping the White House in 2016.
Of course, it’s hard to forecast the aftermath of such a total and divisive confrontation. Will things quickly go back to normal – or will the earth remain scorched for many years to come? Netanyahu tends to forget, unfortunately, that the two sides to this conflict aren’t equal: the U.S. will ultimately shrug off any setback. Israel, on the other hand, could come up empty: It could lose the campaign in Congress and alienate half of America at the very time that it has to deal with a resurgent Iran fortified by what Jerusalem considers to be a dangerous agreement.
The only thing that seems even scarier is for Israel to emerge victorious. If Congress stops the deal, humiliating the president while alienating the Democrats, the international coalition that stood up to Iran will fall apart and Tehran will get a carte blanche to race towards a bomb, this time with many frustrated onlookers silently applauding."
DISASTROUS SUCCESS: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Seth Perelman comments on the historical background to the United States' 'disastrous' foreign policy in the Middle East.
"When Bob Dylan sang, 'There’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all,' he might well have described America’s foreign policy. Before President Obama’s historic errors come to their disastrous conclusion, it might be worthwhile to look back along the path that led us here. It begins long before Obama’s presidency, back in the days when Great Britain ruled a global empire.
By juggling the interests and intentions of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, Great Britain sought to control the Middle East in the 20th century. The British Foreign Ministry’s policy was termed the Triad and was somewhat successful for a time. After the Suez Crisis, when Britain abdicated its prerogatives 'East of Suez' in favor of the United States, the Triad nevertheless remained a policy touchstone. Recently and in essence, Turkey has assumed Iraq’s erstwhile place in the three-legged stool upon which the U.S. State Department continues precariously to balance America.
Originally a notion springing from Metternich’s Europe, this Triad redux like its immediate British antecedent is predicated on the idea that a balance of power in a region assures dynamic stability among the would-be hegemons and allows an outside power leverage with respect to them. In theory, such influence would permit the outside power to rule the region indirectly as it judiciously shifts its support among them. While a brilliant idea in the abstract, the problem with actually trusting such a three-legged stool to bear one’s weight is that its legs are frequently not of equal length and strength. Predictably the stool tips over and its former occupant is then, well, overturned.
The U.S. would be quite unwise to trust its weight to the tripod that it has tried to foster and to preserve in the Middle East. There are a number of reasons for this inadvisability: Regional balances of power, whether in Metternich’s Europe or Obama’s Middle East are more often than not inherently dynamic and thus unstable. It is only when the parties involved seek stability despite conflicting national interests that such arrangements tend to a balance of power. More often that is not the case.
Each party seeks to increase its power to the point of predominance or to switch its alliances so as to protect itself from such an ascendant power. The arms races, geopolitical conflicts and shifting alignments that result are all relatively well predicted by coalition theory. The worst and not uncommon case is a region at war, thousands or (given a nuclear Iran and its stated intentions) millions of deaths. That’s a rather shaky foundation on which to sit.
When serious and potentially decisive imbalances in power occur, then consistent with indirect rule, the outside power must intervene to restore the equilibrium and to deter regional actors from further attempts to gain a decisive advantage. The British followed this course on a number of occasions, as did George H.W. Bush in the first Gulf War. Nowadays, however, there is little likelihood that America has the stomach or even the assured wherewithal for serious intervention.
Sadly, that is the takeaway from the pathetic 'deal' it would strike with Iran conceding eventual nuclear status to the Islamic Republic, touching off an arms race in the region, raising the possibility of nuclear war and, again, abiding millions of deaths.
That raises questions of morality that foreign affairs realists of various stripes may find quaint. In theory, those nations around the periphery of and within the area delineated by the Triad find themselves a battleground for regional conflict. This has already become all too clear in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Yemen, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain. The suffering of these peoples and the threat to their societies represent a moral failure of the Triad Policy and one to which it has proven largely indifferent. It views these conflicts as opportunities, not tragedies.
The U.S. has also been remarkably unsupportive of democratic movements in the region; in Turkey, Iran and, until far too late, Syria. Such movements might have undermined and ultimately replaced more or less aggrandizing regimes. In turn, that might have reduced the level of conflict in the region and quite possibly the needs of its actors for American intervention and/or assistance. Until that happy day, however, it would have alienated regimes on whom the U.S. fancies it can otherwise exert influence. Where the choice was between democracy and national interest, as defined by the Obama administration, America has repeatedly preferred an amoral policy in the Middle East.
As Natan Sharansky recently pointed out in The Washington Post, such an abdication of morality has real political consequences. The U.S. will find it increasingly difficult to persuade potential sympathizers in other nations that it views democracy as a universal entitlement rather than as its own exceptional good fortune. Eventually it will also find it extremely difficult to mobilize opinion and to motivate self-sacrifice among Americans too. Having surrendered the moral high ground, such is the loss of credible principle at home and in the rest of the world.
Finally, not only has the marketplace for ideas like democracy become globalized, so too has the power of even regional hegemons. Followers of Metternich and later those in the British Foreign Ministry could not have foreseen that their theories would no longer be workable in such a world.
There are no longer merely regional players. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, satellite platforms, nuclear weapons, cybernetic warfare have permitted regional hegemons to mount global campaigns as well. North Korea and Iran are the most obvious examples. The upshot is that the stakes for those who would play with balances of power are now intercontinental and incalculably higher.
We are left with the conclusion that the Triad in its current incarnation is an outmoded, amoral, and doomed imperialist policy. The U.S. would be wise to abandon it and instead return to its opposition to aggression through collective security and to its occasionally muddled commitment to democracy. Perhaps America could once again credibly articulate and ultimately aspire to achieve international ideals, but that may be too much to hope."
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