Iran not a “serious threat”?

posted at 9:15 am on May 19, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama gave an interesting description of Iran and the threat it poses to the United States and our national interests at an appearance in Oregon last night. “They don’t pose a serious threat to us in the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us,” Obama told a cheering audience, explaining why he doesn’t think we need to worry about “tiny” countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. Obama also displays a weird sense of history when he suggests that the Berlin Wall fell because we engaged Mikhail Gorbachev:

Wow. Where to begin with this silliness?

Let’s start with the Soviet Union. We talked with the Soviet Union because they also had nuclear weapons. Obama seems to forget that the entire point of our Iran policy is to prevent being put in the position of having to cut deals with a terrorist-supporting, radical Islamist non-rational state. When the enemy already has the capability of destroying you several times over, negotiations are needed to keep one side from initiating a war. Only an idiot would think that the negotiations intended on disarming the Soviets, or they us. The same dynamic applies to our engagement with Mao Zedong and Red China; Mao was smart enough to hold himself out as a potential partner in a power balance against the Soviets.

The Soviet Union collapsed economically; they did not just decide to capitulate. The Berlin Wall did not fall as a result of negotiations, but because the regime propping it up ceased to exist. Why did the Soviet Union collapse? Because Ronald Reagan won an economic war with Moscow, forcing it to spend more and more and falling further and further behind. The Strategic Defense Initiative provided the coup de grace to the Soviets, who knew they could never match us in missile defense, and tried negotiating an end to the economic war instead, with disastrous results.

That would be the same SDI that Democrats staunchly opposed, sneeringly called “Star Wars” and proclaiming it a threat to peaceful coexistence. They wanted a decades-long series of summits instead of the end of communism, which sounds strikingly familiar in Obama’s speech. Reagan had to fight the Democrats to beat the Soviets, not through presidential-level diplomacy but through economic isolation and military strength.

Listen to Obama talk about the “common interests” supposedly shared between the US and the Iranian mullahcracy. What interests would those be? The destruction of Israel, the denial of the Holocaust, the financial and military support of Hamas and Hezbollah, or the killing of American soldiers in Iraq? And please point out the presidential-level, unconditional contacts that brought down the Berlin Wall. Our “common interests” didn’t exist between the East German and American governments; they existed between the people of East Germany and America in the promise of real freedom. When the Soviet power structure imploded, it was the people of East Germany who tore down the wall, not Mikhail Gorbachev, who watched it happen impotently.

Furthermore, the danger in Iranian nuclear weapons has nothing to do with the capacity of its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations will allow them to partner with any small group of lunatics who want to smuggle a nuclear weapon into any Western city — London, Rome, Washington DC, Los Angeles, take your pick. That’s the problem with nuclear proliferation; it doesn’t take a large army to threaten annihilation any longer, which is why we work so hard to keep those weapons out of the hands of non-rational actors like Iran. The Soviets may have been evil, but they were rational, and we could count on their desire to survive to rely on the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. The Iranians believe that a worldwide conflagration will have Allah deliver the world to Islam, so a nuclear exchange may fall within their policy, and that’s assuming we could establish their culpability for a sneak nuclear attack to the extent where a President Obama would order a nuclear reprisal.

This speech reveals Obama to have no grasp of history, no grasp of strategic implications of a nuclear Iran, and no clue how to secure the nation and handle foreign policy.

Update: Obama suggests that Iran isn’t a real threat because they only spend “1/100th” of what we spend on defense. Not only does that make it sound like the US is a much greater threat to world peace, but it ignores the entire issue of asymmetrical warfare. How much does al-Qaeda spend on its attacks? A lot less than Iran, I’d suspect. Does that make AQ a much lower threat? If so, shouldn’t we be bombing Iran in the next five minutes or so?

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