Much has been written about the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. Yet the most ironic aspect of this grant has been overlooked: The person who will be singularly responsible for allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and thus by extension responsible for all of its prospective consequences, is being heralded as the most important current contributor to world peace.
The simple truth has always been and continues to be that, absent a full regime change in Iran, only the use of force stands a chance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And at this point, Iran has no incentive to stop its march toward such weapons as its prospective leverage far outweighs anything it could obtain today by forfeiting such an effort.
Further, regime change must be severe and complete. Even if the recent Iranian presidential election had been awarded to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, as long as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his power structure remain in place, so would the nuclear weapons effort.
The fantasy that severe sanctions upon Iran will change this nuclear priority is as unrealistic as the similar notion that countries such as Russia and China, among others, will assist some international effort to interfere with Iran’s nuclear progress. Only force has the chance of success.
President George W. Bush seemed to understand this, but too much stood in his way. Stigmatized as the “warmonger,” Bush had a difficult time standing alone. Rather, Congress, the State Department, the CIA, to name just a few, all pressured to avoid any application of force against Iran. The Iraq war, right or wrong, provided a convenient excuse to place doubts on our ability to successfully execute an application of force against Iran’s nuclear assets.
But even the war cannot explain the intentional manipulation of public perception generated by the National Intelligence Estimates, State Department pronouncements, efforts to stop real progress toward promoting regime change within Iran, efforts to handcuff Israel’s own actions, as well as rantings by powerful members of Congress, all of which essentially castrated Bush’s ability to generate any political will to confront Iran.
The liberal media was also a major enabler of the dismantling of our national will to ensure that the Islamic Middle East does not acquire nuclear weapons.
From magnifying and attacking Bush’s “axis of evil” designation to the repetition of unsubstantiated “facts” that Iran is harmless and always five to 10 years away from acquiring nuclear weapons capability (much less weaponization), the media effectively stripped the public of any inclination to fear and, hence, to confront Iran.
Enter our new Nobel laureate. Obama masterfully magnified this comfort level and exploited public fears of being perceived as too “war-mongery.” He was able to become the Democratic nominee primarily on the simple notion that he (unlike then-Sen. Hillary Clinton) had opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.
He won the election primarily by trumpeting anti-Bush, anti-war policies and by creating the impression that he would be better able to handle our economic woes than the apparently frazzled Sen. John McCain.
Obama’s weapon was the notion of “engagement.” This word single-handedly perked up the world’s ears by fortifying the fantasy that Iran could be stopped. Obama sold the dream that the proper application of “smart” and “soft” power will cause Iran to voluntarily cease its nuclear program. And who better to apply such tools than the charismatic one himself?
As president, however, Obama now singularly stands for all of the nation’s anti-force inclinations. He is the one to decide whether to attack Iran, whether to stimulate or assist full regime change, whether to hamstring or free Israel to apply its own force.
He is the one who must make the critical assessment as to how much time is left before Iran has reached the point of no return. And he is the one who would have to rally the public to support any such effort.
And this is precisely one of the critical meanings of “change” that Obama craftily sold — that all of the national anti-war leanings are no longer powerlessly strewn across the nation’s institutions but are now consolidated within one man who can ensure they are fulfilled.
Yet, as with any cultlike fantasy, responsibility also lies with the leader. Accordingly, while Obama may experiment with “engagement” and “productive” diplomatic maneuvers, he inherits full responsibility for the results.
Should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, many expect much of the Islamic Middle East to race to obtain equal status. Iran’s leverage over any of its neighbors catapults it to quasi-superpower status, able to extract concessions previously unimaginable.
And armed with nuclear weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to destroy Israel take on a greater likelihood, with all associated horrors.
Should Israel be forced to act militarily and alone, Iran’s threatened retaliation could be extreme, suggesting mass deaths, widespread destruction and crippling oil prices worldwide. Iran, as a religiously ruled country whose leaders value world chaos as a condition precedent to the fulfillment of their particular religious aspirations, is not particularly vulnerable to nuclear deterrence.
None of America’s experience with Cold War-era, mutually assured destruction techniques will be applicable. And, to the extent Iran can be partially deterred, it will come with extreme costs.
It is theoretically possible Obama’s charm may succeed. Such achievement would certainly deserve high accolades, if not serious consideration for the prize — after the fact. It is also possible that Obama may ultimately utilize force against Iran. Perhaps, if successful, he would be worthy of the prize.
Yet, if the prize is to reward peace obtained through strength, Ronald Reagan and even George W. Bush have been astonishingly overlooked.
In every other case, a nuclear Iran means a world repositioned substantially further from any imaginable notion of peace and puts it on a pathway to horrific destruction. It is ironic that the previously most prestigious prize for peace should be offered to a man who might be responsible for such an outcome.
Bill Siegel lives in New York.