The saying goes, “Once is an event, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern.” So it goes with the Obama administration’s major foreign policy trophies. The historic accord with Iran, freezing the so-called “axis of evil” nation’s development of nuclear weapons, while also submitting to inspections, is the latest event to fulfill the pattern, preceded by victories in Libya and Syria.
Predictably, Republican opponents of the administration (and even a few Democrats) immediately reacted with a three-part pattern of their own. The deal is either 1) not good enough, 2) a nightmarish hellscape, or 3) it’s a lucky distraction from Obamacare. Realistically, I suppose it’s foolish to expect that the GOP would collectively exclaim, You’re doing great, Mr. President! Huzzah!
Sadly, no, they’re never going to gather at the White House and toss thank-you-notes with little hearts dotting every “i” onto the Resolute Desk. That’s not what they do. Obviously. Instead, they’re doing what they do best: scare-mongering and bumper sticker sloganeering. However, whether the Republican argle-bargle over the Iran deal is a matter of knee-jerking or actual policy disagreement or a combination of both, they’re simply wrong to deny the administration’s record.
Each victory, Libya, Syria and, now, Iran, was achieved without extended military commitments or the loss of a single American soldier. Call me counter-superstitious, but there’s no way this pattern is due to the president and his foreign policy team somehow stuffing their pants with wads of four leaf clovers while wearing the same unwashed socks every day and heavy-petting an arsenal of lucky rabbits’ feet.
Three times is a pattern. They’re doing the foreign policy thing very, very well.
1) In Libya, the president successfully shifted NATO intervention from being an ineffectual no-fly-zone into a strategy that would actually help the rebels while thwarting Qaddafi’s march to Benghazi where another genocide was practically inevitable. The result? Genocide was prevented and Qaddafi was ousted and killed.
2) In Syria, while it appeared military action was inevitable over Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, the Obama team opened a last-minute channel for diplomacy resulting in a deal to entirely disarm Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
3) In Iran, the P5+1 nations, in conjunction with a series of top secret U.S.-Iranian negotiations, reached a deal that will halt the enrichment of uranium and force Iran to accept inspectors on the ground to verify compliance, all in exchange for relaxing some of the economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.
It’s difficult to recall to another modern administration with a pattern this strong — at least this strong without actually going to war. Foreign policy, regardless of what the policy happens to be — diplomatic, bellicose or a combination of the two — is always haunted by downsides and risks. Sure, any one of these successes could eventually unravel or trigger blowback, but the same might be said for punitive military intervention, producing the possibility of an unraveling of stability on top of scores of flag-draped coffins at Dover. Which option makes more sense?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that military intervention can always- or should always be avoided. The military option isn’t an absolute evil as long as it’s executed smartly and quickly. But given the choice, reaching a solution without risking American lives is clearly more desirable.
If a positive result can be achieved without a hot war, why not try?
In Libya, the goal was ousting Qaddafi and preventing genocide. Done. It’s worth noting that this hadn’t been achieved by any president, including Reagan, since 1969. In Syria, the goal was to eliminate the Assad regime’s chemical weapons. Done. In Iran, the goal was to halt the enrichment of uranium leading up to the construction of a nuclear weapon. Done. The process — the “sausage-making” — is not always pretty, nor will everyone agree on process.
But the results are undeniably and irrefutably positive.
By the way, while we’re here, we shouldn’t exclude three other foreign policy successes that don’t necessarily fit the pattern but which ought to be considered monumental successes nevertheless: ending the Iraq war, winding down the war in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Whether you support the administration is irrelevant. Leaving politics at the water’s edge, if even the most overzealous anti-Obama polemicist is at all intellectually honest, they’d have to admit on some level that, while the Obama team’s record isn’t spotless, ending two wars, killing Bin Laden, ousting Qaddafi and signing historic arms deals with two rogue middle eastern nations is, in the absence of bias, unrivaled among other recent administrations.
But no. It’s appeasement, they’re saying. It’s Munich all over again. It’s a Three Stooges movie. And once they’ve moved on from Iran, they’ll reset back to conspiracy-mongering and agitprop about Benghazi/Obamacare/IRS/etc. Because in the face of a substantive pattern of victories in foreign policy, as well as other issue areas, it’s all they’ve got.