The best word for this American administration may be mercurial. If not, it'll do till a better term emerges to describe its chief executive and master deal maker, Donald J. Trump, who one day is threatening the North Korean regime with fire and fury unless it abandons its nuclear weapons and the next is promising both trade and aid if only it will mend its ways.
Who knows what course it will pursue next? Indeed, this country's foreign policy can be as quixotic as North Korea's. The State Department offers our Iranian adversaries both carrot and stick, and which it will hold out next is anybody's guess.
Before he became this president's national security adviser, mustachioed John Bolton put it in the most direct way: "The behavior and objectives of the [North Korean] regime are not going to change and, therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself." It was as simple as that. But all that was then.
Today is a different story, and who knows what tomorrow's line out of the White House will be? Perhaps not even this American president himself. For greater influence may bring with it only greater doubts about which is the wiser course to follow. At the moment, this country would seem to have a posture when it comes to Iran, but not yet a policy that personifies it.
Foreign-policy sage Walter Russell Meade put it this way in the Wall Street Journal the other day: "As Mr. Trump's North Korea diplomacy has shown, he is capable, for better or worse, of combining sensational threats with extraordinary overtures of peace. He can shift from threatening North Korea with 'fire and fury' one week to promising aid and trade the next. His Iran policy is likely to be at least as dramatic, confusing and hard to predict.'"
It was none other than Barack Obama, our former president, who summed up the objective of any deal with Iran this way: "I think there are hard-liners inside of Iran that think it is the right thing to do to oppose us, to seek to destroy Israel, to cause havoc in places like Syria or Yemen or Lebanon. And then I think there are others inside Iran who think that this is counter-productive. And it is possible that if we sign this nuclear deal, we strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran."
Ri-i-ight. It was Robert Gates, who served as President Obama's secretary of defense during his first term, who explained that pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran "is based on the president's hope that over a 10-year period with the sanctions being lifted that the Iranians will become a constructive stakeholder in the international community. That--as their economy begins to grow again--they will abandon their ideology, their theology, their revolutionary principles, their meddling in various parts of the region." To borrow a dismissive phrase from our friends the British, that's not bloody well likely, isn't it? We wouldn't stake our lives on it, or ask our allies to gamble their own on that happening.
You might as well believe that tigers will give up their teeth and claws, and emerge as tame pussycats. Let it be said that this current administration isn't about to believe any such thing. What do you think, Gentle Reader? Will the tiger forget his stripes and adopt a new wardrobe of spots instead? It takes more than imagination to dream up such a picture; it takes a suicidal impulse.
Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Editorial on 06/17/2018
Print Headline: Enemy of the peace