A Fundamental Misunderstanding

Jeffrey Goldberg drew it out of President Barack Obama in Goldberg’s interview with Obama for a piece in The Atlantic. Unfortunately, Goldberg didn’t pursue it, perhaps because he has the same misconceived notion. The misunderstanding is about Iran; here is the core of the exchange that demonstrates Obama’s error.

Goldberg: Stay with Iran for one more moment. I just want you to help me square something. So you’ve argued, quite eloquently in fact, that the Iranian regime has at its highest levels been infected by a kind of anti-Semitic worldview. …you’ve argued that people who subscribe to an anti-Semitic worldview, who explain the world through the prism of anti-Semitic ideology, are not rational, are not built for success, are not grounded in a reality that you and I might understand. And yet, you’ve also argued that the regime in Tehran—a regime you’ve described as anti-Semitic, among other problems that they have—is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality. So I don’t understand how these things fit together in your mind.

Obama: Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.

There is Obama’s error in all its glory. The “you” here aren’t the Iranian people, they’re the Iranian government leadership, men such as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. The concerns of the Iranian people related to survival or keeping an economy afloat don’t matter. Nor does any concern for power on the part of the Iranian people.

What matters is what matters to those men of the Iranian government—Khamenei, Rouhani, et al. And those men don’t care about the Iranian economy beyond getting the wherewithal to build nuclear weapons. Those men don’t care particularly about their survival or staying in power beyond using those nuclear weapons. Those men have only one goal, and it’s been their goal and that of their predecessors for over 35 years: destroy Israel. And, hopefully, destroy us. It is the men of the Iranian government who say Israel must be wiped from the map; it is Khamenei who demands the destruction of Israel and chants, during negotiations over their nuclear weapons program, “Of course yes, death to America….”

It’s also these men who likely will die in a nuclear attack on Israel and the response to that mass murder, along with too many of the Iranian people. But that’s an outcome devoutly to be wished from Khamenei’s and Rouhani’s perspective: that’s martyrdom and the path to Heavenly glory. Yes, those men are entirely rational, and every move they’ve made has been consistent with attaining their primary goal. A goal and a cost of which Obama has not the first minim of a clue.

It’s going to be a long and dangerous year and a half. And the Democrats’ proposed replacement for after those 18 months has already failed to answer her own three am phone call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *