President Barack Obama and the Pending Catastrophe of Iran (Part II): When Does Iran Pass the Rubicon?
–Richard E. Vatz
Many citizens, cognizant of the catastrophic consequence of Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons, are observing subtle rhetorical changes in President Barack Obama’s addressing of the issue.
Today (Friday, July 10, 2009), according to a report in Reuters, the president warned Iran that “the world will not wait indefinitely for it to end its nuclear defiance, saying Tehran had until September to comply or else face consequences.”
Using coincidentally the language that this writer recommended he use to describe the Iranian unjustified assault on reform demonstrators, President Obama, again according to Reuters, condemned the “ ‘appalling’ events surrounding Iran’s disputed presidential election and express[ed] solidarity [of G8 leaders] against Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.”
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The president acknowledged what many of his critics have warned: that the Western world could “wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act.”
When precisely is too late? When does Iran’s nuclear weapon development pass the point at which any possible military action by Israel, even in conjunction with the United States, comes too late to permanently degrade the threat? When does President Obama give up on his pleading for negotiations, due to Iran’s disinclination to stop its nuclear program, much less negotiate?
Is President Obama ultimately incapable of taking or supporting a dangerous but necessary military action if it is the only alternative to Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons and provoking a devastating change in the balance of power in the region, a possibly mortal threat to Israel, or, at the very least, a transformative nuclear arms race in the Middle East?
What is President Obama prepared to do regarding North Korea? Is he brilliant, but ultimately just a local politician out of his depth in the critical and complex chess game of international nuclear competition?
Is the United States pressuring China to force North Korea to reverse its nuclear weapons program?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleaded today for amnesty for American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, sentenced to a labor camp by North Korea for illegally entering that country. Through Secretary Clinton they have apologized, and the standoff continues, while North Korea’s nuclear threat continues apace.
This could be a ghoulish strategy which is utilized repeatedly: a nuclear acquisitive country focuses the United States’ attention on the human rights of a couple of innocent citizens, and the major geopolitical threat is put on the back burner until it is too late.
The nuclear proliferation calamity is unlike the economy, which can be blamed on prior administrations and rationalized as always six months away from significant improvement.
The United States could be faced with a fait accompli of two reckless and equally unstable countries, both possessing nuclear weapons. This situation could then lead other equally unstable nations to participate in the most dangerous nuclear arms race the world has yet known.
President Obama: what will you do to prevent this catastrophe? Journalists: will you please ask President Obama when precisely he estimates that Iran will have passed the Rubicon?
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University