Barack Obama is pushing for a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran because he believes “the more people interact with open societies, the more they will want to be part of an open society,” according to former NATO ambassador Ivo Daalder (quoted in the Washington Post).
But Obama himself disproves his own belief in the open society.
Critics and even some supporters are baffled by Obama’s eagerness to secure from Iran any deal that pretends to prevent that theocratic tyranny from getting the bomb. But he has essentially let Iran get what it wants—it can continue to enrich uranium and develop ballistic missiles, avoid serious inspections, and not close down key facilities.
It continues its quest for nukes even as it continues to spout its “Death to America” rhetoric, declare that the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable, and support Islamist terrorism and its political proxies throughout the Middle East. This current behavior makes clear that, when armed with nukes, it will be one of the most dangerous regimes in the world. So why is Obama letting Iran continue to prepare for mass murder?
Ambassador Daalder’s remark seems to confirm what many opponents think: that Obama is dangerously naive about the world. He believes that arrogant American foreign policy is the root of most of the world’s problems, and that if America just makes nice, a friendlier world will result. Commentator Charles Krauthammer even suggests that Obama thinks he can make Iran his partner in managing affairs in the Middle East. If Nixon can go to China, he can go to Iran!
This belief is, at best, delusional and, at worse, malicious. But it is important to sort out why.
The best advertisement for the virtues of an open society is to spend time in one. Students from overseas who study in America can take back to their countries an appreciation for the free exchange of ideas and the prosperity that results when entrepreneurs are allowed to follow their visions in a free market. Military officers from other countries who train here can see how an army can remain under civilian control while Constitutional safeguards keep government power in check.
But those virtues will only be appreciated by those individuals who already hold at least some of the corresponding Enlightenment values: a love of life, a respect for individual autonomy, an appreciation for the power of human reason, and a desire for economic prosperity. But many don’t share these values.
Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian on a student scholarship in Colorado, was appalled by the materialism, individualism, the elevated status of women, and the sexual openness in American society. And that was in the America of 1950! On his return to Egypt, he became a leading ideologue in the murderous Muslim Brotherhood.
Osama Bin Laden was from a wealthy Saudi family. He was educated in a Saudi school that had a more modern Western-style curriculum and allowed Western dress. He traveled for vacations in the West. But he founded al Qaeda. The 9/11 terrorists who followed his orders to fly planes into buildings in America were mostly Middle Eastern students studying in Western countries. And the Islamists who’ve carried out attacks in European countries in recent years have mainly been home grown or living in these Western countries for some time.
Islamists don’t fall in love with open societies because they do not share Enlightenment values. Instead of peaceful coexistence with others, they violently force others to adhere to every barbaric prescription of their religious dogma, no matter how much poverty and misery they inflict on the world. And killing anyone who disagrees is central to their dogma.
Further, they refuse to reflect on their values; that is central to their dogmatism. So exposure to the prosperity and peace of open societies will only infuriate them and reinforce their commitment to their dogmas.
And does this mindset not describe Obama? He has spent much of his life in open America. Yet, in a dogmantic pursuit of “equality,” he has made himself the mortal enemy of the entrepreneurs, businessmen, and businesswomen who make everyone wealthy. Never mind that his policies clearly impoverish the very people he claims to be helping.
He has made himself the enemy of the Constitutional checks and balances on government, unilaterally assuming powers not granted to the executive, using the government to punish enemies, all in the name of creating “social harmony.” Never mind that this has made the country become increasingly polarized.
If Obama looks in the mirror and understands his own mindset, he would understand that his belief that Iran will grow kinder and gentler because of interactions with an open America—which Obama is trying to close—is an illusion. But he can’t or won’t. This is why both the nuclear deal with Iran and Obama are dangerous to a peaceful and open world.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.