Columbia International Affairs Online: Journals

CIAO DATE: 05/2010

From the Publisher

The Journal of International Security Affairs

A publication of:
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs

Volume: 0, Issue: 17 (Fall 2009)

Tom Neumann


Full Text

Negotiations are a good thing, meant to avoid conflict and build understanding. But they do not always do so. Throughout history, negotiations have been used for other means as well-to buy time and gain some kind of political or strategic advantage. Therefore, over time, the concept of negotiations has become wedded to a larger idea, that of "negotiating in good faith." In his day, President Reagan hit upon this point when he announced that it was necessary to "trust but verify" any deal struck with the Kremlin.

Would Reagan have engaged in negotiations with Iran over its development of nuclear weapons capability? Somehow, I seriously doubt it. Even if he had entertained the idea, he would have insisted upon assurances that Iran's work on its program be halted during the negotiations. No trust, no talks.

The approach of the White House today is very different. But upon what does President Obama base his trust of the Islamic Republic? Iran's past behavior? Ahmadinejad's rhetoric? His desire for peace?

Never before has there been less basis for trust. Iranian objectives and intentions are crystal clear-and equally ominous. So what exactly is the Obama Administration doing vis-à-vis Iran? The answer is simple: undoing the philosophical foundation of the Reagan Revolution.

Within the sphere of national security, that dismantlement goes beyond negotiations with Iran to include President Obama's approach to Russia as well. It can also be seen in the economy of big spending and the continued expansion of big government.

Up to now, it has been assumed that Barack Obama was a response to the unpopularity of George W. Bush. In reality, he is the frustrated Left's response to the enduring popularity of the Reagan Revolution. In Obama, the Left, as distinct from liberals, saw an individual that had both the charm and charisma necessary to challenge the Reagan legacy. That was the definition of the "change" then-Senator Obama spoke of so eloquently and so often. And it was Reagan's success, not Bush's failures, that President Obama apologized to the world for.

Obama is learning, however, courtesy of his sagging approval ratings, that Americans want to feel special and be special. They want opportunities to advance by virtue of hard work and ability. They don't want to all be considered equal; they just want equal opportunity to succeed and to enjoy the fruits of that success. They want to have job security and opportunities. They want to be a world power, but to exercise that power compassionately and wisely.

Americans, by and large, like the trappings of wealth, opportunity and national power, which, after all is said and done, is what the Reagan Revolution was all about.