Reducing Foreign Policy to the Lowest Common Denominator

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“Everything would have been just fine, if only Adolf Hitler hadn’t lied to me.”
—- Neville Chamberlain
The problem with a multilateral approach to foreign policy is that it entrusts governments who do not have the same moral standards that we do, to operate along the same moral lines; it reduces our foreign policy to the lowest common denominator.


This might be alright if there weren’t existential threats to the free world, as we know it. During times like these, however, when a madman in Tehran explicitly threatens a friendly ally, and threatens to destabilize the entire, global balance of power, the urgency of the situation means we do not have the luxury of time for consensus building.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came back from a two day trip to Russia claiming that there was a meeting of the minds between the two nations on the necessity of global sanctions on Iran.  On Wednesday, October 14, the Secretary of State said “I’m very pleased about how supportive the Russians have been in what has become a united, international effort.”


However,  that same day, according to a story on Reuters, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that talk of sanctions against Iran is “premature”, and “might intimidate the Iranians.”


This is of course after we have abandoned the airtight pledge for a missile defense shield over Poland and the Czech Republic, in order to extract a consensus from Russia over Iranian sanctions. Throughout the Czech Republic and Poland, the press continuously reports profound feelings of betrayal and abandonment by the United States.


Foreign policy by virtue of a popularity contest or by cozying up to despots and dictators is simply not the way to lead. That is why it took the Obama administration eleven full days before saying a word of support for the dissidents after the June elections in Iran. Three of those beautiful young dissidents have just been sentenced to death this week. These are three of one hundred forty show trials that are currently occurring in Tehran. This is occurring at a time when the State Department has decided to obliterate then five year old Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center. One would do well to ask why, at a time when it is precisely most needed.


However, the American people seem to be much wiser than our leadership when it comes to Iranian game-playing. According to a poll by the respected Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, while most Americans (63 percent) support direct U.S.-Iran negotiations to try to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, 64 percent nonetheless predict it fruitless.  And while 78 percent would approve of tougher economic sanctions, only 56 percent have faith they would work – that is, force Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.  If diplomacy fails, 61 percent would support a military strike.  Most tellingly, only 24 percent of supposedly war-weary Americans believe avoiding military conflict is more important than Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.


And our Congress, reflecting the innate wisdom of the people they represent,  overwhelmingly passed the Iranian Sanctions Enabling Act, by a bipartisan vote of 414 to 6, authorizing state and local governments to divest from countries that invest in Iran’s petroleum and natural gas sector.


The people of America and their representatives have an appreciation that we may be living in a Lockian world of Western liberties here in America, but that, unfortunately there are bad actors on the world’s stage, who are acting out a Hobbesian script. They have the wisdom to know that we should not be deceived by the lines that these bad actors occasionally memorize with the effort to seduce us into believing that they have malign intentions.

There is simply too much at stake here to place our trust in winning the consensus of despots and dictators. Not with so many centrifuges spinning, and time quickly running out.




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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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