When Henry Kissinger speaks, I listen

By Lynn R. Mitchell

When I was young and watching the political landscape, one of the adults in the room was Henry Kissinger — a foreign policy expert who served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Even then I recognized this man’s importance to our country and listened when he spoke, not to mention the fact that his personal story about immigrating to America is fascinating.

Now 91 years old, Kissinger’s mind is still sharp as he continues to advise on the safety and stability of our country. In today’s Wall Street Journal, he and 94-year-old former Secretary of  State George Shultz, who served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, have co-authored an opinion piece about the current “deal” with Iran. Don’t let their ages fool you. There are times when institutional knowledge and wisdom are badly needed in all circumstances especially in foreign policy, and these men have something to say (see The Iran Deal and Its Consequences). I’m listening.

A warning about the nuclear negotiations:

For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

A warning about Iran’s underhanded negotiations:

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.

While careful to express appreciation for the president and current Secretary of State John Kerry’s involvement in these negotiations, Kissinger and Schultz explain in great detail what needs to take place while asking pertinent questions, and conclude with these words of caution:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order.

Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves.

Duly noted.

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