Neither an Idiot, nor a Wise Man

President Obama might have reached a rational deal with Iran, but the price-tag, namely: the dissolution of Syria, undermines its hypothesized potential for delivering a more stable and peaceful Middle East.
President Obama might have reached a rational deal with Iran, but the price-tag, namely: the dissolution of Syria, undermines its hypothesized potential for delivering a more stable and peaceful Middle East.

No. President Obama is not an idiot, and the deal that he just reached with Iran over its nuclear program will give the United States much more than it has given up, changing the face of the Middle East in the process. Perhaps, Europe will have in Iran another potential source of natural gas, breaking their reliance on Russia. Perhaps the strategic advantages for the U.S. and Europe are much larger that than whatever compromises they had to make in regard to Iranian ambitions.

Had it not been for that bloody price-tag involved, namely the Syrian tragedy, and that deep-seated penchant for nihilistic idiocy on our part, which allows for ideology, secular and religious, to trump national interest every time there is a conflict between the two, we could have had some reasons for optimism here.

But the price was not simply too high, it was simply not the right price to pay anymore, not for any perceived advantage. Mass slaughter and dislocation on the scale witnessed in Syria were supposed to be a thing of the past. This was the gist of the Never Again promises which have finally culminated in the creation of a widely accepted international legal norm in 2005: Responsibility to Protect. Now that doctrine has been rendered empty ad meaningless, as mass slaughter has once more become a legitimate instrument for pursuing one’s perceived national and/or ideological interests.

Then again, perhaps it was the expectation of ending mass slaughter that has been unrealistic, irrespective of what the majority of world leaders said as they signed R2P. But here lies the problem. You simply cannot take back such a promise anymore, not when it was so loudly and clearly iterated, and not without causing some ripples that will come back to haunt us in few years.

Indeed, few decades ago, people had different perceptions of their sense of humanity, one that allowed for some stratification of the peoples of the world, with unequal value attached to different groups. Now, this thinking is morally condemned, and, at times, it could have some legal repercussions as well. But now that despicable ethos is set to return, the way leading back to it having been paved with the leaders’ of the free world inability or unwillingness to see that they represent far more than the immediate national interests of their electorates and their corporations, that they have come to represent a whole set of values and the people who represent them wherever they be in this world: the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Responsibility to Protect, among similar international legal doctrines. Following the end of Cold War, these were the documents that cried for more effective implementation by the powers that played the critical role in forming and rallying support for them.

With this project now consigned to the dustbin of history, in the name of realism and real politick, national interests, rationality, and even, peace (Peace!), the dark impulses that we tried to channel into more constructive endeavors will return with a vengeance. The blowback from this will take the shape of wider and bloodier conflicts, in comparison to which the Syrian conflict will pale, more dislocation, more refugees, and more terrorism. In time, even the most stable counties in the free world will have to contend with higher levels of violent crimes, and with the existence of ungovernable pockets on their territories.

Futurist and science fiction authors have long speculated about this turn of events, and described them in prophetic details. But their point, at least in the case of the grandmasters, was to warn us, not titillate us, make us numb, or prepare us to embrace such developments as inevitable. But, one way or another, the cynicism of our leaders in the free world, have made the preventable inevitable. In fact, this is one trait that proved to be endemic to their decision-making. In the name of enlightened self-interest, they allowed, even encouraged slaughter, and grew accustomed to confusing pragmatism with amorality.

Yes, as leader of the free world, President Obama is no idiot, but he is no wise man either. In fact, and to our detriment, wisdom has little to do with leadership these days. Many might even believe it to be overrated, as they continue to manage global affairs as a high-tech board-game.