As we enter the last eight-and-a-half months of their current administration, White House officials and surrogates are in full spin-mode to convince opinion makers (the media), historians and the American and international public that U.S. policy and actions over the past seven-plus years have made the world better:
“We’re fortunate to be living in the most peaceful era in human history,” President Obama said in Germany on April 25 before announcing that he was sending 250 more American special operations forces troops to Syria.
“The world is safer today,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in January after the Iran Nuke deal was announced.
With all due respect, I beg to differ with both the president and the secretary of state.
Historians agree that the most peaceful era in recorded human history was the 200 years between 27 BCE (the reign of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus) and 180 CE … the period of the global “Pax Romana.”
Augustus, otherwise known as Octavian (great-nephew of Julius Caesar), set in motion a new foreign policy for Rome. Until then Rome had been focused on expanding the empire as much as possible. Augustus advocated a shift toward prosperity and pacification, within the borders of the empire.
Ceremonies such as closing the “Gates of Janus” signaled the achievement of world peace, and demonstrated the growing importance of a peaceful existence in the Roman Empire.
The Pax Romana ended abruptly in the year 180, when emperor Marcus Aurelius died and the throne passed to his son Commodus (portrayed by the actor Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 movie Gladiator). Commodus didn’t share all of his father’s ideals and philosophies, so the emphasis on peace went out the window.
Maybe what President Obama meant to say is that this era is at least “as peaceful” as during the Pax Romana…
In the Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels continue to fight the U.S. backed government.
The fighting in Syria rages on. The casualties, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (February 2016 report), are over 470,000 dead and over 1.9 million wounded. 4.6 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half are children. U.S.- and Russia-brokered cease-fire negotiations that started in Geneva last month have broken down, with John Kerry admitting Monday that “Syria’s civil war is in many ways out of control.”
The civil war in Yemen between Saudi-led Sunni forces and Iranian backed Shiite tribes continues unabated, with civilian casualties mounting.
The war against ISIS and al-Qaida has only caused both to surge in popularity, manpower, money, cyber capabilities and sophisticated weapons, while they increasingly launch, or attempt to launch, terror attacks around the world.
Tension between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran has increased exponentially since the Saudis executed a popular Shiite cleric in January. With diplomatic ties cut and growing threatening (and insulting) rhetoric, many analysts believe that war could break out … and could include nuclear weapons.
And that brings me to Secretary Kerry’s disingenuous claim about the world being “safer” after the bad and unenforceable Iran Nuke deal.
Here are just a few official statements made shortly after the sanctions were lifted following a report by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that the U.S., and only the U.S., accepted as a pretext to declare Iran “compliant” with the deal and immediately lift most of the sanctions:
An Iranian nuclear official confirmed Tehran has not halted progress on the nuclear program, which would advance “vigorously,” state-run IRNA reported.
Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, revealed that Iran did not answer all questions about the possible military dimensions of its past nuclear work. This is the actual bomb hardware-making and -testing part of the program. This issue had dominated IAEA meetings, contributed to U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iran and was a major condition for releasing the sanctions. Amano made clear that his report left the question unresolved.
The report “wasn’t black and white,” Amano told reporters outside a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board. Suggesting some questions remain unanswered, he described his report as a “jigsaw puzzle” for which his agency only has “pieces.”
In a statement to the IAEA’s board of governors about the report, Amano said, “We are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
Iran has not come clean about its nuclear weapons program. Not that anyone seriously thought it would.
Amano did not sign off on the report, but neither did he oppose it. He just put it out there.
After the report came out the U.S. State Department suddenly said that the terms of the nuclear agreement were “non-binding” on Iran.
And in a clever move, Iran defined anyone pointing out that it’s not in compliance with the deal as a “violator” of the deal, giving Iran an excuse to pull out. The Iranians knew from the negotiations that Obama needed this deal more than they did, and that he’ll pressure anyone, from the IAEA to Democratic senators, to make it happen and stick, no matter what Iran does.
While Amano keeps warning that Iran has not come clean about its weapons program, the U.S. narrative is that it doesn’t matter because our intelligence is so great that we know all about it anyway. So I guess the next step will be “Who even needs inspections?” Our intelligence is so great…
Saudi-Iranian war buildup
The assumption in the Middle East is that thanks to the ill-advised “deal” Iran is still exactly the same 4-6 weeks from building a bomb or two that it was 18 months ago (unless it has already “broken out” …).
Another widely held belief is that Saudi Arabia is already in possession of two, three or four nuclear warheads, purchased from the only Sunni country that has a known supply, Pakistan.
So, Mr. Kerry — do you still believe that the world is “safer” after the Iran nuke deal?
And Mr. President — do you really want us to believe that we are in “the most peaceful era in human history”?
To paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen in his debate with Dan Quayle: I’ve studied Pax Romana, I understand Pax Romana, and this era is no Pax Romana — not even close.
After U.S. actions and policies over the past seven years, both domestic and international, I believe that the world today is neither better, nor safer.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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