The April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico provides a parallel lesson on how to conduct U.S. foreign policy.
An oil rig explosion there triggered the largest accidental marine spill in petroleum industry history, releasing oil pollutants into the environment for three months until the well from which they flowed was capped. But, what if BP’s efforts had focused exclusively on containing the oil spewing out of the well rather than on capping it? Obviously, such an approach — attacking the effects rather than the source of the spill — would have been foolish, still leaving us with continuing spillage eight months later.
The key to BP’s success was effectively attacking the source of the problem first. Failing to do so would have been senseless — and an endless exercise in resolution. Yet this is the approach taken by the Obama Administration in the conduct of its foreign policy in addressing much of the world’s trouble spots today.
A common thread links many of the world’s current problem areas. Anti-Americanism and/or instability is fostered in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Bahrain, Venezuela, Mexico, etc., by a common source. That source is so committed to the annihilation of America and Western culture, it has proven capable of doing something Western scholars of Islam once thought impossible: One of only a few countries in the world with a majority Shia population, this minority sect Islamic nation has worked with majority sect Sunni terrorist groups to further its own interests in the Middle East and elsewhere. To further enhance its ability to influence global instability, the source — Iran — is developing, and will soon possess unless stopped, a nuclear arms capability.
While in the Cold war the Soviet Union fostered similar anti-Americanism and instability, there are major differences between Moscow’s and Tehran’s approaches. The Soviets knew limits existed as to what they could do directly and indirectly — and acted accordingly. When the United States made it clear that a national security line had been crossed with the 1962 placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Moscow backed down. Also, while Russia wielded influence over proxies, it carefully used them so as to avoid both Soviet fingerprints and direct military confrontation with the United States. Such is not the case with Iran.
When Islamic extremists came to power in Iran in 1979, they immediately made it clear — with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran — confrontation was the order of the day: International law and tradition posed no obstacle to taking our diplomats captive for more than a year. Since then, Iran also created the terrorist group Hezbollah to attack U.S. targets.
Evidence clearly shows Tehran gave Hezbollah the green light to launch the 1983 suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Lebanon in what, since World War II, was both the largest single non-nuclear explosion and the largest single-day loss of lives (241) of American military personnel. Iranian influence has been linked as well to the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, which claimed another 19 U.S. lives.
In Karbala, Iraq, in January 2007, disguised members of the Quds Force — an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) specialized unit — captured several U.S. soldiers, executing them before fleeing back into Iran. Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, most U.S. casualties are caused by improvised explosive devices — mostly provided by Iran. And in Afghanistan, Iranian-fronted charities use donations to place bounties on the heads of U.S. forces.
Iran is clearly at war with the United States. And, while Obama naively continues to believe talks with Iran will bear fruit, Tehran prepares for its ultimate objective: all-out war with the West.
In 2006, Iran — with Hugo Chavez’s authorization — sent Hezbollah elements to Venezuela. Since then, Hezbollah has linked up with various drug cartels to access U.S. borders. Earlier this year, Iran and Venezuela signed an agreement by which Chavez allows Tehran to establish jointly operated military bases — armed with Iranian medium-range missiles, capable of reaching the United States, and launchers manned by IRGC soldiers. Unlike the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, however, this threat to our national security goes unchallenged by the Obama Administration.
A retired Bahrainian general noted Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution gave birth to an “octopus” — its head in Tehran with tentacles reaching far beyond its borders. Severing a tentacle in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere will not stop the Iranian octopus’ pursuit of the global destabilization it seeks to pave the way for Islamic extremism. As the octopus possesses an amazing ability to regenerate severed limbs, the only way to end this pursuit is by severing its head.
Attacking a problem at its source enabled BP to end an otherwise endless problem. Doing so with Iran will help end the so-far-unimpeded march forward of Islamic extremism.