Salvo 09.26.2023 4 minutes

Weak and Woke on Iran 

President Biden And VP Harris Host President’s Board Of Advisors On Historically Black Colleges And Universities

Securing America’s interests should be the guiding principle of our nation’s foreign policy. 

The Democratic Party will always hew to its time-honored tradition of failure in the foreign policy realm. From FDR’s dealings with Stalin at Yalta to the first Iranian hostage crisis with Jimmy Carter to the more recent example of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the list of blunders committed by misguided liberal internationalist do-gooders in pursuit of the illusory dream of world peace goes on.  

President Joe Biden’s decision to give away $6 billion of previously-frozen Iranian assets and five Iranian prisoners in exchange for five American hostages highlights why.  

Consider the context.  

As our enemies in the Middle East have tried to dissuade us from defending our own interests, we have been too happy to comply. Seizing upon an overweening sense of self-doubt caused by the backlash to the Bush Administration’s disastrous misadventures in both Afghanistan and Iraq, liberal critics of the “American exceptionalism” narrative distorted the concept for their own partisan attacks. This resulting sentiment that has permeated the liberal U.S. foreign policy apparatus has given Democratic presidents, most particularly Biden, an excuse to avoid defending America’s national security interests even when the stakes are crucial. 

Biden’s fully-fledged embrace of the radical Left has aggravated this trend even further. The prevailing discourse issuing from his administration on matters of foreign policy is guilt, copied from the playbook of domestic wokeism. Since we should be ashamed of our nation’s founding and its history, we must also continually atone for the sins we have committed abroad.   

Also keep in mind the flawed outcomes of the foreign policy that Biden is only too happy to continue. While President Obama promised that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would deter Iranian nuclear development, it exacerbated it, with Tehran shielding its military bases from international inspection and developing its twin uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programs despite international regulations. And Biden, who is currently considering reentering that agreement, was willing to strengthen it initially but backtracked when he served as Obama’s vice president.  

In further testament to the deficiencies of its woeful foreign policy, the Biden Administration has defended its handling of the hostage deal by claiming, “This isn’t a payment of any kind. These aren’t U.S. dollars. They aren’t taxpayer dollars, they are Iranian dollars the previous Administration allowed them to make.” 

However, in examining the terms of the hostage deal, Biden’s moral weakness is even more starkly apparent. Iran will receive $6 billion and five prisoners who pose a serious threat to our national security for five American hostages who were locked up as potential bargaining chips for Tehran to use. Iran will consequentially use the Biden Administration’s concessions to subvert long-standing international norms and further cement its own regional standing at the United States’ expense. 

Another factor that distinguishes Biden’s Iran hostage deal as an unprecedented case study of failure is the issue of intent.  

Even though Tehran has repeatedly shown its willingness to negotiate in bad faith, the administration naively hopes that another gesture of goodwill will persuade the Iranian government to moderate its actions accordingly. But in another startling sign of inconsistency, the administration has simultaneously imposed new sanctions in a painfully obvious attempt to look tough. 

Because of this unpredictability, Biden’s Iran hostage deal has evoked significant backlash, as signaled by the GOP’s repeated criticisms of his administration’s policy. 

However, instead of referencing the well-worn cliché of appeasement to blast Biden, GOP lawmakers would do well to consider other examples from earlier points in our history. 

The Founding Fathers clearly understood the importance of proactive leadership in the event that our nation’s interests were threatened abroad. 

For example, for all his isolationist scruples, Thomas Jefferson did not hesitate to retaliate against the Barbary Pirates due to their routine acts of piracy against American ships. John Adams impounded both British and French vessels during the Quasi-War to advance the clear message that our neutrality from European entanglements would not be violated under any circumstances. 

Of course, rampant warmongering had no place in the early era of our nation’s foreign policy either. Upon leaving the presidency, George Washington famously cautioned against overt meddling in different parts of the world to which we had no attachment. In fact, we had detached ourselves from the British Empire precisely to avoid being drawn into another version of the French and Indian War as a mere extension through which a great power could channel its imperial designs. 

At the same time, the Founders believed that a necessary level of involvement abroad was warranted if balanced with a prudent consideration of whether that intervention was carefully tied to our legitimate national security interests. 

As Winston Churchill teaches us, and as Bush reminded us, surrendering to dictators and terrorist regimes is anti-American to its core. But straying from the wisdom of the Founders’ foreign policy vision, which emphasized securing America’s safety first and foremost, is just as, if not more, dangerous. 

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading

to the newsletter