Experiencing frustration in his efforts to resolve myriad foreign policy issues, President Barack Obama blames some failures on President Bush. As to Obama’s failed policy to derail the Iranian express train seeking to load a nuclear arms cargo, he may want to consider blaming the 18th century philosopher Jacques Rousseau.
Rousseau believed in the innate goodness of man. Putting it in today’s parlance, Rousseau would undoubtedly consider this goodness part of the human genome. Obama’s approach to foreign policy, especially in dealing with those countries labeled by his predecessor as the “Axis of Evil,” suggests he embraces this theory. Clearly, this has been his approach in dealing with the biggest threat to world stability today. Since taking office, Obama has sought to build a new relationship with Iran’s theocratic leadership to curb its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. To do so, he has apologized for America’s past wrongs, avoided criticizing Tehran when the will of the Iranian people was denied in a stolen presidential election and offered his hand in friendship, hoping to trigger the “goodness genome” he believes lies dormant within Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet, one year through a four-year term in office, Obama has nothing to show for his efforts. He is no closer to resolving the nuclear standoff, while Iran is closer to making the issue moot.
In dealing with Iran, Obama makes a fatal assumption—i.e., Ahmadinejad possesses a goodness genome. While Rousseau and Obama ideally, and naively, see the world populated by men with good intentions, reality—and history—tell us otherwise. Just as two of the 20th century’s most brutal leaders were wrongly perceived to possess such goodness, it is incredulous that today reasonable men could make a similar perception about a 21st century leader who has done everything possible to dispel any notion of goodness by his words and deeds.
Idealists once perceived Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler to possess the genome. The perception led to both receiving nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. But history revealed these leaders’ character to possess DNA closer to Attila the Hun than to Rousseau’s goodness genome. Before their terror reigns ended, tens of millions of innocent lives were lost.
It is worrisome Obama has yet to understand Ahmadinejad not only lacks the genome but possesses the combined evil traits of both 20th-century tyrants.
Stalin’s terror reign was primarily directed against his own people—initiating purges that ultimately claimed twenty million lives. Meanwhile, Hitler’s reign primarily focused on non-Germans, claiming 6 million Jewish lives in the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has incorporated aspects of both into his own terror campaign. Domestically, he targets his own people, robbing them of individual rights, including that to life. Externally, he targets the non-Muslim world, seeking either to destroy or enslave it under Islamic rule—a feat to be accomplished with the actual or threatened use of nuclear weapons—fearing not the consequences of U.S. nuclear retaliation. In fact, this religious fanatic would welcome retaliation as a vehicle by which he could gain entry to a rewarding afterlife and the expeditious return to Earth of the 12th Imam, whom, he believes, will then subject the world to Islamic rule.
As one whose family was either victimized or witnessed firsthand Stalin’s and Hitler’s brutality, the author is sensitive to brutal leaders running amok, unencumbered by a goodness genome. These family member experiences presage what is happening in Iran.
In 1941, a maternal great-great uncle, Alexis Ninaud, 61, having lived decades in the Russian Far East (RFE), was arrested and interrogated by KGB authorities. Almost 70 years later, his fate was revealed during a visit made by family members to the RFE where they gained access to old KGB records. Alexis had been caught up in a purge. Stalin’s wrath made it clear guilt was not a mandate for conviction—finding the right pre-ordained number of “spies” to be executed was. Although the KGB file lacked supporting evidence, Alexis was “found” to be a spy—and executed. Included in his file was a “mug shot,” revealing a man who seemingly knew his fate was sealed. His case was closed with the signature of a KGB officer whose own fate turned on finding a sufficient number of spies.
In 1945, a paternal grandfather—a U.S. Army medical doctor—was among the first U.S. forces to reach the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Horrified by the presence of so many dead and dying, his attention immediately turned to saving what frail survivors he could. Among them was an extremely emaciated 6-year-old Jewish boy. For five days, the boy would make his way to pick up food rations before returning to a bunk in the camp that had been home for most his life. On the sixth day, he failed to show up, prompting a search. His lifeless body was found in his bunk—underneath which was a box containing most the food rations given to him by his liberators. Having learned to horde food his entire life—not knowing what tomorrow would bring—the boy proved unable to break the cycle, choosing to save rather than consume the nourishment upon which his survival depended. General Eisenhower ordered these atrocious camp conditions be documented “because somewhere down the road of history some fool will get up and say that this never happened.”
It is against the backdrop of the brutal acts of these two 20th-century madmen that those of a 21st-century fanatic must be measured.
The purges to which Stalin subjected his people are now visited upon the Iranian people by Ahmadinejad to “find” spies to support his allegations that post-presidential election domestic opposition stems from foreign influence. Additionally, with Ahmadinejad’s continuous claims the Holocaust never occurred, we see Eisenhower’s “fool” has arrived. A religious zealot blind to the cause of violence he has wrought at home as well as to the brutal acts wrought by past dictators, Ahmadinejad is incapable of comprehending the death and devastation to be wrought from using the nuclear weapons he seeks to develop.
A 1930s radio program made popular the exploits of a crime-fighting vigilante known as “The Shadow.” Each program ended with the foreboding observation, “Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men. The Shadow knows!”—followed by an ominous laugh. Ahmadinejad knows the evil lurking within his heart. He knows too the leader of the Western world remains blind to it as Obama holds out hope for a non-existent goodness genome.
If one listens closely, one can hear Ahmadinejad’s ominous laugh in the background.
Lt. Col. James Zumwalt is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Desert Storm. An author, speaker and business executive, he also currently heads a security consulting firm named after his father—Admiral Zumwalt & Consultants, Inc. His first book, “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” based on his interviews with hundreds of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong veterans will be released in April. (For details, please visit: www.jgzumwalt.com.)