Shrewd, Gutsy, and Naive?


To his legion of online supporters, Obama's first foreign policy coup was caving to Russian pressure on missile defense, they claimed, in exchange for Moscow's assistance in applying sanctions on Tehran. Brendan Nyhan argued that Obama didn't "appease" Moscow because the move was "part of a quid pro quo in which Russia agreed to support tougher sanctions against Iran." Ubiquitous liberal blogger Matt Yglesias scoffed that, contra Obama's critics, in the "real world, Obama's approach is working" by getting Russia behind the administration's Iran policy. In Salon, Juan Cole argued that Obama "has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran." "The US right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve," Cole wrote, "But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the US in regard to Iran's nuclear research program."

It would have perhaps been shrewd (but not "gutsy") had the Russians not played the neophyte president like a fiddle. Reuters:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was "premature". Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia's paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.

"There is no need to frighten the Iranians," Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

NEXT: Corporatism: A Love Story

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Time for Russia to invade Georgia again.

    1. how would a missile shield stop russia from invading georgia?

      there’s exactly no evidence that there was any quid pro quo. just because matt yglesias says it doesn’t make it true.

      we gave up an expensive, ineffective system that did nothing to protect america. if russia gave us nothing in return, so what?

      1. I think you are off a bit here.

        It doesn’t help against a ground invasion, per se, but it does mitigate the threat of missile attacks that could be used as leverage during a ground invasion.

        How does it protect the US all the way from Poland? First, I think they can take a missile out on it’s way up and on it’s way down, so intercontinental missiles from Eurasia aimed at north america would be vulnerable to a poland based defense system.

        Look at the 20th century. Just because it doesn’t happen to us directly, doesn’t mean we aren’t involved: You think nuke missile hitting london wouldn’t drag us into a war?

        Ineffective? Russia is already trying to design features to a avoid it (an effort in which they are at a serious technological and monetary disadvantage) so to some extant, it’s already effective.

        Expensive? Well, war is pretty expensive. If this prevents one war, even a small, regional one then it’s paid for itself in both lives and dollars.

        1. “””How does it protect the US all the way from Poland? First, I think they can take a missile out on it’s way up and on it’s way down, so intercontinental missiles from Eurasia aimed at north america would be vulnerable to a poland based defense system. “””

          No, you are wrong, the system was only designed to cover Europe, it had no capability against missiles heading to the US from Iran or anywhere else except maybe from Europe

          However I don’t blame you for this since the US government and media went a long way to hide what the system was supposed to be capable of. They usually used euphemisms like “protecting US interests” or when asked specifically they would say “protecting US military bases in Europe”

          1. Most importantly, it would be able to take out the missiles on the way up. We already have other systems in place to take out missiles on the way down if they’re heading to the US. This would give us multiple chances.

            At least half of all the military power in Europe is based on NATO, which the US funds. That’s why European countries aren’t spending a whole lot of money on military innovation and national protection – because the US is funding everything.

            “there’s exactly no evidence that there was any quid pro quo”

            Open your eyes. That’s how this administration works. He got Hillary to drop out of the race by promising her a cabinet position and to push her healthcare plan.

  2. Russia reneges on the essential sanctions, so the US is now free to attack Iran. All possible diplomatic efforts have been exhausted. The only remaining option on the table is the military option.

    1. That may be the real quid pro quo, but even if so, its another instance of russia outmaneuvering the US. Russia knows as well as any other power that an American strike on Iran will deal a hammer blow to the dollar and only cement and accelerate the Shanghai Cooperative polarization.

      So, yeah, withdraw your missile plans, we backstab you, you attack Iran, then you die.

      1. Our many wars have been a boon to some rivals and enemies.

        1. Indeed, Putin would like nothing better than to see the U.S. struggling in a prolonged, embarrassing, ultimately disastrous Afghanistan war. It’s the ultimate schadenfreude from the nation that suffered a 70-year inferiority complex.

    2. We just found out about a seven year old reactor that we knew NOTHING about.

      You never know what they may really have.

      Remember, we never attack anyone who is actually a REAL threat.

      The ONLY reason CHeney/Bush attacked Iraq is because they knew 100% that he didn’t have WMDs. Because if they did…there would be another, much larger holicaust.

      1. Alice Bowie: fools should remain silent

  3. Anyone who thinks the russian regime isn’t a bare-knuckler in the world of confidence politics should now be revising their viewpoints. While I’m an emphatic opponent of a great many Obama Administration policies and machinations, the withdraw of the missile system plans was one I actually agreed with. I never liked the plan way back when it was first bandied about. That said, I didn’t doubt for a minute that the russians–and the greater sweep of eastern europe who is watching closely–would interpret the Obama act as one of meeting the russian gaze, blinking, and looking at the ground.

    How’s that Hope(R) and Change(TM) working for those of you who are still arm-waving personality cultists?

  4. Wow. Combining the worst elements of Bill Clinton with those of Jimmy Carter. That’s an accomplishment.

    1. Don’t forget the worst elements of Bush as well.

    2. I wonder if Obama’s legacy will be a Lyndon Johnson or a Jimmy Carter-level disaster.

  5. It would have perhaps been shrewd (but not “gutsy”) had the Russians not played the neophyte president like a fiddle.


  6. Anybody else find the timing between Obama’s scuttling of the missile defense and the discovery of Iran’s Qom enrichment facility particularly curious?

    1. The facility was known to CIA since at least early 2006. The recent public admission, amidst a great deal of hand-wringing fanfare, is indeed interesting in its timing. Also just at a time when Israel was losing support for its stance.

      1. I recall reading a minor news clip a few days ago about the US rushing delivery of some bunker buster bombs ……..gD9BA2GMO0

        1. They will be the most fateful bombs the US has dropped since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

          1. How’s that for our Nobel Laureate?

      2. At the same time that came out, Israel leaked a story about Russian nuclear scientists working on the Iranian program. The fact that they would let out that they have sources inside the Iranian nuclear program means that they are not expecting to need them for very much longer.

  7. There’s never an overcharge a reset button around when you need one.

  8. It’s like watching the Peanuts version of the Bush administration. I have zero love for the Bush crew, but jesus christ I didn’t think we had a student government running the country when they were fucking me.

  9. It’s Kennedy, McNamara, and The Whiz Kids part II. How wonderful.

  10. I’m waiting for the day that Iran tests it’s first Nuclear Weapon in the Indian Ocean…or under ground.

    Once that happens, we can be 100% sure that we will have WORLD PEACE.

    Why, because contrary to popular belief and a lot of Israeli propaganda, Iran is not suicidal. They will never attack 1st. They know that an initial nuclear attack would be suicide…just like all of the other little countries with NUKEs.

    However, that Nuke that Iran holds, will guarantee that the Iranian President/Leader will NOT be hung on http://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM

    1. It’s probably not a good idea to conflate “Iran” which I take to mean the people of Iran with the leaders of Iran.

    2. because contrary to popular belief and a lot of Israeli propaganda, Iran is not suicidal.

      They’re led by religious fanatics so extreme they make the supposedly “extremist Christian” Bushies look like Vermont Unitarians. They aid terror groups around the world. They’ve even made public statements that the mutual obliteration of Israel and Iran would be a worthwhile tradeoff, because there would still be lots of Muslims left. And history has many examples of dictators starting obviously suicidal wars out of an inflated sense of their own power: Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, etc.

      And you’re counting on them behaving rationally? Your evidence for this is…?

      1. “””They’re led by religious fanatics so extreme they make the supposedly “extremist Christian” Bushies look like Vermont Unitarians.”””

        Bush a Christian extremists???? Bush was a lackey to the NWO and his banker buddies.

        “”””They aid terror groups around the world.””””

        Sorry you must be mistaking the Iranians for the Saudis who are the leaders in supporting and funding terrorists

        “””They’ve even made public statements that the mutual obliteration of Israel and Iran would be a worthwhile tradeoff, because there would still be lots of Muslims left.””””

        Do you have a quote on that? What I have read is that they respond to various threats of attack and regime change from the US and Israel but when did replying to a threat of attack become wrong

        1. I only visit informationclearinghouse for the laughs.

          1. Though I did enjoy the Ron Paul article/essay posted there.

        2. Bush was accused of being a “Christianist” etc. by some wacky leftists.

          Sure, the Saudis support some terror groups, but Iran is a big supporter of Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.

          Sorry, can’t find that quote. And I reject the moral equivalence implied in “when did replying to a threat of attack become wrong.” Israel is just trying to defend itself, while various Muslim states are still trying to destroy it.

        3. Do you have a quote on that?

          “If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.


          1. What part of “stalemate” don’t you understand? There is no threat of a “worthwhile tradeoff”

            It is saying that neither side would attack.

  11. There was no need to obtain Russian assistance against Iran in exchange for shifting the missle shield deployment south out of Eastern Europe for two reasons:

    1. Shifting the missile shield out of Eastern Europe was a good move on its own merits and required no concessions to make it a good move.

    2. Further sanctions against Iran are pointless, unnecessary, and unjustified, and therefore if Russia fucks up the effort to put further sanctions on Iran, bully for Russia.

    Sounds like a win/win to me.

  12. Personally I say we sell Iran a few nukes. We need the money, they want nukes, Russia and China are playing the US like geetar using Iran, and we can turn around and sell Israel one hell of a missile shield that we are not putting in Eastern Europe.

    The missile shield was a mistake to begin with. There were better ways to accomplish the same goals more effectively.

    1. That could work. Sell them to Iran than give them to everyone else in the area.

      Course, if someone loses one it could be a bit of a hassle.

  13. How about this novel thought? I spent a good chunk of my life in a period where we were constantly worried about fighting a war with Russia, with spending ga-billions of dollars to do this, and now, with a little bit of diplomacy, we don’t have to sweat this at all. Bully for Obama if he doesn’t engage in needless provocation of Russia. Russia is the “bad guy” for the right-leaning goofs Moynihan has decided to make a career out of writing serenades for, but I for one am glad to to not fuck with them for no good reason…

    1. I spent a good chunk of my life in a period where we were constantly worried about fighting a war with Russia

      Whoa, you’re old, LOL.

      1. and now, with a little bit of diplomacy, we don’t have to sweat this at all.

        I’m guessing you aren’t much of a Russia scholar.

        1. Pissing in Russias backyard is bad. Assuming they are your buddy is worse and just plain stupid.

          1. Is it arrogant to reply to yourself?

            1. How many of these lil subset dohickys do I get?

                1. That’s more than the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Charms blow-pop!

                  Of course, I’m not advocating incest. That would make me a racist.

  14. Jesus are you people really supportive of spending billions on non-functioning weapons systems just to antagonize the Russians?

    I’m fucking glad Obama “caved”. The less money on our overseas empire the better.

    1. Less to antagonize Russia, and more to protect the new democracies of Eastern Europe, which justifiably fear a resurgent Russia.

      I mean, how fucking awful would it be to let Russia fuck over Poland YET AGAIN? I think we fucking owe them and the Baltic States, just slightly.

      1. Hazel
        How wonderfully libertarian of you chum; the government should force me and Kevin to engage in activity to protect Poland because, well, it’s RIGHT in some people’s eyes….

        Of course, libertarianism proper and hard core is never a realistic option, so I understand the contradiction buddy 😉

        1. I think relatively liberal countries should stick together and help defend eachother from authoritarian countries. Poland and the Baltic states have made a transition towards open, democratic, free market societies. Russia is sliding back into despotism. Just as I prefer to advance the cause of liberalism (libertarianism) in the US, I’d also like to see it advanced, or at least defended, in Eastern Europe. Unlike Iraq, the Poles are actually ASKING for our help.

      2. Owe them? What? I have yet to see what debt I have incurred.

          1. So the US was suppose to go into another war after 1945 to change the facts on the ground in Eastern Europe? Those facts being the millions of Soviet troops sitting in Eastern Europe?

  15. It’s interesting to see what Moynihan is talking about; Obama is a fool because he hoped Putin would go along with “sanctions” and Putin won’t. Pace Moynihan we are supposed to, what, want the sanctions? Curious for a libertarian to want “sanctions”, which are, of course restrictions, enforced by force, on trades that both sides of the transaction want to make, right?

    But of course anyone thinking Moynihan is a “libertarian” must also think I am one…

    1. Well, I can’t speak for Moynihan or anyone else, but Obama is a fool because he did the diplomatic equivalent of taking in a stray dog and then being shocked when it chewed up his slippers, shit on the carpet, and bit his kid.

      I think he views the world through his own naive lens, with the thought that most actors are striving in the best interest of the collective whole of the world. Or at least, that other nations’ leaders will act in good faith, even if it turns out to contradict their own interests. Of course, they are (rationally) only serving their own ends.

      1. Especially so when it comes to the Russians. They are pretty open about only being interested in advancing thjeir own interests.

  16. So at least we don’t have to pay for those bases. I don’t see a downside for us.

    1. Yes but where will this all end? If we don’t pay for bases in eastern Europe, then next we will stop paying for bases in central Europe. After that it could be that there would be no US bases in Europe at all.

      Do you know what that will mean, it will mean that Europe which has a bigger GDP, larger population and bigger per capita income then the US will have to pay for its own defense while the US taxpayer will no longer have to pay for Europe’s defense and might even not go as quickly into debt as it is now.

      Obviously such a scenario would be a disaster for our present US policy of driving the US into default and debt peonage

  17. Regardless of what Russia does with regards to Iran (and what libertarian really wants to see further intimidation of Iran), canceling the missile system was good policy — one of the few good decisions Obama has made.

    The system was nothing more than an attempt to ratchet up a new cold war, and all the ridiculous military spending that would accompany it.

  18. Anti-semitic poster, including the clown from the misnamed HRW, are licking their chops at the thought of Iran nuking Israel, but the final gambit has not been played. If not by the U.S., then, maybe by Israel.

    p.s. Since it’s groovy for Iran to nuke and destroy Israel, maybe Israel will do the favor first to Iran and I can hear you anti-Semites scream.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here!

  19. I don’t think Israel is the target for Iran. I see this as one more chapter in the Sunni/Shia rivalry.

    1. Fritz for the win! If you want to solve this Iran problem, leave and let the (nuclear-armed) Sunnite counterforce take care of it for you.

      Or not.

      And I mean, Jeebus H. Christmas, didn’t we just fight a big war whose only possible outcome was to strengthen Iran? Why are people bent out of shape when we got the expected result?

  20. BTW, “gutsy” used to be a perfectly acceptable adjective.

    Then in a puff piece about the awesomeness of Al Jazeera (this was back when Al Jazeera was good, before it became bad and then became good again for a while, and then bad again), Thomas L. Friedman described Qatar as a “small but gutsy nation.” And I said to myself: “Self, you’ve just read the stupidest thing what’s ever been wrote.” And now I believe if somebody says “gutsy” they’re a creptard.

    1. Al Jazeera is better than anything produced in America with the exception of CNN International.

  21. I never understood why the left thinks that the development of technology that would allow you to “shoot down a bullet with a bullet” was not only impossible (why again?) but something that had no military value.

    Maybe they just hate Reagan that much.

    1. I think it’s possible, and against a relatively lightly-armed opponent [one who can deploy only a few missiles] it’s positively desirable.

      It has limited utility against an opponent with a large missile arsenal and a space program in the general neighborhood of your own, however, because it’s cheaper and easier for that opponent to overwhelm your system with their own countermeasures [increase the number of missiles and the number of warheads; deploy decoy drones in numbers orders of magnitude larger than the actual missile strike force] than it is for you to deploy and maintain the system.

      The Soviet Union was such an economic basket case that it couldn’t afford to upgrade to overwhelm a Star Wars system, and they knew it. But as a semi-capitalist Russia becomes more economically secure, they might not be as hapless.

      I would actively support developing a missile-defense system for the continental US. {Fuck off, Alaska and Hawaii.] I just don’t think the value of planting one in Eastern Europe is great enough to justify it. It’s only a good idea if you think that, long term, it will be cheaper and safer to ring Russia with hostile states that are under our defense umbrella than it would be to simply have good relations with Russia and use them as an ally to beat other people up with. Myself, I would cultivate Russia as a long-term ally to contain China.


      Everything is impossible if you don’t try. Example: We should give up on cold fusion, and other cost-effective alternative energy schemes, because it’s impossible.

      It’s an exceptionally “good” argument to use when what “they” are trying to do is something you don’t want them to be doing. A good portion of the left wants the US to be non-exceptional militarily so the US government shouldn’t have been trying to negate the Soviet Union’s missile threat because, well, sorry folks, it just impossible.

  22. Your article is very interesting, I have introduced a lot of friends look at this article, the content of the articles there will be a lot of attractive people to appreciate, I have to thank you such an article.

  23. In other news, editor Matt Welch decided against deploying the anti-spammer shield, instead turning to a threaded comments program, to better annoy regular posters.

    The nuclear option against anonymity guy, huangxian and evisu jeans is still purportedly on the table.

  24. Part of the reason for the missile shield was not just to protect eastern europe from the current Russian regime, but to protect it from future regimes that could be even worse. Obama made a unilateral concession, got nothing in return, and has no long term plan to help our Eastern European allies.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if Iran could trade two human rights prisoners to Obama for a pound of enriched uranium and the GPS coordinates for Disneyland.

    1. God knows the US can’t live without “Eastern European allies.” I’m sure our founding fathers would be happy to know that the primary concern of many in the establishment is our debts to our “Eastern European allies”, Israel, and all the other vitally vitally important US interests over seas where American citizens don’t live.

  25. In other news, editor Matt Welch decided against deploying the anti-spammer shield, instead turning to a threaded comments program, to better annoy regular posters.

    I can’t believe how fragile some of you girls are. You must have been nearly suicidal when they introduced blue M&Ms.

    Adapt or die.

  26. === ===Our commitment,customer is God.

    Welcome to — —- We are specialized in offering all kinds of top brand shoes, jeans, t-shirts, jacket, jerseys, watches, purses, handbags, belts, wallets , sunglasses and hats etc.
    Accept paypal ,All the prices list on our website include shipping cost,insurance,tax etc..

    $50 UGG BOOT, $30 nike shoes,air jordan shoes,nike shox shoes,gucci shoes
    $33 true religion jeans, ed hardy jeans,coogi jeans,affliction jeans, Laguna Beach Jeans
    $16 ed hardy T-shirts,Coogi T-shirts,Christian Audigier T-shirts,Gucci T-shirts,Polo T-shirts.
    $30 coach handbag,gucci handbag,prada handbag,chanel handbag,$15sunglasses,$9 caps.

    I wish you a happy shopping and happy every day!

  27. I paid over $200 for a Coach purse for the misses. Anyone know where I could get one for $30 or so?

    1. you’re whipped

  28. We launched the 2010 latest and most fashionable True Religion jeans on our shop, you are welcome to patronize.Here are many discounts for you.
    Our aim is to provide high-quality products and excellent after-sales service.

  29. Our aim is to provide customers high-quality products and excellent after-sales service.

  30. Stop waiting until the weekend, when you can party or let loose, until summer, spring, fall or winter, until you find the right person and get married, until you die, until your born again, to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy.Happiness is a journey, not a destination.So love like you have never been hurt, work like you don’t need the money, and dance like no one’s watching.wearing franklin and marshall when we want to anywhere please stop waiting.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.