Funneling money to rogue regimes is always immoral

The reason the Obama administration funneled $400 million to Iran, notorious as a state-sponsor of terror and serial abuser of human rights, is irrelevant; the action is immoral.

There can be no moral equivocating about goods offsetting bads in this action. Even if this were a ransom payoff- which the president has vociferously denied- there is nothing to celebrate in the winning of freedom for any other reason than the contrite recognition of their innocence. Kowtowing to the force of dishonest and grasping world powers is not a victory. It is an obeisance of the most despicable kind, to bow and grovel before the threat of force in the hope of appeasement.

Yet, that is the rationale the Obama administration seems to be running with- that this, a bribe for Iran’s good behavior on derailing its uranium enrichment ambitions as part of the nuclear deal the president negotiated, was a far cheaper, safer victory than a seemingly inevitable war over the nation’s weapons programs.

Doubtless this hackneyed rhetoric will be of endless comfort to those locked away in medieval prisons like Evin or who run afoul of Iranian subsidized jihadists.

It’s hard to believe this is the same president who, before attaining the office, was so critical of the Bush administration’s interventionism in the Middle East and the stuck-up Western morality which they claimed was ignorant to the point of danger for those who felt the on-the-ground affects of America’s foreign policy.

In what substantive way is the Obama administration’s appeasement any different than nation-building? The end goal is the same- to bring other nations towards a course of action that American interests find acceptable. It is only the means of browbeating other world powers which differs. Bush at least tried to ground his policy with some form of morality which was to the benefit of all, not merely a balm for soothing the itch of the Iranian thorn in the president’s side.

Bush was right to try and advance American principles overseas. It is a simple case of moral rationalism: the United States government should believe its course of action is moral, (otherwise why pursue it?) which should contribute to a consistent application of principles regardless of whether the actor with whom it is dealing is a citizen, state government or foreign diplomat. His approach, however, was wrong. Obama is doubly wrong, in rationale and in approach.

Moral absolutism can co-exist with other ideologies; it does not need to browbeat others into submission but should rely on the inevitability of its superiority becoming evident in fact. By allowing other nations to arrive at their own conclusions, all actors become principled and global politics is strengthened. This, however, means relying on other methods than the use of force to advance an ideology.

The solution is embargoes- to refuse to subsidize that which stands against one’s interests and principles. Diplomatically and economically, the United States should ignore rogue regimes such as Iran. One only needs to look to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine, which came quickly on the heels of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, to see what international recognition and monetary patronage does to embolden plutocrats.

Like a troublesome toddler, the United States should merely ignore its ideological opponents. And it should act positively, in a manner consistent with its principles, to demonstrate that it its humanistic rhetoric is not just words, to starve the Middle Eastern hydra of its life-force by competing in the energy sector.

This kind of principled wholesomeness is nothing less than a moral imperative for a nation built on a proud foundation of upholding civil liberties. It is not only a matter of defending the inalienable natural rights of individuals. Failing to adhere to principle in foreign policy endangers respect for rights at home. It proves the United States a glib orator which will say one thing then do another to ensure its interests are protected. This is not rational self-interest, for in the long-run it cannot help but jade views of the nation and risks alienating allies and obliterating citizens’ belief in political efficacy.

Rational self-interest means consistently advancing the United States’ core governing principles, even though it is more difficult, costs money and creates greater challenges in the short-term.

Originally published at The Politics of Discretion.

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