' Back to reality --- as the illusions keep fading - Paul Greenberg

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Back to reality --- as the illusions keep fading

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published August 12, 2015

   Back to reality --- as the illusions keep fading

According to Iran's smooth president, Hassan Rouhani, the nuclear pact this administration has just negotiated with Tehran is "a great achievement." He's right.

It's a great achievement for the fanatical mullahs who call the shots in his country. For the way is now open for them to get their own Bomb, and dominate the Mideast -- not to mention influence conflicts elsewhere with the help of their Russian and Chinese enablers.

It's a great achievement for the international network of terrorists Iran has long sponsored -- Hezbollah in Syria and Hamas in Gaza and far and wide. As in Argentina, where its agents have bombed Jewish community centers. Not to mention Saudi Arabia. (Remember the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996 that claimed the lives of 19 American servicemen?) Then there were the various plots against Israeli and Saudi embassies that Iran's operatives staged.

Now the sponsor of this whole infrastructure of terror may be able to claim the friendship, support and cooperation of the United States, thanks to Barack Obama, John Kerry and misguided company. This nuclear deal gives the regime in Tehran a legitimacy no other country could lend it.

It's a great achievement, all right, but not for the forces of freedom and stability in the world.

Only slowly, painfully slowly, does reality return to American foreign policy. After sealing this deal with Tehran, our secretary of state stopped in Cairo to renew American ties with Egypt's military after snubbing that country for six years. He arrived a couple of days after a shipment of American weapons did, including eight F-16 fighter jets. And he said more help was on the way -- in addition to the Apache helicopters, armored vehicles and patrol boats already delivered this year.

Secretary Kerry also promised his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, that this country would continue to provide training for Egyptian forces and help them "meet the highest expectations of your military...." At last Washington seems to realize that Egypt's national interest is ours, too, particularly when it comes to maintaining security and stability along its borders. For some time now the Egyptians have been fighting a growing jihadist threat -- in Egypt proper and in the Sinai Peninsula -- and American aid will be as welcome as it is needed.

As a matter of form, Secretary Kerry said a few words about the need to respect the rights of Egyptian journalists to free expression, and as a matter of form the Egyptian foreign minister claimed that the journalists weren't being hounded because they're journalists but because they've become involved in "terrorist activity."

Just where the truth lies can be debated later, but for now a stable and secure Egypt has become a top priority for both countries. And it should be. Chaos in Egypt benefits neither its people nor its allies like the United States. Or even those struggling for their rights in Egypt; what good are those rights if their country becomes ungovernable, and the whole country falls apart?

If only Washington had shown the same realism when it came to supporting the Turkish military against its increasingly Islamist regime, Turkey might not now be only a sometime ally of the United States and the rest of the NATO alliance.

The late Arab Spring, which by now has sprung, set off a wave of delusions about how the Arab world was suddenly going to turn into a garden of democracies -- instead of the rough neighborhood it long has been, and is likely to remain. Especially if the West persists in mistaking dreams for reality, and hope for a strategy.

Why have the American people become so disillusioned with this president and his administration? At least that's what the polls say, and there is no reason to doubt them. If you want evidence of how low this president has fallen in public esteem, you needn't consult the polls. Just look around. The very mention of his name is enough to inspire cynical sighs. The dissatisfaction with his policies foreign and domestic has become palpable.

Here's my theory about why the American people have become so disillusioned with this president: It's because we were so illusioned in the first place. Americans by the millions bought his talk of Hope and Change, and believed him when he set out to change mere reality.

All he had to do was make a grand apology tour of the Arab world, reset relations with Russia, extend the hand of friendship to tyrannical regimes like Iran's, and the dangerous wilderness that is the world would be transformed into a peaceful, welcoming garden.

Instead of being "red in tooth and claw," Nature itself would bow to our president's utopian dream. But after the dream comes the awakening. Just as, no matter how many times the Hon. Barack Obama declares the war in Iraq and environs over, it flares up again. He's just dispatched American troops to the region once again, this time to support rebel forces against Bashar al-Assad's tyrannical regime. And a new threat named ISIS has emerged out of the desert sands to sweep the region.

There is no end of reasons to be vigilant in that part of the world. And to stick with old friends, like the Kurds and Israelis, instead of betraying them once again. But this president seems able to recognize reality only when he absolutely has to.

Slowly, and only partially, he comes to recognize that dreams are no substitute for strategy. How many other hard lessons await him -- and the rest of us?

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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