In 1962, presented with U2 spy plane photos of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy ordered his Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, to directly confront the Soviets. At a tense emergency meeting of the Security Council, Stevenson exposed the Soviets’ denials as lies by showing the world the U2 photos.
In 2009, presented with evidence that Iran had concealed a nuclear weapons uranium processing plant, President Barack Obama said nothing, giving Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a week at the U.N. to threaten Israel, deny the Holocaust and preen on the world stage.
History books look back in admiration at how Kennedy faced down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis and brought the planet safely back from the brink of nuclear war.
It’s worth pondering how history will treat Obama’s handling of a similarly apocalyptic nuclear threat.
There’s little doubt that Obama knew about Iran’s secret uranium enrichment plant before the opening of the U.N. Security Council session last week. Armed with the knowledge that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and expecting Ahmadinejad and other world leaders in New York, what did the president do?
He flinched. He exited the world stage in New York and went off to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh to announce the Iranian nuclear discovery. And then, as if to underscore his timidity, the president traveled to Copenhagen to lobby to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.
We now know that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to confront the Iranians at the United Nations last week with the knowledge of their second processing plant. Not only did Obama not agree to that strategy, he went on to chair a phony Security Council session on nuclear disarmament of all things.
Apparently, a messy confrontation with Ahmadinejad over real nuclear disarmament would have upset the theater of the president’s posturing over theoretical disarmament.
Obama’s timid journey from New York to Pittsburgh to Copenhagen trivializes the American presidency. And much more seriously, it brings the world one step closer to the kind of global conflagration Kennedy so skillfully avoided 47 years ago.
The Iranian leaders are driven by a theological messianism that is more dangerous and less predictable than Castro’s communism. They have pledged to destroy Israel and retake Jerusalem. The United States must take this pledge very seriously; if it happens, it will trigger a global war.
Obama came face-to-face with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes last week. He had a chance to stand up to it and stop the march toward a nuclear Middle East.
History should show, he blinked.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has published 19 books, including 10 fiction and nonfiction best-sellers. He is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation and chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future. For more information, visit www.newt.org. His exclusive column for The Examiner appears Fridays.