President Obama Understands Morally Justifiable Power

I’ve said it a number of times: We are lucky to have President Obama in the White’s House.

Especially during these times, when part of the world is on fire, it is important that someone is in charge who doesn’t want to bring a large can of U.S.A gasoline to put out the flames.

obama and new york times iran interviewI can do no better than point you to Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times to understand why it is that we are so lucky. I suggest, strongly, that you read the entire piece or listen to the interview on which the column is based, most of it having to do with the recent framework agreement with Iran and the rather hostile reaction to it by right-wingers here, there, and everywhere.

I will only quote for now one stunningly important line from the beginning of the interview—that defines the real point of having morally justifiable power—and then the last paragraph:

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk…at this point, the U.S.’s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. … Our core interests are that everybody is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked, that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them, that massive displacements aren’t taking place. Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it’s working well, then we’ll do fine. And that’s going to be a big project, given what’s taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.”

Amen. And thank God, Allah, and/or the American people for Barack Obama.



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  April 7, 2015


    I lead off by saying we must “give negotiations a chance”. No way could I currently vote yes or no on any agreement with Iran as no agreement has been reached. And IF, I repeat, IF, we can actually prevent Iran from obtaining “the bomb” then let’s do so, depending on …….

    But I only comment because again you equate geopolitical efforts with “moral” justifications. For sure that is the essence of the “Obama Doctrine” as explained rather well in the Friedman article. If we the people of the world used the same basis for morality then it would be OK to negotiate based on such commonly held principles. But to promote OUR moral codes on the likes of many in Iran (and elsewhere in the world) with a whole different moral approach to wielding power won’t work now and has not worked very well anytime in history.

    I won’t waste time trying to make a case for or against the current efforts however. But whatever “agreement” is finally reached, I want America to be UNITED in pursuing that agreement. Having said that, a call for unity, I will take the position that Congress must agree with whatever the President agrees to with Iran. Through our elected representatives, like them or not, we the people must agree to whatever we as a nation decide to do with or about Iran.

    The last time we as a country went through such as this, a negotiation to limit nuclear weapoons, Congress voted to approve it. It was called START. We should do the same in the current efforts with Iran, let Congress, actually the Senate, “advise and consent” formally.



    • I will have to think through your suggestion that “Congress must agree with whatever the President agrees to with Iran.” Although I trust President Obama and his team, and although I distrust the current Congress as a whole, I’m not sure I would reduce to a principle the idea that Congress can never disagree with a foreign policy initiative like this one, if the president advocates it. I just need to give that some more thought before I agree or disagree with you. There are important implications each way.

      As to your point about our moral use of power, I’m afraid you don’t quite get what I was saying. It doesn’t matter to me whether Iran has “a whole different moral approach to wielding power.” It is our power I am talking about and whether we use it as a force for good (avoiding wars when possible) or whether we use it for ill (deliberately pursuing a deal that we know the Iranians won’t possibly accept and thereby guaranteeing war in the future). No matter what Iran’s approach to power is, they know we are many times more powerful than they are and could crush them in any fight. This isn’t ISIS we are talking about. For the most part, even the fanatics in Iran are rational actors, which is why they are at the table right now.

      Having said all that, my point is that if we are to use our power in a morally justifiable way, it at least requires an attempt to settle a potential future conflict through diplomacy, thus using our overwhelming power (which backs up our diplomacy) as a force for good. If it turns out that Iranian leaders are irrational actors, our power is always available, a point President Obama made in the interview with Friedman. If we say we are the good guys, we have to do more than just resort to military force every time a disagreement arises. Otherwise, our behavior is not morally distinguishable from theirs.


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