Iran Deal: The End of “Only Nixon Could Go to China”

MiamiA consensus seems is building that suggests President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal will overcome Congressional objections, if only because there’s not quite enough objectors (and perhaps because possible flaws won’t be apparent until after Obama is retired to Chicago and President Trump as opened an investigation into exactly where Obama was really born).

…And you have a beard just like Fidel Castro!

It struck me that Obama has broken one of Washington’s favorite nonsense taboos: that only someone who is fervently against doing something in foreign policy can actually go ahead and do it. This stems from the old saw that said, “Only Nixon Could Go to China.” That is: because President Richard Nixon was such a hardline anti-Commie, he could actually break the prohibition against having relations with what was arguably, at the time, the most repellent of Marxist regimes, then headed by arch-Stalinist Mao Tse Tung.

If you think Iran possesses a damnable record of evil, recall that at the time the Vietnam War, incorrectly fought in the name of stopping Chinese-style communist expansion, was ending with a US defeat. Dominoes were supposed to fall all over the region and US credibility as a bastion of liberty was smashed. China was supporting Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, murderous Maoists who were soon to take over Cambodia. Ongoing was the Cultural Revolution, during which Mao unleashed mob violence against his opponents, real and imagined, killing millions.

It was argued, and soon became a cliché, that only someone like Nixon, a hawk and long time supporter of breakaway, anti-Communist Taiwan, could deal with the Chinese and open diplomatic relations.

Well, Obama crushed the idea that you must be hardline anti-something to make a bold move in the other direction. That goes not only with the Iran deal, but his opening to Cuba. Despite all the complaints from opponents and some supporters on both moves, Obama just went ahead anyhow, raising suspicions that, unlike Nixon with China, he never really had much of an aversion to making deals with old enemies, or even offending old pals, like Israel.

His tactical genius was negotiating the Iran agreement in tandem with other nuclear powers. That made the deal a virtual fait accompli, no matter what domestic opponents think or want. As Obama spinners constantly remind critics, sanctions against will not hold if the US pulls out of the deal, so this is the best anyone can expect. As for Cuba, Obama simply recognized that opposition to relations with Havana had long dried up, even among Cuban-Americans (are you listening, Marco Rubio?).

And he did it all without the lubrication of Panda Diplomacy, that Chinese tradition of sending cuddly bears to former enemies aimed at placing a veil of cuteness over China and its rulers. Who can ever forget First Lady Pat Nixon welcoming Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing to the National Zoo?

The coming confrontation over Iran.

Here are the odds of Congress killing the Iran deal, according to bettors.

Krauthammer says Obama like Nixon, in a different way.

Btw, even Cuban-Americans favored change in Washington-Havana relations. Public not in favor of Iran deal.





Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

One Reply to “Iran Deal: The End of “Only Nixon Could Go to China””

  1. Nixon’s sponsorship of the China rapprochement ensured that it fit within our post-WW2 tradition of bipartisan foreign policy on the important stuff. That tradition is evaporating, starting with the opposition of Obama et al to the Iraq War and continuing with the opposition of most Republicans to everything Obama tries to do, here and abroad. Obama has properly side-stepped paralysis, but the interesting question is whether the next Republican president (if any) will terminate the Iran agreement, and if so whether our effectiveness on the world stage will thereby suffer irreparable damage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet