As the frog learned to its demise scorpions cannot be trusted and so it is with Iran as President Joe Biden, under the cover of the war in Ukraine, creeps towards a renewed nuclear deal with the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism. Yet this fable is not just about Iran, or Russia or China or Islamist extremists. It reveals a pattern of psychological strategic incompetence eroding the West’s power and influence in the global rules-based order. As with human nature, so it is with geo-politics, expecting rewards from the wicked will be your undoing.
If you thought the West’s strategic incompetence led by Biden could not get worse, you might be surprised to discover his administration has outsourced its negotiations with Iran to Russia for a revised nuclear deal. While the US is in a proxy war with Russia over Ukraine, and US Senator Lindsay Graham wants Vladmir Putin assassinated, Russia is representing the US. What could go wrong by letting the scorpion negotiate your interests with a snake? Despite running a thriving global drugs trade, using Western hostages as bargaining chips and wanting to wipe Israel off the map, we are to accept Iran’s promise not to build nuclear weapons. That’s like believing in magic carpets. The power of psychological incompetence is in what you are desperate to believe.
It’s a risky business travelling the desert of lies seeking an oasis of truth. Ten days ago, Iran fired missiles towards the US consulate in Erbil, Northern Iraq. Iran did not even hide its actions. They openly claimed responsibility. They did not care. Now, no enemy of the West has its mind infested with doubt. Instead, it is the West that appears fearful. Being led, not leading. We remain ignorant of the warning that behind the reasonable demand nests a larger ambition and concessions made out of fear can be costly. A terrorist-sponsoring state with nuclear weapons capability in any form is intolerable.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement signed with Iran under the Obama administration was sweetened with US$1.7 billion in cash. Crate loads of US dollars were flown by the US State Department to Geneva and loaded onto Iranian cargo planes. Then Hezbollah received US$700 million of extra funding and US$100 million went to Iran’s other terrorist proxies across the region. Now it is revealed that if Putin can get an Iranian deal Biden will waive the recent sanctions imposed on Russia by at least US$10 billion. Sounds insane, but this is real.
The 20th century is littered with conflict resulting from bad judgments made by world leaders that now appear implausible. One of the most relevant is British PM Neville Chamberlain’s belief that Hitler could be trusted. Yet we don’t need to go back to World War II. During the Nineties, the global idealists believed by accepting China into the World Trade Organisation the communist regime would open up. Coinciding with the internet revolution, Bill Clinton said attempts by the CCP to retain its authoritarian control would be like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. We have been in a brutal soft-power conflict ever since. Whether through debt-trap diplomacy, ‘win-win’ deals, ravaging global fishing stocks or militarising sandy atolls in the South China Sea, strategic incompetence shaped our cognitive dissonance. We invested so much, surely if we invest a little more, they will love us. Now many Western elites, politicians, corporates, media and academics have become apologists for a communist regime as it marches to replace Western hegemonic power.
One of the destructive traits of the psychology of strategic incompetence is a collective ignorance of adverse information that goes against a narrative. A trait that allows our system to be exploited by those who hate us. Recall when the Isis insurgency metastasised around the world. We had to endure the nonsense of not calling them Islamist extremists. It was hurtful. Critical thinkers were branded Islamophobic. Never mind Isis were raping hundreds of women, selling others as sex slaves and beheading and burning alive those who refused to submit to their barbaric cult. The frenzied killing last year of British Conservative MP Sir David Amess, at the hand of suspect Ali Harbi Ali, should have been called out for what it was; Islamist extremism. Instead, limp-wristed politicians called for ‘a kinder, gentler dialogue’ which has all the effect of stroking scorpions.
Remember last June the eleven-day indiscriminate rocket attack against Israel coordinated by Iran with Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. While Israel was protecting civilians with rockets and Hamas was protecting rockets with civilians, the ABC, the Project and the foreign policy experts on Yarra City Council, turned the terrorists into victims and the victims into terrorists. Powerful geopolitical forces are merging causes against Western democratic Judeo-Christian principles. While it provides good political theatre to blame others for our demise, it’s morally dishonest because we did this to ourselves.
Another trait of the psychology of strategic incompetence is its contagion across the in-group.
It was embarrassing enough watching President Biden grovelling to Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia to sell the US oil rather than turning to the workers in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota. Yet last week, just days after giving Iran £400 million over a historical payment dispute, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Saudi Arabia pleading for oil. Johnson’s payment to Iran would have been a personal insult to the Saudis. Surprise, surprise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said ‘no’. The West’s doubling-down on its obsession with net zero is playing into the hands of our enemies. To make matters worse for Johnson, the Saudis said in future they might price their oil in Chinese yuan. Hard to believe the de-US dollarisation of the international financial system has become a realistic long-term risk. We believed so strongly in our own invulnerability.
Despite the one-sided reporting, the Ukrainians are being bludgeoned into a stalemate as Biden appears to be in no rush to end the conflict. Stalemates in war are not bloodless. They are enormously costly. As ham-fisted as the Russian military appears it is not fighting to be loved. Even if an agreement is signed between Russia and the Ukraine to end this battle, the damage has been done. Now our opponents know they have little to fear and the stage is set for the wider war to continue with the same globalists in charge of our future.
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