Mutually assured delusion: Obama defers to Iran


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of the United Congress on Tuesday sought to call into question the perennially troubled Barack Obama administration's Middle East policy.

Even many supporters of President Obama are finding it increasingly difficult to defend a White House approach to the most volatile region on earth that is perceived as muted, muddled and generally reactive.

This perception however is mistaken: there is indeed a clear, coherent Obama Doctrine for the Middle East.

The Obama Doctrine is predicated on the belief that an ascending Shia power such as Iran is a natural ally in the West's goal of developing a counterweight to ISIS and other Sunni Islamist groups.

This assumption, coupled with a disturbingly rosy assessment as to the threat Islamists pose to regional and global stability, justifies an ebbing US presence in the Mid-East.

This informal union of interests is already redrawing the Middle East map.

President Obama’s tacit acceptance of Teheran’s expanding theater of operations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Golan Heights, Yemen and Gaza is tantamount to American-Iranian collusion in the eyes of many Sunni leaders.

Regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran, the contents and consequence of a nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran are less pertinent to Obama than the inking of a deal, any deal.

For the Obama Doctrine's very legitimacy is staked to the signing of a negotiated settlement with the Islamic Republic. Once given the international community's good housekeeping seal of approval, Iran's critics – namely Israel – will become increasingly irrelevant and ignored.

Obama's logic is a hopeless mess because it is based on the assumption that the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assure Destruction (MAD) is in any way relevant to today's radicalized, theologically driven Middle East.

The Obama Doctrine is tethered to the hope that neither Shia nor Sunni extremists would dare launch a nuclear attack since the other side would undoubtedly retaliate with equal or greater force.

Thing is, MAD only makes sense if the parties to a conflict have displayed an ability to act in a rational manner.

Unfortunately for America's misguided Chief Executive, the mullah regime in Teheran today bears no resemblance to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Similar to other Muslim theocracies in the Middle East, Iranian leaders do not formulate policies based on a set of rationally calculated national interests but rather by what best serves their savage interpretation of the religion of Islam.

The US and Soviet Union were deterred by the prospects of a nuclear holocaust. In contrast, Islamist regimes across the Middle East are emboldened by the idea of accelerating the process of establishing a worldwide caliphate: a single theocratic government that will overthrow the world's current political systems.

And have no fear: a nuclear armed, ideologically driven Tehran will be highly resolved to multiply its territorial ambitions, no doubt triggering a regional nuclear arms race.

If the Obama Doctrine is not reversed, the forecast for the Middle East can be summed up as follows:

“And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard. It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.” – Bob Dylan.

Meet Harry Schwartzbart — defender of the First Amendment


Harry Schwartzbart proselytizes as hard as any Christian clergyman in this country.

He makes about 2,000 phone calls a year. He speaks two or three times a month at various houses of worship within a 100-mile radius of his Chatsworth home. And he books lunch or dinner engagements with any clergy member of any faith who will give him 90 minutes of his undivided attention.

To date, he counts more than 500 meals with individual priests, rabbis and ministers.

But Schwartzbart isn’t on a religious mission. Rather, he said, “I am determined to keep the United States from becoming a theocracy.”

To accomplish this, the 84-year-old retired Rockwell engineer and metallurgist consultant works tirelessly as president emeritus of the San Fernando Valley chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national education and advocacy organization of 75,000 members that “devotes 100 percent of its time and resources to church-state separation.”

The group meets quarterly at varying Jewish and Christian sites. At its most recent meeting on Jan. 28 at Temple Judea, the San Fernando Valley chapter featured as its guest speaker Nick Matzke, an expert in debunking “intelligent design” claims.

A member almost since its establishment in 1947, Schwartzbart did not become active until 1994, when Pat Robertson was “scaring the hell” out of him. At that time, he founded the San Fernando Valley chapter, which quickly became the largest and one of the most active of the organization’s 70-some local chapters.

Strictly a volunteer, he served as president until two years ago. Now, as president emeritus, he retains his position as the one-man membership committee — which he considers his most important duty — as well as the sole speakers bureau representative.

From the first meeting on Oct. 5, 1994, Schwartzbart’s single, unstoppable focus has been to make as many Americans as possible aware of what he considers the 16 most important words in the English language, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

While his success is difficult to measure definitively, he claims to have enlightened a significant number of people.

“I’m persistent as hell; I never give up,” he said, explaining that he calls himself Harry “Nase Shmate” Schwartzbart, translating the Yiddish as “wet rag.”
“Some of my very best friends won’t take my calls anymore,” he added.

He also laments that he has never succeeded in engaging any Orthodox rabbi in dialogue. The Orthodox, he said, primarily because of the voucher issue, side with the Robertson supporters.

Having discovered early on that his most useful tool is the telephone, Schwartzbart calls every person on his mailing list no less than once a year. The number has remained steady at about 2,000 names, with a turnover of about 5 percent each month.

A self-professed Luddite, Schwartzbart keeps all his contact information on 3-by-5 cards he arranges alphabetically in five long file boxes, meticulously logging every phone conversation, donation and even “do not call” request. His wife, Mary, backs up all the data on a computer.

“Harry is literally an organizational genius, and he was one even before anyone invented the Internet,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. Lynn frequently dispatches Schwartzbart to other parts of the country to help volunteers establish new chapters.

In addition to his phoning, Schwartzbart speaks as often as possible. He says he requires five hours to do his subject justice. He’s happy to talk that long or as little as five minutes.

Preferring to run a lean organization, he eschews fundraisers, but he does hold four general meetings a year. He also actively monitors Establishment Clause law violations and intervenes when necessary.

“Being a Jew” is Schwartzbart’s short answer to what motivates him to do this work, maintaining that any Jew who does not support separation of church and state is an “idiot.”

And while he admits to being raised Orthodox, he won’t discuss his theological views, claiming they are irrelevant to his work in Americans United, which counts in its membership a cross-section of believers of all faiths as well as nonbelievers.

Pressed further, he explains that he was the first in his family to be born in the United States. His parents left Ukraine, escaping political persecution, and settled with their four children in Altoona, Pa., in 1921. Schwartzbart was born two years later.

While the United States has had its share of fundamentalists and religious extremists throughout history, Schwartzbart believes that “the religious right has a degree of political power unprecedented in this country.”

He sees today’s hot-button issues as women’s reproductive rights, gay rights and the teaching of intelligent design. Additionally, sex, prayer in school and the flag remain continuing concerns.

Outside of Americans United, his only organizational commitment, Schwartzbart is devoted to his family. He has been married for 53 years and has three grown children.

Music is Schwartzbart’s avocational passion. In fact, he met his wife while playing viola in the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, where she played the violin. Until about 10 years ago, they played string quartets in their house at least once a week.

Additionally, Schwartzbart is a staunch Shakespeare buff. He reads some of the Bard’s work each day and has been diligently keeping a journal for the last two decades — one for each year — titled, “My Daily Shakespeare,” in which he enters quotations pertaining to historic or personal events.

Schwartzbart’s biggest worry is the future of Americans United in the San Fernando Valley, even though the current president is actively engaged.

“I am sorely afraid that when I am gone, the chapter will die,” he said.

In the meantime, showing no signs of slowing down, Schwartzbart intends to keep working on behalf of Americans United.

“There’s nothing that drives me harder. I do whatever I think it takes to help the cause,” he said.

For additional information on Americans United, visit the San Fernando Valley chapter at www.ausfv.org, where you can read Schwartzbart’s monthly commentaries, or the national organization at www.au.org.