Charles Krauthammer

"President Obama, I support the Americans' outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing." -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Sept. 24

WASHINGTON -- When France chides you for appeasement, you know you're scraping bottom. Just how low we've sunk was demonstrated by the Obama administration's satisfaction when Russia's president said of Iran, after meeting President Obama at the U.N., that "sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable."

You see? The Obama magic. Engagement works. Russia is on board. Except that, as The Washington Post inconveniently pointed out, President Dmitry Medvedev said the same thing a week earlier, and the real power in Russia, Vladimir Putin, had changed not at all in his opposition to additional sanctions. And just to make things clear, when Iran then brazenly test-fired offensive missiles, Russia reacted by declaring that this newest provocation did not warrant the imposition of tougher sanctions.

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Do the tally. In return for selling out Poland and the Czech Republic by unilaterally abrogating a missile-defense security arrangement that Russia had demanded be abrogated, we get from Russia ... what? An oblique hint, of possible support, for unspecified sanctions, grudgingly offered and of dubious authority -- and, in any case, leading nowhere because the Chinese have remained resolute against any Security Council sanctions.

Confusing ends and means, the Obama administration strives mightily for shows of allied unity, good feeling and pious concern about Iran's nuclear program -- whereas the real objective is stopping that program. This feel-good posturing is worse than useless, because all the time spent achieving gestures is precious time granted Iran to finish its race to acquire the bomb.

Don't take it from me. Take it from Sarkozy, who could not conceal his astonishment at Obama's naivete. On Sept. 24, Obama ostentatiously presided over the Security Council. With 14 heads of state (or government) at the table, with an American president at the chair for the first time ever, with every news camera in the world trained on the meeting, it would garner unprecedented worldwide attention.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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