The Obama administration was right when it insisted that the capture and release of 10 American sailors by Iran showed the benefits of a cooperative relationship with Tehran.
The crux of the arrangement is simple: the Iranians agree to humiliate us (and pursue their long war against the United States and their hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East) and we agree not to care. It is, as Secretary of State John Kerry says, diplomacy at its best.
What Vice President Joe Biden called “standard nautical practice” involved the Iranians making our sailors get on their knees on their captured boats, eliciting an apology from the commander, and photographing and videotaping all of it to broadcast for propaganda purposes — in clear violation of international law.
This obviously wasn’t another Carter-era Iranian Hostage Crisis (it wasn’t even a hostage crisis), but it was another national humiliation to add to a sour public mood that President Obama doesn’t get, let alone understand his own role in creating.
His State of the Union Address was devoted to a pep talk for the country that did more to demonstrate that he is out of touch — an occupational hazard for late-second-term presidents — than that anyone is wrong to feel pessimistic.
Yes, the economy has had a long recovery, but it has been slow and weak and, by some measures, hasn’t been felt in much of the country. Yes, we are the most powerful nation on earth, but our adversaries, from Putin to ISIS to Iran, have been gaining and eager to demonstrate our toothlessness — in the case of ISIS, with spectacular acts of evil.
The president’s version of world events in the State of the Union was particularly wan.
He touted the marginal gains against ISIS without coming to grips with the catastrophes that made its rise possible.