Krauthammer: Obama’s legacy will be one of fictional agreements
Barack Obama has gained the second jewel in his foreign policy triple crown: the Paris climate accord. It follows his Iran nuclear deal and awaits but the closing of Guantanamo to complete his glittering legacy.
To be sure, Obama will not be submitting the climate agreement for Senate ratification. It would have no chance of passing — as with the Iranian nuclear deal, also never submitted for the Senate ratification Obama knew he’d never get. And if he does close Guantanamo, it will be in defiance of overwhelming bipartisan congressional opposition.
You see, visionary thinkers like Obama cannot be bound by normal constitutional strictures. Indeed, the very unpopularity of his most cherished diplomatic goals is proof of their prophetic farsightedness.
Yet the climate deal brought back from Paris by Secretary of State John Kerry turns out to be no deal at all. It is, instead, a series of carbon-reducing promises made individually and unilaterally by the world’s nations.
No enforcement, no sanctions, nothing legally binding. No matter, explained Kerry on “Fox News Sunday”: “This mandatory reporting requirement ... is a serious form of enforcement, if you will, of compliance, but there is no penalty for it, obviously.”
What the climate-change conference produced was hot air, applauded by 196 well-fed participants. (Fourteen nights in Paris, after all.) China promises to begin reducing carbon emissions 15 years from now. India announced it will be tripling its coal-fired electricity capacity by 2030. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is effectively dismantling America’s entire coal industry.
Looking for guidance on how the U.S. will fare under this new environmental regime? Take a glance at Obama’s other great triumph, the Iran nuclear accord.
Does the American public know that the Iranian parliament has never approved it? And that the Iranian president has never signed it? Iran is not legally bound to anything. As the State Department freely admitted, the deal “is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.” But don’t worry. Its success “will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures” and our “capacity to reimpose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments.”
And how is that going?
On Nov. 21, Iran conducted its second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in direct contravention of two U.N. Security Council prohibitions, including one that incorporates the current nuclear agreement — which bans such tests for eight years.
Our response? After Iran’s first illegal launch in October, the administration did nothing. A few words at the United Nations. Weren’t we repeatedly assured that any Iranian violation would be met with vigorous action? No worry, again. As U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told a congressional hearing last week, “discussions are a form of U.N. action.”
The heart sinks.
It’s a legacy of fictional agreements. The proliferators and the polluters are not bound. By our own volition, we are.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group