11/25/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sarkozy the Realist; Obama the Dreamer

In George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methusela, the Serpent says "I hear you say 'why?' Always "Why?' You see things; and you say 'Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?'" While Shaw may have thought the answer to the world's problems is to live forever, and Eve may have expressed disdain for the here-and-now, looking hopefully to the future, we must live in the present.

If we genuinely want to ask "why not" as G.B. Shaw, Robert Kennedy and now Barack Obama have asked, we must first realize the "why not" cannot be attained unless and until we deal with the "as is."

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic, in a speech largely ignored in the American media, took President Obama to task for not dealing with the "as is" of world affairs. I would very much like to have a world without nuclear weapons. I do not, however, believe that it is practical or even possible to have such a world.

President Obama talked at the U.N. Security Council about the "fundamental threat" nuclear weapons pose:

Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people and would badly destabilize our security, our economies and our very way of life.

President Obama even singles out North Korea and Iran, the two most significant threats to the entire world, saying that there must be "full compliance" by those two countries. But in typical Obama fashion, he then tries to skirt the direct approach to those rogue nations:

While the resolution passed 15-0, China and Russia balked at a French proposal to cite Iran and North Korea by name. In a diplomatic fudge, the text therefore refers only to Security Council resolutions concerning the countries. Obama mentioned the two countries by name in his speech, saying he was not trying to single out any country but that "international law is not an empty promise."

President Sarkozy, in what appears to me as a direct retort to President Obama, delivered the following speech:

France fully supports your initiative to organize this meeting and the efforts you undertook with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals. But let us speak frankly - we are here to guarantee peace.

We are right to speak of the future, but before the future there is the present, and at present we have two nuclear crises.

The people of the entire world are listening to what we're saying, to our promises, our commitments and our speeches, but we live in a real world, not a virtual world.

If that isn't a direct rebuke of President Obama's world vision, I don't know what is. You can only guarantee peace when you take away the threat. You can talk, negotiate, cajole and even impose sanctions, but until concrete steps are taken to alleviate the threat, you cannot guarantee peace. North Korea, and in particular, Iran, are willing to use nuclear weapons against the United States, Israel, Europe and others. That is the real world, not the virtual world.

President Sarkozy continues:

We say: reductions must be made. And President Obama has even said, "I dream of a world without [nuclear weapons]." Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council resolutions. Since 2005, Secretary-General, the international community has called on Iran to engage in dialogue. An offer of dialogue was made in 2005, an offer of dialogue was made in 2006, an offer of dialogue was made in 2007, an offer of dialogue was made in 2008, and another one was made in 2009. President Obama, I support the Americans' outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing. More enriched uranium, more centrifuges, and on top of that, a statement by Iranian leaders proposing to wipe a UN member State off the map.

Amen. Even now, we are learning of Iran's expanded development of nuclear weapons. He continues:

What are we doing? What conclusions are we drawing? There comes a time when facts are stubborn and decisions must be made.

If we want in the end to have a world without nuclear weapons, let us not accept the violation of international rules.

I understand perfectly well the various positions of the different parties, but all of us may one day be threatened by a neighbour who has obtained a nuclear weapon.

This is the language of a realist -- someone who understands his country is threatened physically and philosophically by a rogue nation building weapons of mass destruction capable of eliminating Paris. We need that same kind of perspective in the White House.

You can read the rest of President Sarkozy's speech here.