Compared To What?
April 4, 2015 § 2 Comments
There’s an ancient vaudeville quip generally associated with Henny Youngman: “A fellow asked me, ‘How’s your wife?’ I said, ‘Compared to what?” Yes. It’s offensive. But it reminds me of the current reaction to the negotiations about Iran’s nuclear weapons. Netanyahu and every Republican oppose any agreement with Iran unless the Iranians promise to dismantle their nuclear capacity, change their foreign policy to conform to the preferences of Israel and declare that they will no longer oppose the policies and actions of the Israelis, usually described as ” agreeing that Israel can exist.” It appears they will be joined by a few chin-stroking Democrats, who affect a thoughtful pose and intone, “I think the Congress needs to become involved in this process.” [These stalwarts meekly abandoned their constitutional duty when LBJ began the Vietnam War and when George W began the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Now they suddenly want to second-guess negotiations concerning technical issues far beyond their knowledge designed to prevent a potentially dangerous Middle East war.]
My first reaction to all this is: First, it’s hard to treat your reaction as a reaction because a reaction usually occurs after the event to which it responds. Your “reaction” to this negotiation result began weeks before it was announced. Second, your reaction is based on the failure of the negotiations to propose solutions to problems entirely different from the issues considered by the negotiators. These negotiations concerned only nuclear weapons. They did not seek to settle all differences between Iran and the other negotiating nations. And finally, as this essay indicates, I find the negative reactions fatuous because they propose that the United States refuse to accept the negotiated framework and insist on more damaging economic sanctions.
This latter idea is so delusional that I do not, for one minute, believe that its proponents are making a serious and good faith proposal. They know very well that the Iranian leadership could not and would not return to their country to say, “Well, we tried, but we couldn’t get the U.S. and Israel to agree, so we’ll just have to dismantle our nuclear program and meet their demands.” That is the message of surrender after a devastating war; not a practical political response to the citizens of a proud nation.
I have a kind word for Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas freshman Senator. He is becoming a sort of Strangelove-Intern. Listening to him talk is like watching an vivified GI Joe doll. He proposes the logical alternative to a negotiated deal with Iran: Start bombing them. He is, at least, an honest nut.
A friend sent me a link to an excerpt from Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists. It contains the reactions to the proposed framework from twelve experienced and fully qualified scientsts. Eleven of the twelve praise the results of the negotiations and express cautious confidence that an historic basis for peace may ultimately be achieved. One scientist, from a think tank in Tel Aviv, expresses skepticism, but her skepticism is not based on the treatment of Iran’s nuclear program. She complains because the proposed agreement did not address Iran’s general international policies which she correctly identifies as opposed to those of Israel. In other words, she argues that restraints on Iran’s nuclear program should not be imposed unless Iran agrees to stop its other objectionable behavior.
Here is a link to that interesting Bulletin article.
One final note: Fox News has already been playing and replaying the celebration in Iran when the negotiation results were announced. Fox news’ message is: If Iran is happy, it’s bound to be a bad deal. I think that’s typical Fox News reasoning.
It is plain to me that when Iranians celebrated in the streets at the news of the negotiations result, the Iranian leaders got a message: “We want a deal.” Try to imagine the result if, on July 1, 2015, the Iranian leaders come back and report: “Sorry. The sanctions will continue. We couldn’t get an agreement. But, don’t worry. We have preserved the right to start a nuclear war with Israel and the U.S..” How much celebration would that evoke?