The Opposition To The Iran Deal Is Intellectually and Morally Bankrupt

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article titled “The Iran Deal Is Strategically and Morally Absurd” at the Atlantic website. It is a good example of the repetitive and tendentious tripe that the opponents consistently offer up.

I am not fond of the bloggy format of dissecting a piece of writing sentence by sentence by sentence, although Gerecht’s piece could easily provoke such a response. Each sentence presents a misrepresenation or other ugliness that it seems wrong to allow to pass. But I’d like to make my response more succinct.

Since the title begins with “The Iran Deal,” one might expect that that would be the subject of the article. But few words are expended on the substance of the deal compared to, for example vituperation against Barack Obama. The personalization of Gerecht’s argument is typical of criticism by opponents on Twitter and elsewhere.

So we have, in Gerecht’s words,

  • Barack Obama’s profound aversion to the use of American military power
  • A stronger president and secretary of state certainly would have been willing to walk away.
  • Obama was… a man deeply uncomfortable with American hegemony and the essential marriage of diplomacy and force.
  • Obama made it increasingly clear that he was unwilling to fight
  • With Iran, Obama certainly appeared to have a cause
  • Obama’s paralyzing fear of war
  • Obama was… giving the homage that hypocrisy pays to virtue.
  • Obama’s “wishful thinking” about the region
  • Obama provided the agreement that Ali Akbar Salehi was searching for.

That’s representative of the content of the first six paragraphs. There are a few more whacks at Obama, along with Ben Rhodes and John Kerry, further down in the article. All is asserted with no support.

The first indication in the article of the content of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, nowhere fully spelled out) comes in paragraph 3:

the strategic and moral absurdity of paying, via sanctions relief, for Iranian imperialism in the Middle East so we can have a short surcease to the mullahs’ quest for the bomb

 This is larded with judgments – “strategic and moral absurdity,” “Iranian imperialism,” “short surcease,” and the assumption that “the mullahs” are driving toward a bomb. The fact goes unnoticed that the purpose of sanctions was to bring the Iranian government to the negotiating table and thus removing those sanctions was likely to be part of those negotiations.

Then come four paragraphs with more invective against Obama, speculations on the motivations of various Iranian factions, and Gerecht’s conclusions as to likely futures in the Middle East.

Gerecht then plays dumb about why missiles were not a part of the agreement, something which was addressed many times by the Obama administration: In order to reach an agreement, that agreement had to be circumscribed. If Iran has no nuclear weapons, it cannot put one on a missile. Another point emphasized during and after the negotiations was that the JCPOA was intended to be the first of a series of agreements. That intention is being sabotaged by the neverending attempts of the opponents to undermine the deal.

More speculation and invective follow, again with little to no evidence. The next few paragraphs implicitly outline a familiar theme of the opponents: All of Iran’s military bases must be open for inspection at all times, lest they hide some component of their nuclear program. No country will agree to such inspections. This concern also ignores the power of overhead satellite photos to detect unusual activity. Gerecht mocks the agreement as applying to the part of Iran’s efforts less likely to be seen (nuclear weapon research) but not on the more-likely-to-be seen missiles. But that makes sense: open up the closed, and monitor the more open.

Gerecht then shifts to “post-JCPOA” and criticism of the Trump administration. He finds Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis as feckless as Obama and his people. But now the team of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo has arrived to frighten Tehran.

However, Gerecht recognizes the possibility that Trump may pull out of the JCPOA and do nothing afterward. Gerecht presents what he believes to be the way forward: “Contain, roll back, and squeeze.”

Gerecht mentions military power throughout. Again, his words:

  • It was surely Barack Obama’s profound aversion to the use of American military power that so enfeebled his nuclear diplomacy
  • the essential marriage of diplomacy and force
  • Obama made it increasingly clear that he was unwilling to fight
  • avoiding a fight
  • Obama’s paralyzing fear of war
  • The suggestion that going to war with the clerical regime is too high a price to pay to stop the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons… is downright odd.
  • [As a desired quote from the Obama administration] This administration is unwilling to use military force to stop the mullahs’ quest for the bomb. We are unwilling to contain Iranian aggression in the Middle East. This is the best that we can do under those circumstances.
  • Contain, roll back, and squeeze.
  • As long as Trump is willing to use military force against the regime’s nuclear sites, and we don’t know whether he is, then time is on our side, not theirs.
  • Let us try to crack the regime.

And, of course, the masculine virtues accrue to such warlike intentions, as opposed to the weaker (= feminine) diplomacy of Barack Obama, very personalized:

  • It was surely Barack Obama’s profound aversion to the use of American military power that so enfeebled his nuclear diplomacy
  • I do not know whether a more forceful president and secretary of state… could have gotten a “good deal” with Tehran
  • A stronger president and secretary of state certainly would have been willing to walk away.
  • more astute, less fearful men would have been more patient, and more willing to let sanctions bite deeper into the economy and political culture of the Islamic Republic.
  • Obama made it increasingly clear that he was unwilling to fight over the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons ambitions.
  • The many debilitating weaknesses of the JCPOA
  • Obama’s “wishful thinking” about the region
  • his [Trump’s] rhetoric is commendably harsh.
  • It is always good to see a Revolutionary Guard Corps website announce about Bolton that “Trump’s Raging Bull has arrived.”
  • American resolve always convulses and paralyzes the clerical regime.
  • Contain, roll back, and squeeze.
  • most Democrats and some Republicans went soft by the end of the Cold War.

The three bulleted lists overlap in a marriage of invective, warmongering, and gendering, as is all too common from those opposing the JCPOA.

 

Daniel Larison has another take on the opponents’ dishonesty.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

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