By James A. Kidney
I realize that I am the only person on earth crazy enough to read and get angry about WAPO editorials — usually quietly. But today’s lead editorial is simply nonsensical and needs a response, even if only read by a few.
The Post attacks the President for not being sufficiently high-minded in defending the proposed Iran nuclear deal when he suggests that opponents offer no alternative but war and are the same folks who got us into Iraq. Incredibly, WAPO lectures Obama for defending the treaty by suggesting that “support for the deal is an obvious call and that nearly anyone who suggests otherwise is motivated by politics or ideology.” For shame, Mr. President, says WAPO editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. (In fairness, WAPO is mildly in favor of the Iran deal. But in its typical way, wants to remain high-minded in the midst of a mud fight.)
Let’s see. Before the negotiations were even completed, and before anyone not a party to the negotiations could have absorbed even the brief summary released last spring, we had 47 Republican senators writing to the Ayatollah informing him that the political majority in Congress would not support the deal. Some call that treason, but never mind. Only one Republican senator, Flake of Arizona, has not stated he opposes the deal (yet).
The leading not-retiring Democratic senator, Schumer, is against the deal. After pubic agonizing, he came out where many expected him to. His rationale was the same as that of his GOP colleagues, with nothing realistic offered as a substitute. Apparently a deal which might hold off Iranian nuclear bomb ambitions for at least 10 years and which has no strategic costs to the U.S. and its allies, including Israel (anybody can bomb the hell out of Iran if it is found to cheat – just like today) somehow poses a greater risk to Israel and the Middle East than doing nothing. It is unfair, though tempting, to say Schumer was bought by AIPAC. Wall Street gives him more money than pro-Israeli lobbies. But it is difficult to separate self-interest from the fact that more than any other senior senator, Schumer is identified with Israel, whose government is aligned with the GOP on this issue.
Incidentally, on the page immediately before the editorial page today, WAPO buries a Karen de Young story about three dozen retired admirals and generals writing a letter favoring the deal. Editorial judgment at WAPO: Not nearly as important as Martha’s Vineyard opposing tribal casino or Japan emperor whispering about domestic politics (Japan’s domestic politics; not ours). Both are page 1 stories, while generals are on The Fed Page at A13. (Those generals and admirals are just retired government employees spouting off. Let’s ghettoize them. Hey, I can fill that space.)
The best argument for opposing the deal is that relieving sanctions will allow Iran to better fund terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East. But these negotiations never were intended to impose regime change, and could not have done so peacefully. Iran is the only apparently stable government in the Middle East now, outside of its enemy, Saudi Arabia, which, for some reason besides oil, the U.S. continues to emphatically support, and Israel, which the U.S. will continue to support. (Obama has authorized more military aid to Israel than other recent presidents, by the way.) But there are two overwhelming counter-arguments:
First, our allies will not continue sanctions, at least not tough sanctions, if the U.S. blocks the treaty. Their attitude appears to be that “we did our part already. The U.S. failed to do its part. We won’t pay for U.S. truculence and irrationality.” So Iran is likely to enjoy economic gain even if the treaty is rejected. Second, and more powerfully, once you get past the Ayatollah, Iran is the most westernized and most stable nation state in the region, again outside of Israel. Offering it re-entry into the world community offers the best hope that there can be some stability returned to the Middle East. Perhaps this results in a standoff with Saudi Arabia (Shia v. Sunni), but at least there would be some sort of manageable order.
If sanctions continued, why should Iran NOT continue with its bomb program? There are sound reasons, of course, such as avoiding state suicide, but if we believe there is risk Iran might be irrational, why continue making it the Ted Kaczynski of the world by isolating it, increasing the possibility of crazed conduct? Especially since, unlike Ted, Iran wants to return to the world.
So we now have a large collection of nuclear physicists and retired military favoring the plan. But the GOP, joined by weak-kneed Dems (there always are a bunch of those laying around the Capitol) are opposing a deal without offering much, if anything, in the way of an alternative – except raising the prospect of violence. And it is true that this is mostly the same crowd that got us into Iraq in 2003 and, if you are listening to JEB (no last name, please), will put substantial numbers of troops right back into that morass called the Middle East.
Obama’s statements which WAPO’s editorial page finds so offensive are, really, speaking truth. And even if not, what other weapons can the President bring to a fight in which the opposition is armed only with “pure politics and ideology”? He is a president, not a saint.