Earlier this week, President Obama said explicitly what a lot of us have been pointing out for a long time about nuclear negotiations with Iran:
“Let’s not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon. How can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?”
As Obama also noted, much of the opposition to the Iran diplomatic approach has come from the same folks who pushed us into war with Iraq, promising us that we would be greeted as liberators, that Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing, that we would be out in a matter of weeks if not months and that the invasion would lead to new era of stability as the Arab world opened itself to democracy.
Oh, and the demonstration of overwhelming American military muscle in Iraq would force the mullahs in neighboring Iran to cower with newfound respect.
It is remarkable to me that the same people who were proved so profoundly wrong about almost everything regarding Iraq, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are still treated by some as fonts of wisdom about Middle East policy. As Obama pointed out Wednesday, they have been proved wrong in every stage of the Iran nuclear negotiations as well.
They claimed sanctions would never bring Iran to the negotiating table; they claimed that Iran would never agree to surrender its stockpile of highly enriched uranium; they claimed Iran would not honor the commitments it made in the early stages of the agreement. They have been proved wrong, wrong and wrong.
Now those same people who claimed that negotiations weren’t worth trying and could never succeed are trying to claim that the negotiations would have gone even better if they had been in charge. They claim that the work product of these long, painful negotiations with other world powers and Iran — a deal endorsed with a unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council — can safely be abandoned as a whole new negotiating and sanctions regime is put into place.
It is utterly nonsensical, and they know it. They know what Obama knows and what any rational observer of the Middle East knows: “Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option — another war in the Middle East.”
And foes of this nuclear agreement, including the current leadership of Israel, want that war fought by and paid for by the Americans. They still believe, as they believed before the invasion of Iraq, that through war they can redesign the Middle East to their liking, replacing antagonistic regimes with puppet regimes and intimidating the region into quiet acquiescence.
And when you point out that such an approach has proved an absolute failure in Iraq, compounding rather than reducing the problems that we face, they reply as ideologues will always reply. They will tell you that their policy in Iraq failed not because it was strategically and historically ignorant, but because it was not pursued ardently enough, violently enough, aggressively enough. It wasn’t a failure of analysis, but a failure of will. If $2 trillion, four thousand American dead and more than eight years of occupation wasn’t enough, surely $4 trillion, eight thousand dead and 16 to 20 years of occupation would have produced the promised outcome.
“There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative,” Obama acknowledged. “But how can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran; that is supported by the rest of the world; and that preserves our options if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops? How could we justify that to the world or to future generations?”
We could not. I’ve said from the beginning that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would be the biggest American foreign policy blunder in our history, and that has proved accurate. A rejection of this nuclear treaty, and the war that it would probably make inevitable, would make our Iraq mistake seem almost minor by comparison.