Bad Analogies Abounding on Iran DealRoundup
tags: Iran, Obama, nuclear deal
In their desperation to sabotage the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran, neoconservative foes of the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) are resorting to all kinds of historical analogies. Their most popular, of course, date back to the 1930s: appeasement, Chamberlain, Munich, Hitler, and all of that other stuff that led to the Holocaust. They’ve hardly given up on those perennials, but now they are trying to develop new analogies, notably tied to the Cold War. Although somewhat less dramatic and emotional, these new analogies still defy common sense. And the Washington Posteditorial board keeps giving them the space to do it.
On July 24, the newspaper featured an op-ed (“A Deal to Walk Away From“) by Frederick Kagan (whose expertise, I’ve always thought was more military than diplomatic history) of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Very briefly, it argues that Congress should reject the JCPOA, just as the Senate refused to ratify the SALT II accord between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Noting that the Senate’s effective rejection did not result in a war and resulted eventually in the START agreement, Kagan argues that “[o]pposing the current deal is thus not in any way equivalent to favoring war.” And although he concedes that “[h]istorical analogies are always perilous,” he nonetheless assumes that if Congress rejects the deal, we can just always go back to the table, and everything should be hunky-dory just as it was after SALT II collapsed.
There’s no point in detailing the absurdity of this line of argument. One need only point out that the world has changed rather dramatically since the 1970s when there were just two superpowers sitting across the table from each other, and no one else really counted for much, at least insofar as strategic nuclear forces were concerned. The current deal, however, is not between two superpowers. Several other parties have signed on to the agreement and are most unlikely to reject it no matter what the U.S. Congress does. Those other parties include not only Russia and China, but also three of our closest NATO allies, all of which have indicated they have no intention of “walking away from” this agreement.
So, if the U.S. walks away, as Kagan urges, the multilateral sanctions regime—which was vastly more effective than Washington’s unilateral efforts—will most assuredly collapse. And Washington’s leverage to compel Iran to accept a “better agreement” will be significantly reduced (unless it is prepared to attack Iran, which Kagan says he does not “favor”). Kagan’s analysis does not even begin to address this problem, which reflects his and his fellow neocons’ persistent difficulty in coming to terms with a world that has become truly multi-, as opposed to bi- or unipolar. ...