Iran: So What Was the Alternative Position?


Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon.
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is going to now take to “the trail” to sell his Iran Deal to the nation, a deal that is meant to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but is accused of being soft. The President is going to make the positive case for why the deal his Administration has made is the right deal to handle Iran and keep them from obtaining the nuclear bomb. He’ll have to go out and defend the details, answer the detractors, and put forward how he’s going to use this deal to keep us safe.

Perhaps that’s the wrong way to view this though. Perhaps the more important way to view this is through the alternatives. Since being called part of the “Axis of Evil” by President George W. Bush, Iran had ramped up their nuclear program, going from basically not having one in 2001, to having thousands of centrifuges now. This is clearly a defensive response, defensive against loud, aggressive language from our last President. Clearly, “talking tough” did not curb the Iranian nuclear program. So the status quo was not a legitimate option, it was a way to further our problem with Iran. So the status quo was not an option.

So then, the options facing us were really only three: do nothing at all, the status quo, and let them have a nuclear bomb, try and negotiate them to situation where they don’t want the bomb, or go to all out war. Since we know number one would not work, only two and three were actual options. We chose #2. Why?

  • The problem with going to war with Iran is that you can’t kill ideas. The Iranians have the knowledge to build centrifuges, so they can build bombs. Unless you literally kill all the scientists in Iran, and literally probably all the people, they can always just go back to doing what they’re doing afterwards. Really, that wasn’t going to happen. Besides that, the only real way to stop Iran from continuing down the nuclear road would have been to invade them and occupy them moving forward, much like in Iraq. We’ve seen how that went. A decade, a lot of money, a lot of lives, and a still shaky democracy later, we don’t have a handle on everything going on in Iraq. At least in Iran we’d probably find the nuclear program, unlike Iraq, but no one really wants to go down that road again, I think. If you do, you’re in a minority.
  • So if war wasn’t a real option for us, then diplomacy was, and it makes perfect sense. First off, Iran is a different place than it was even in 2005. Sanctions have done major damage to their economy, and their 2013 election was basically about which candidate would be able to work with the world and end the sanctions on the country. Now, their new President is not perfect, but that alone certainly makes him a better partner to negotiate with than we’ve seen in a while from them. Given that Iran is in a different and better place to negotiate now, and war wasn’t a good option, this makes the most sense.

Now, some may disagree and say we should have went to war. Some may disagree and say the deal wasn’t tough enough, to which I say that is how negotiations work- you don’t get everything you want. If you’re not willing to give anything in a negotiation, there’s no point to negotiation.

Now if that’s your position that’s fine, but at least have the decency to tell us what your solution is. To be fair, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think is totally wrong on this issue, says his preferred solution is to bomb Iran or to stick with the sanctions and the status quo. Most of the Republicans in the United States don’t go that far. Jeb Bush doesn’t tell you what his position is on Iran, just that the deal is not his position. Does this mean he’d do nothing and continue sanctions? Does this mean he’d bomb them? You don’t know. Speaker Boehner is even worse on this issue, sitting in a position of current power, and essentially sitting there and only complaining. As President Obama said today, no one has put forward a better idea to him on how to handle Iran. As he also said bluntly the only options were diplomacy and war. Some of his critics won’t acknowledge that.

One of the problem in our politics is that we allow people to attack progress and not bring forward their own positions. This is particularly true in Washington, where talking points have become the new norm, and actual positions and policies are not rewarded. Unfortunately we don’t usually see it so nakedly apparent. Today that is clear as day.

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