1. From the very beginning, I will grant that for me, no deal is better than a bad deal, or even a "less good" deal. Iran not getting a nuclear weapon is for me, simply not worth what was given up either at the negotiating table or in the instructions to our negotiators. It strikes me as interesting that the Administration's single-minded desire to create conditions designed to slow Iran's attainment of a nuclear weapon seems to dramatically outstrip the desire of the State of Israel for the same goal. Like Israel (I think I've read this right), a deal that potentially slows their nuclear program but which leaves them in a significantly better position economically (with greater resources to continue to mastermind their worldwide terror activities), with no restrictions on their conventional missile program, with our four hostages still in Iranian prisons, and which does not recognize Israel's right to exist is worse than the status quo. And by the status quo, I grant that means Iran gets the bomb at some point (two months was the figure put forward yesterday--though I have no reason to believe or trust that figure), but it does so as an international pariah with a hobbled economy. The Administration wanted this halfdeal so badly that it dealt away much of what could have made it meaningful.
2. A point often made by supporters of this deal is that it wasn't a deal about Israel, and it wasn't a deal about conventional weapons, it wasn't about prisoners, and it wasn't a deal about their terror activities. Such a deal would have been--in their words--"impossible". Like my old CO Jake Ross used to say, "you want it bad, you get it bad". They wanted the limited objective of slowing Iran's quest for the bomb so badly that they walked away from anything bigger, and then allowed themselves to be whittled down even there as to the objectives that they sought connected even with this limited goal. Supporters tell us that all of these other "side" issues would have muddied the water--and then don't have an answer for all of the places within the ACTUAL negotiation where we backed down from public statements.
3. The "what is your alternative?" play. This -- like the "Strawman Comparison" is a favorite rhetorical tactic of the Obama Administration and its supporters. For the longest time, the President has been telling us that the alternative to his plan was "war". Until the negotiations got tough, at which point he told us that he was "willing to walk away". To war? I mean, because that was the only alternative, right? A derivative of this approach is the 'what is your alternative" question, which for supporters of the deal, means that irrespective of how relevant or insightful one's criticism of the ACTUAL deal is, unless you can come forward with something to replace it, your views are somehow without weight or value. I made the comparison on Facebook yesterday thusly: you are an infantry platoon leader, and your company commander is laying out his plan for taking "that" hill. It is a very, very tough objective. You don't have a plan of your own--but the plan he lays out has gaping holes in it that you believe could lead to mission failure. Should you sit there and say nothing because you don't have a better idea? My interlocutor did not agree that this was an apt analogy. I did not agree with him.
4. The "the deal has much of what the Bush Administration was negotiating" in it. So what. It wasn't a "deal" then. It was a negotiation. Conducted largely in private. Most bothersome of all though, I am unfamiliar with the Bush Administration's plan to force a multi-nationally agreed upon framework upon the American people as an Executive Agreement, rather than as a Treaty. You are free to question my honor if you wish, but I am here to tell you that if GWB had reached this deal and was trying to bring it into force the way THIS Administration is doing, I would have rejected it just as strongly.
5. The "critics haven't read the deal" play. Well, I have. All of it. And while I believe it has the potential to slow or delay Iran's nuclear weapons program, I continue to believe "the juice wasn't worth the squeeze". One highly placed friend used this as his opening gambit yesterday, and when I responded that I had read it, he cited classified experiences/dialogues that he couldn't discuss as further evidence. Nice try.
6. So--what IS my alternative. Well, even though I don't believe my criticisms to be any less weighty without one, I did in fact have one--which I laid out briefly on FB and will do so in more detail here.
1. Continue to exert world leadership to isolate the Iranian regime.
2. Continue to exert world leadership to deprive them of the components of a nuclear weapon -- counter proliferation and other (clandestine) methods.
3. And finally.....and this is taken directly from an unpublished paper I wrote in 2006....
"The United States must come to grips with the fact that while counter-proliferation strategies have certainly slowed the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, they have not stopped it, nor does it appear to be a winning strategy for the long haul. Continuing to create the conditions to discourage nuclear weapons proliferation must remain a part of the overall strategy, but a new emphasis must be placed on managing the consequences of existent proliferation. To that end, and in harmony with other like-minded first generation nuclear powers, the United States must seek to encourage (to the extent possible) debate within the governments and the people of emerging nuclear powers about the responsibilities that flow from their possession. The most effective way of doing so would be to clearly state what the consequences of both the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons would be.
What does this mean? At a minimum, it means that we must once again engage in an open discussion as to what would be acceptable retaliatory measures to be taken in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States or one of its allies. Furthermore, we must continue to field and deploy appropriate defenses against ballistic missiles. In this new form of deterrence, a robust missile defense system (including forward deployed sea-based defenses) would necessarily cause a more in-depth calculation as to the effectiveness of a nuclear attack enabled by this greatly proliferated delivery platform. Additionally, consideration must be given to the ramifications of nuclear attacks on nations not necessarily friendly to the U.S.
More specifically, the Administration should issue the following statement, reminiscent of President Kennedy’s statement at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis: “It will be the policy of the United States Government to regard any nuclear attack by the nations of Iran (or other third generation nuclear powers) as an attack on world civilization, requiring an overwhelming and disproportionate response, to include the use of nuclear weapons already targeting all major cities of those nations.”
What would be the desired effect of such a statement? First and foremost, it would provide the impetus for a healthy debate within those countries, at least within their leadership structures, as to the true responsibilities of a nuclear power. In Iran, a well-educated populace who has thus far been steadily fed a diet of the privileges associated with nuclear status would suddenly have to confront the wisdom of possessing such weapons given the near-certainty of the destruction of their ancient civilization in the event of those weapons use. Secondly, even if these third generation powers were to persist in their desire to possess such weapons, they would now be forced to consider the kinds of issues that dominated the early days of first generation nuclear development, specifically, weapons command and control, and the development of use doctrine.
Ultimately, nuclear weapons will continue to spread. The technology associated with nuclear weapons development is well into its eighth decade of existence, and to continue to rely primarily on counter-proliferation strategies leaves us dangerously unprepared for the inevitable rise of additional nuclear powers. We must move toward a strategy that offers third generation powers the respect they seek by expecting of them the responsible approach to nuclear weapons that has characterized the first generation. In other words, “Welcome to the club, now here are the rules.”
There you go.