Iran hawks displeased with the nuclear deal struck between Iran, Russia, China, the United States, and the European Union have an awful lot of complaints. But if you look closely at what they are saying, you'll notice something funny. They don't actually have any arguments about what Obama has done wrong or how a different administration would park the situation in a better place. What they have instead are a lot of talking points, MacGuffins, red herrings, and distractions that aim to divert attention from the core issue — hawks' desire to avoid diplomacy and have a war.
That's why Bloomberg View's Eli Lake, among the most sophisticated of the hawks, ends his hot take on Obama with a whine rather than a policy argument, saying, "Obama should have the decency to level with us."
But the people who really aren't leveling with us are the hawks. Delve into their varied criticisms and it all comes down to two key points:
- The Iranian regime is bad.
- The deal has some upside for the Iranian regime.
These two points have the advantage of being true. On the other hand, if the deal had no upside for the Iranian regime, Iran wouldn't be agreeing to it. And if the Iranian regime weren't bad, there would be no severe international sanctions to negotiate about. The whole premise of having a diplomatic process with Iran is that the United States, as a member of a broad international coalition, might offer the Iranians something that improves their situation and does not remove them from power.
The view that one should never make a diplomatic deal with a bad regime is hardly without precedent in American politics.
"We don't negotiate with evil," Dick Cheney famously said, "we defeat it."
And presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan have faced attacks from conservatives for violating this "don't negotiate" principle. Embrace of that principle during his first term is why George W. Bush found all off Saddam Hussein's possible concessions to international arms inspectors unacceptable. The inspectors' failure to locate WMD programs was merely evidence of how effective Saddam was at hiding them. After all, the Hussein regime was evil, and no deal with evil is worth the paper it's written on.
If you think hawks have a secret plan for regime change in Iran that will work better than the 2003 invasion of Iraq, you may find their viewpoint appealing. If not, then not. But they don't have any other alternative on offer.