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Iran Hawks and the Loathing of Diplomacy

This quote about the deal with Iran from a Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was quite revealing:

“You can’t do a good deal with a bad guy,” said David Trott, a Republican representative from Michigan.

That’s a ridiculous thing to say, but it sums up very well the main objection that many Iran hawks have to any deal with Iran: they are offended by the fact that it has been negotiated with the Iranian government. Like Rep. Trott, they take it as a given that there can be no “good” deal negotiated with this government on the weird, ahistorical assumption that “you can’t go a good deal with a bad guy.” Not only do we know that it is possible to do a “good deal” with such governments (i.e., a deal that advances our policy goals at an acceptable cost), but it is the hostility of these regimes that makes striking deals on contentious issues even more important. It is taken for granted that Iran’s nuclear program is treated differently in part because of the kind of regime that exists in Iran. That is why securing a deal that limits their nuclear program is that much more desirable than the alternative.

Another member of the committee, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, seemed to think he was making a very incisive point when he said this:

“If the ayatollah doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to negotiate it, oh, boohoo,” the Republican said. “We’re here for America. We stand for America. You represent America.”

It’s hard to describe this as anything more than mindless posturing. Yes, our government is supposed to represent the U.S. and its interests, which is presumably what our diplomats spent the last two years doing. They managed to secure an agreement that achieves most of the things that the deal’s critics claim to want. They could not produce an agreement that forced Iran to give up everything because Iran’s negotiators likewise represent their side and similarly don’t want to be humiliated. If these members of Congress had their way, the U.S. would have walked away without any of the gains from this deal and would have left Iran’s nuclear program under far fewer constraints than it is now. That is why they think constitutes being “tough” on Iran. It’s just further confirmation that Iran hawks have all the wrong answers on how to deal with Iran.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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