David Brooks makes a bizarre comment on Trump’s decision to renege on the nuclear deal:
The third piece of evidence is Iran. I have doubts about the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the nuke agreement. But I do know that the argument that many of the Obama people relied on as predicate for the deal is wrong. They argued that, deep down, the Iranian leaders are worldly sophisticates who, if we just gave them the welcome mat, would want to join our community of nations.
This is the vanity of the educated class going back for centuries. Since we’re obviously so superior, everybody else secretly wants to be like us. It’s wrong. Thugs gotta thug. Religious fanatics gotta fanaticize.
The Iranian regime has continued on its merry way, pouring troops into Syria, lobbing missiles at Israel, propping up extremist armies across the Middle East. Maybe Trump is right to intuit that the only right response to a monster is to enclose it. Maybe he’s right that when you sense economic weakness in a potential threat, you hit it again.
I can’t recall anyone making the argument that Brooks says “the Obama people relied on as predicate for the deal.” Brooks’ description sounds very much like a strawman that he is setting up in order to knock it down. There was a hope on the U.S. and allied side that resolving the nuclear issue could reduce regional tensions, but no one assumed that it would definitely change the Iranian government’s behavior for the better. Most supporters of the deal assumed that it was worth having because their other behavior was not going to change.
Brooks can’t quite bring himself to endorse Trump’s decision (“Please don’t take this as an endorsement of the Trump foreign policy” he begs us at the end), but it’s clear that buys into some of the shoddy reasoning behind it. Yes, Iran’s foreign policy remains more or less unchanged from what it was before the nuclear deal, but no one ever promised anything different. More to the point, this is a silly and irrelevant objection to a nonproliferation agreement. There is no wisdom in playing into the hands of another government’s hard-liners by throwing away an important diplomatic compromise. It’s just self-defeating stupidity.