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Trump’s Unreasonable Maximalism

Suzanne Maloney expands on her criticism of Pompeo’s preposterous Iran speech:

Insisting on an unequivocal end to the full inventory of Iranian misdeeds is not a starting point for a serious negotiation. It’s magical thinking to suggest that after 40 years and at the apex of its regional reach, the Islamic Republic will proffer a blanket capitulation in exchange for the promise of a future treaty with a government that has just jettisoned an existing agreement.

The Trump administration’s approaches to Iran and North Korea share many of the same flaws, and this expectation of total capitulation by the other side in exchange for reversible, unreliable promises is one of them. It is indeed magical or wishful thinking to expect that either of these governments will offer the huge concessions that the administration is demanding, but perhaps the administration’s reason for making maximalist demands is to ensure that no agreement can ever be reached.

Pompeo’s speech was obnoxious, but it was useful in clarifying how absurd and dishonest hawkish objections to the nuclear deal have been from the start. The administration has inadvertently demonstrated why the all-inclusive “better” deal that Iran hawks claimed was possible in 2015 was always out of reach. Iran hawks predictably want to curtail all Iranian activities in the region, but there has never been the slightest chance that Iran would agree to what they wanted.

No self-respecting government would agree to forego both their foreign policy and their nuclear program even if the U.S. could be trusted to honor its side of the bargain. It is peculiar how self-described nationalists here in the U.S. are consistently the last to understand that other nations value their independence and sovereignty and resent being dictated to by our government. If some other major power were making such a demand of a much weaker country, we would recognize this as the bullying and aggressive behavior that it is. The U.S. has no right or authority to tell another state how it should conduct its foreign policy, and it is the height of American arrogance to think that the rest of the world should fall in line to support our government’s unreasonable demands.

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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