The Deal

July 19, 2015

Most of us at some point in our lives have made a deal, whether it was with a car salesman, a realtor, or a boss. A deal in its simplest form is a process of negotiation, a give and take that ultimately leads to a conclusion, a resolution of two opposing positions or visions. In most cases the deal is never a complete victory for one side; there is some middle point where both sides come to an agreement acknowledging that this is where the negotiations end and a new state of affairs begins.

Now if the world (or for that matter our everyday relationships) was without deals think of the chaos, confusion and uncertainty that would result. Deals are designed to bring some order to relationships and to solve thorny issues or dangerous conditions. But because a deal is between two sides with different values, agendas and behavior patterns, the deal is often imperfect, leaving both sides with an incomplete resolution .Nevertheless it is the deal that creates less chaos, less confusion and more certainty.

So to with the Iran deal between the US, its partners and Iran. Just about everyone, especially those with some electoral or political motive, has stated that the agreement is “Imperfect” – it doesn’t stop forever Iran’s push for nuclear weapons, its inspection regime is faulty, it provides Iran with the capability to fund terrorism, and most of all it is an agreement with a country that still calls us “the Great Satan.” I personally am concerned about the 24 days that it will take to get on the ground in Iran to check on the prospect that the Iranians have cheated. Common sense should have led Secretary Kerry to the conclusion that 24 days is plenty of time to move or hide the evidence of a violation of the agreement.

But because this is a deal the world and the region have a fifteen year period in which a radical country will most likely not have the capability to build a nuclear weapon and at least ten years that this radical country will not have access to major conventional weapons. If that is not in the national interest of the United States and most particularly the countries of the Middle East then critics are not being honest about the deal.

Iran will still be a major sponsor of terrorism. Iran will still publicly hate the US ( while they invite corporate America to Tehran).  Iran will still seek to dominate the Middle East. But the specter of a nuclear competition between the countries of the region has been reduced, the Iranians have agreed to open up their nuclear sites to vigorous inspections and western business interests will undoubtedly change the face of an isolated nation.

So the deal has been struck; it is clearly imperfect and there will always be second thoughts about trust. But when a country decides to go the way of a deal that is the result. The United States could have threatened war ( without public support), tried to get the Europeans to hold to sanctions ( highly unlikely), and further isolated and antagonized the Iranians ( no change here). But the Obama administration chose the deal rather than war preparations. Whether the deal was too imperfect remains to be seen, but it would appear that the nuclear doomsday clock just got pushed back a few seconds, and more importantly this country has begun to reinvigorate diplomacy as a tool for responding to national security threats

Morality as Foreign Policy

September 4, 2013

At the core of the dilemma facing President Obama, the Congress and indeed the American people in Syria is this key question – Should this country intervene in the affairs of another country for humanitarian reasons?

Those terrible pictures of men, women and children being gassed to death break your heart and for some beg for military action that punishes the Assad regime and degrades its capacity to kill innocent people. But for others our foreign policy must be guided by national interest and national security, and despite the horror, the murdering of 1400 people does not rise to the level of national interest and national security.

Interjecting moral principles into American foreign policy rose to prominence during the administration of Jimmy Carter, who cut off aid to authoritarian governments in Latin America because they were guilty of human rights violations.

Carter did not have an easy job of making his case as his opponents reminded him about national interest and national security and the simple logic that if a heinous act occurs in a far off country that has no bearing on this country, then we should stay out of the fray. It’s basically none of our business.

Secretary of State Kerry is working overtime trying to convince Congress and the American people that moral principles must guide the United States and that there are national interest and national security issues at stake if this use of chemical warfare by Syria is not challenged.

Kerry’s argument and certainly that of President Obama is based on a principled foreign policy where moral values should be included as within the concepts of national interest and national security. Simply stated, other countries will sense US reluctance or weakness and use chemical weapons in the future. According to Kerry, the red line has to be held now, not just to save lives in Syria, but to send a clear signal to other regimes that the civilized world will not tolerate such killing.

Defining our foreign policy to include moral principles will always face a tough road in our political system. Bill Clinton turned his eyes away from the slaughter in Rwanda and George W. Bush paid little attention to the genocide in Darfur. Now it is Syria and in the coming days the American people will see their elected leaders grapple with the issue of whether humanitarian causes should drive a foreign policy decision.