Insert the Usual Princess Bride Joke About Words and Their Meanings

by John Holbo on November 25, 2013

I knew folks on the right were going to be upset about the Iran deal, but isn’t this a bit much? The Corner has gone Everyday-is-like-Munich full neocon.

OK, maybe there’s no point in even bothering, but just look at this post, “Munich II”, by James Jay Carafano (vice president of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.) He is banging on about how ‘realism’, presumably in the I-R sense, opposes this deal. But, even as he’s trying to make the case, he can’t help inadvertently making the case that the other side has got the better realist case.

What does Carafano think we should hold out for? “Any diplomatic deal that is not grounded in shared interests or a common sense of justice will surely fail.”

That just means there’s no possibility of any diplomatic deal. Ever. If there’s any truth to realism. States are self-interested. Iran wants what’s good for Iran. US wants what’s good for US. There isn’t any overriding, operative sense of justice that overrides all that. So we’re done. This is Realism 101, right?

Of course, the realist strategy for dealing with this familiar dynamic is … well, you might try to arrange things so that, even though everyone is self-interested, it’s a positive-sum game and everyone can walk away from the table a little better than they were, ex-ante. That is, you manufacture shared interests.

Carafano singles out this realist strategy for especial mockery as the ‘magic button’ approach. It’s absurd to suppose there could be any button so magic that pushing it would cause Iran to “realize that the benefits of collaboration and transparency outweighed the burdens of isolation and confrontation.” Because it’s absurd to suppose that Iran is to be modeled as a minimally rationally self-interested actor, on the international stage, concerned primarily with its own survival – above and beyond that, with security and power.

What kind of pie-in-the-sky, idealistic, let’s-just-be-friends theory of international relations would model states as self-interested, rational actors?

Maybe he would say he didn’t mean ‘realism’ in the I-R sense. But it seems more likely that this is neocon thinking that doesn’t know how perfectly anti-realist it is.

{ 65 comments }

1

Guido Nius 11.25.13 at 8:19 am

Reality is: my kids were happy, the EU was relevant and Obama did well. Let us hope that everybody has so much stake in this deal working that, before they know it, there are just more and more deals on plenty of subjects.

2

Phil 11.25.13 at 9:30 am

Really bizarre. “Idealism” apparently means appealing to potential enemies in terms of rational cost-benefit calculations (Once Tehran started on the path to accommodating the West (they theorized), the mullahs would realize that the benefits of collaboration and transparency outweighed the burdens of isolation and confrontation), while “realism” means treating potential enemies as actual enemies (Regime change remains the only realistic option to bombing or bearing the danger of living with a nuclear-armed Iran.).

3

Mao Cheng Ji 11.25.13 at 10:49 am

Well, the issue is (in realist terms) the ability to bully Iran, and, potentially, any independent state. Clearly, an acquisition of nuclear weapons would seriously diminish the ability to bully; the most apparent change: war is no longer an option. In fact, every step towards nuclear weapons changes the equation and somewhat diminishes the ability to bully.

It seems unlikely that Iran would voluntarily roll back from the current equilibrium (destroyed the turbines, for example).

So, as far as Iran is concerned, the choices are: 1. war, 2. to accept and try to maintain the current equilibrium, and 3. to keep inflicting punishment while watching the equilibrium changing to Iran’s favor.

It seems that option 2 makes sense. But not necessarily, if you consider the precedent being established here. Things might start falling apart all around: next you might see Venezuela building nuclear reactors.

If you’re serious about maintaining and strengthening the empire, then in realist terms one could argue that 1 is the best option.

4

Phil 11.25.13 at 12:38 pm

If you’re serious about maintaining and strengthening the empire

then you’re not speaking Westphalian. Which is probably the problem here, to be honest. If your world consists of sovereign nation states, there’s a debate to be had between idealists (“let us guide you into the light!”) and realists (“you want this, we want that, let’s talk”). If your world consists of the USA plus a bunch of people sitting on a bunch of resources (and some lines on the map, but hey), the entire discipline of IR is going to look a bit crazy. Carafano is just confusing us by using the word ‘idealist’ to mean ‘jeez, these starry-eyed hippies’.

5

Mao Cheng Ji 11.25.13 at 12:54 pm

If the world consists of sovereign nation states, then the whole thing is begging the question. Japan enriches uranium for its reactors, why not Iran? There is no premise to the controversy.

6

Phil 11.25.13 at 1:28 pm

To say that states are sovereign doesn’t mean they’re each free to do whatever they want regardless of any other state’s objection. It does mean that they’re each equally free to act, and equally entitled to object.

7

Mao Cheng Ji 11.25.13 at 1:29 pm

8

Lee A. Arnold 11.25.13 at 3:23 pm

Having nukes is a really bad idea: nukes are an enormous expenditure with lots of dangers and no real use except threats (unless you really are going to push the button). So some of the mullahs want to climbdown but without losing face. Meanwhile the clowns at The Corner fancy themselves “realists” because religionists must be irrational (though revealingly, the Corner clowns extend no such criticism to the full-mooners such as the Teas in the GOP).

Since people now write about things without actually reading or studying beforehand, I will now do the same, and weigh in on the Iran preliminary agreement without reading it: 1) it is only a half-year long, so Obama could still bomb them before the U.S. mid-term elections; 2) it is a major wrench for the Iranians, because it can only lead to improvements in Western intelligence; and 3) the fact that the Know-Nothings in the U.S. hate the deal, means the Iranians will find it less suspicious.

9

LFC 11.25.13 at 3:57 pm

The Munich analogy never dies. It just gets misapplied, over and over.

10

Slugger 11.25.13 at 4:03 pm

The Iranians have promised to forego nuclear weapons. Whether or not they live up to it remains to be seen. The USA in this deal gives up….nothing, not one bomb, not one military base, not one bullet.
The deal is a freebie. What’s not to like about getting something for nothing? Actually, ending sanctions against Iran puts downward pressure on oil prices which is a good thing.
If Iran does not intend to comply, the West is no worse tomorrow than it is today. If Iran complies, the West gets stability and bigger oil supplies. And we don’t have to give up anything!

11

bianca steele 11.25.13 at 4:08 pm

even as he’s trying to make the case, he can’t help inadvertently making the case that the other side has got the better realist case.

It takes talent. The one talent most likely to get you a job at National Review from what i can see.

12

LFC 11.25.13 at 4:24 pm

Slugger
Actually, ending sanctions against Iran puts downward pressure on oil prices which is a good thing.

As I understand it, this agreement doesn’t end sanctions, just eases them a bit. But I haven’t familiarized myself w the details.

One noteworthy thing here is Netanyahu’s reaction that the deal is “a historic mistake.” As if Israel isn’t sitting on some 200 (or whatever it is) nuclear weapons. Does Netanyahu take us all to be complete fools? Does he take the Iranian leadership to be completely insane? Because it wd have to be insane to launch a nuclear strike on Israel, knowing that the Israeli response wd be to nuke Tehran into dust.

Afaics the only decent argument that Iran getting a nuclear weapon might be bad is that it wd entrench its existing foreign policy, i.e. aid to Hezbollah, aid to Assad — that is, Iran wd do the same things it’s doing now but w more boldness or vigor or something. Which, while it might be unfortunate, wd be far from the historic calamity that Netanyahu, the Corner, and most of the US Congress, and everyone ‘official’ in the US and Europe anticipates.

13

LFC 11.25.13 at 4:27 pm

P.s. there’s also an argument about ‘proliferation’ in general being bad. Shd have acknowledged that. (But actually it’s not that clear-cut.)

14

Jim Harrison 11.25.13 at 4:37 pm

As the Middle East becomes less important to us, devoting money, men, and attention to it becomes less rational. Ending what was always a rather artificial conflict with Iran is a piece with getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We can’t ignore the region, obviously, if only because there the Sunnis and the Israelis have their own reasons to keep the heat on Iran, and they can certainly cause trouble. Still, things are different from a Real Real Politik sense as opposed to the posturing that defines itself as Real Politik.

Of course, if our policies were idealistic (I was going to write “really idealistic”), we’d also change our stance viz a viz Iran. After all, there is an extraordinarily repressive and corrupt regime in the area, a proudly intolerant theocracy that exports terrorism around the globe. It just isn’t Iran. Of course, we aren’t going to send in the Marines to seize Riyadh and liberate the Shi’ites, women, and foreign slave labor languishing in Saudi Arabia. On idealistic grounds, though, we certainly should be considering it, right?

15

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 11.25.13 at 4:39 pm

The Corner has gone Everyday-is-like-Munich full neocon.

Haven’t they been there for at least a decade now?
~

16

MPAVictoria 11.25.13 at 5:36 pm

“The Corner has gone Everyday-is-like-Munich full neocon.”

Exactly. Every opponent isn’t Hitler or Stalin. This is a good deal. No one dies and at the very least Iran slows down any pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Another foreign policy win in the Middle East for the Obama Administration.

17

MPAVictoria 11.25.13 at 5:39 pm

Also worth pointing out to the Bruce Wilders of the world that this agreement highlights the differences between the two parties. No new needless war in the Middle East and tens of thousands of people not blown up. Pretty good day really.

18

Glen Tomkins 11.25.13 at 6:02 pm

The way Carafano would get out of your formulation is to claim that the US and Iran (or at least this Iranian regime) can’t ever find shared interests, because Iran’s only interest lies in destroying the state of Israel, if not all Jews. That’s an interest the US could never share. So, yes, no possibility of shared interests, at least not with Iran, so we shouldn’t actually be negotiating with them, except to receive their unconditional surrender. He would claim that that’s why his position is the realist one, he recognizes the essential character of the Iranian regime, and the consequences of that character, while fools who would make any deal with them, other than accepting their surrender, are being misled by their idealistic faith in our common humanity, or some such nonsense. They can’t be expected to behave rationally, even to the point of putting their own self-preservation ahead of their monomaniacal interest in destroying Israel, so we can’t even establish a shared interest in preventing a war between us.

This is exactly the point of the whole Munich idea. We really are already at war with the aggressor nation, just as the Western democracies really were already at war with Hitler long before they were willing to acknowledge this reality and fight back. That’s what Carafano means by realism, that he accepts the fact of an already existing state of war between the whole civilized world and Iran, while weak, idealistic fools such as the typical Crooked Timberian persist in reality-denial, and imagine Iran can be negotiated with, much as Chamberlain imagined Hitler could be negotiated with.

19

roy belmont 11.25.13 at 7:13 pm

MPAV 5:36 17-Pretty good day really.
Yeah, but the calendar, you know, it just keeps on throwing them days at us. One after another. Relentlessly, so far.

JimHarrison 4:37 pm 14
an extraordinarily repressive and corrupt regime in the area
Yes yes on slave-gobbling asswipes of Saudi Arabia – invade and educate! If only.
Viz. terrorists and all, how much further down toward that debased condition of repression and corruption does the US have to slip and slide before acts against it are no longer even conceivably terrorist, except to it/themselves?

20

MPAVictoria 11.25.13 at 7:20 pm

“Yeah, but the calendar, you know, it just keeps on throwing them days at us. One after another. Relentlessly, so far. “
True, but why not enjoy the good days when they come?

21

Andrew F. 11.25.13 at 7:28 pm

Yeah, he clearly means “realist” just in the sense of “in touch with reality” and “idealist” just in the sense of “ignoring reality for hope.”

The column is one long assertion that the Iranian regime is fanatically devoted to nuclear weapons, above all other values. It’s frankly quite silly.

I’m somewhat skeptical of the deal myself, as coordinated sanctions aren’t easy to turn on and off, there’s massive uncertainty as to when Iranian obligations would revert simply to that of any other NPT member, and Iran retains the capability to run a uranium enrichment program.

I don’t view the regime as quite as fanatical about this as Carafano, but they may calculate that as sanctions continue to ease, the world adjusts, perhaps the US military shrinks and becomes more engaged in East Asia, and they have this convenient uranium enrichment program from which to siphon parts and materials to an undisclosed enrichment facility to produce the 90% enriched uranium they want… well gosh, given the threat from Israel, the threat from Sunni neighbors, the multiple Great Satans in the West, it’d just be prudent to have a well distributed nuclear ace card to lay on the table if a hand ever looked likely to become too expensive, right?

Unless Iran agrees to extremely tight monitoring and full disclosure going forward for a very, very long time, and unless everyone is committed and clear on the consequences of violation, there’s a significant chance that this deal will not improve uncertainty over Iran’s nuclear program.

22

Trader Joe 11.25.13 at 8:21 pm

“This is a good deal. No one dies and at the very least Iran slows down any pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Another foreign policy win in the Middle East for the Obama Administration.”

I so totally want to believe this – but perhaps too many spy novels and James Bond movies have taught me that when the “bad guy” appears to change his stripes is when he is at his most sinister. It hardly seems right to invoke the old Reagan mantra “Trust, but verify” (actually the teaching of a Russian fable)…but its how my brain answers my heart when it thinks it sees good news.

Maybe Charlie Brown really will kick the football this time, right now he’s still on the run-up and there is every reason to be optimistic.

23

LFC 11.25.13 at 8:30 pm

Andrew F
I’m somewhat skeptical of the deal myself, as coordinated sanctions aren’t easy to turn on and off, there’s massive uncertainty as to when Iranian obligations would revert simply to that of any other NPT member, and Iran retains the capability to run a uranium enrichment program.

That capability is considerably reduced by the agreement, which does have tight monitoring. See Joby Warrick’s summary of the key terms in WaPo today, P.A10 of the hard copy. Not to say it is perfect, but seems reasonably good, contrary to the skeptics, such as one Mark Dubowitz whom Warrick (for some reason) chooses to prominently quote.

24

LFC 11.25.13 at 8:36 pm

Re :massive uncertainty as to when Iranian obligations would revert simply to that of any other NPT member

I don’t really understand this, since (1) there’s no agreement on exactly what rights the NPT does or does not implicitly grant re enrichment, and (2) isn’t it fairly obvious that Iran is not being treated just like any other NPT member — for some good reasons arguably, but it’s also true that if some other NPT member began enriching uranium or increased enrichment, few wd probably care.

25

otpup 11.25.13 at 9:03 pm

Hold aside the issue of Israel and its security concerns. The point at which Iran gets a nuke is when the ability of the US to stage military operations in the Gulf becomes very tenuous. The ability to take out a division or naval task force with a well placed tactical (or larger) nuke completely changes the political calculus of American power projection. Of course, I am not saying it is a good idea but this has always seemed to me to be the elephant in the room.

26

mds 11.25.13 at 9:06 pm

LFC @ 12:

Does Netanyahu take us all to be complete fools?

He takes the GOP and its deranged apocalyptic fundamentalist Christian base to be fools, certainly, and with good reason. A lot of this rhetoric is for endless Fox News replay. He also usually takes Democratic grandstanding assholes like Chuck Schumer to be fools, but that might not be working out quite as well for him this time.

Does he take the Iranian leadership to be completely insane?

No. He wants those he takes to be fools to continue thinking so, but he doesn’t, or he wouldn’t simply be using such warnings for continued distraction and electoral gain. Hence his growing hysteria that enough people might realize that Iranians aren’t actually universally eager to be turned to radioactive glass as long as they can hit Israel with a nuke first.

27

MPAVictoria 11.25.13 at 9:18 pm

“The ability to take out a division or naval task force with a well placed tactical (or larger) nuke completely changes the political calculus of American power projection. Of course, I am not saying it is a good idea but this has always seemed to me to be the elephant in the room.”

I am sorry but no one is going to be nuking any American task force unless they want their country turned into a parking lot.

28

Niall McAuley 11.25.13 at 9:23 pm

too many spy novels and James Bond movies have taught me that when the “bad guy” appears to change his stripes is when he is at his most sinister.

Maybe so, but I can’t figure out what Obama’s next sneaky move could be…

29

novakant 11.25.13 at 10:11 pm

Good thing MPAVictoria isn’t in the US diplomatic service – no wait, Hilary “Obliterate Iran” Clinton did become foreign secretary … I think Iran should get the bomb after all.

30

MPAVictoria 11.25.13 at 10:27 pm

“Good thing MPAVictoria isn’t in the US diplomatic service – no wait, Hilary “Obliterate Iran” Clinton did become foreign secretary … I think Iran should get the bomb after all.”

Care to further explain this comment novakant?

31

Peter T 11.26.13 at 12:28 am

The public debate on Iran seems to be conducted in a fact-free zone. It’s not realist, or even idealist, more kind of teenage “that’s the way I feel, and my feelings are as valid as anyone elses'”. Illustrated with scary pictures and large statements. One can only hope that the conversation behind closed doors is somewhat more soberly attentive to the real world, as a realist view of the IR would insists it should be.

32

Andrew F. 11.26.13 at 1:11 am

LFC –

My concern is that the retention of any significant enrichment capability provides the regime with additional means of supporting a covert enrichment program. I know almost as much about uranium enrichment as I do about elliptical curve cryptography, but it seems to me that a government with a home field advantage can probably find a way to move a decimal point, a container of ore, parts for a centrifuge, etc., over a period of time. Removing the enrichment capability entirely would reduce the regime’s opportunity for cheating.

I don’t really understand this, since (1) there’s no agreement on exactly what rights the NPT does or does not implicitly grant re enrichment, and (2) isn’t it fairly obvious that Iran is not being treated just like any other NPT member

I agree that (1) is a fair point, but the wording of the agreement casts some doubt on whether what’s obvious to you is actually agreed upon by all the parties:

Following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.

That’s of a piece with Iran’s regular insistence that the NPT recognizes its inalienable right to pursue nuclear development and research unhindered, so long as Iran promises not to use any of that stuff to create devices purposed for mischievous exothermic activities.

Most states have concluded so-called Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements with the IAEA, which essentially amount to promises to declare nuclear activities, sites, etc., to the IAEA and then invite the IAEA to verify the truth of those declarations. Many states have also concluded so-called Additional Protocols, which give the IAEA some power to attempt to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities (principally by granting the IAEA expanded access to known parts of a state’s nuclear processes, and, in consultation with the host government, IAEA power to take environmental samples in areas where no nuclear activities are declared). See the IAEA’s handy reference guide for a NPT compliant state, Guidance for States Implementing Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols, and a more condensed colorful pamphlet for NPT states that want to be compliant but don’t have time for a lot of words about rules and regulations, Verifying Compliance with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Undertakings.

Iran concluded a CSA in 1974, which seems to mostly re-state the NPT. Anyway, the lack of recognized standards as to what enrichment activities are appropriate, and what are not, is a huge unresolved issue going forward. The agreement as worded leaves room for Iran’s position that the restrictions in it are temporary and unusual, which will be altered in a final, comprehensive agreement. It also leaves room for the view that they’re practical and appropriate as described. Which view will prevail? I have no idea. Perhaps 6 months of confidence building will bring the parties closer together, though I worry that we’ll simply get multiple renewals of 6 month periods of confidence building. At some point this will fade into memory for most of the public, and will be rationalized by governments as “managing” the problem, until the day that some intrepid soil sampling, air sniffing, eavesdropping, and picture-taking causes alarm with certain governments. And then the shit will really hit the centrifuge (couldn’t resist, sorry).

So, I’m a little skeptical, but I don’t know enough to say whether it’s a bad move, and I recognize that some of my skepticism may derive not from the above rational considerations, but from a fear that the President may have “delegated” too much play-calling to Kerry, in whose judgment I do not have the greatest confidence. But perhaps 6 months will change that.

33

Cranky Observer 11.26.13 at 1:44 am

Always amusing to watch the Very Serious People(tm) be Very Serious while they simply ignore the existence of AECA Section 101. So how about that shot in the deep South Atlantic, eh? Clearly not intended to test any devices purposed for mischievous exothermic activities I’m sure.

Cranky

34

Peter T 11.26.13 at 1:45 am

Things widely assumed that are, in fact, either false or debatable:

1. Iran has an active nuclear weapons program and is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Not according to the US Intelligence Estimate, the IAEA or the Iranian Supreme Leader, who has declared nuclear weapons unIslamic.

2. Enrichment to near 20% is proof that Iran wants a bomb. In fact, bombs need enrichment to 90%, enrichment to 20% is needed for medical isotopes, and Iran converted most of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium to a form unsuitable for bombs but usable for medical isotopes.

3. The US has any good military options against Iran. Highly doubtful: Iran is large, largely politically united against intervention and has a reasonable industrial base. The US has not the strength to sustain an occupation of Iran for any length of time, not the internal allies (of the kind it had in Iraq) needed for regime change. A bombing campaign could cause support for sanctions to collapse while provoking Iran to reverse its current position on nuclear weapons. Iran also has leverage against the US in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In short, stalemate.

4. Stronger sanctions would produce a more compliant Iran. Possibly. But they could also irritate China, India, Turkey and Russia, and cause these and countries like Brazil to think harder about an international financial regime not centred on New York. As with most other available moves, there are significant medium term downsides – and the oil market is not getting any looser (hype over fracking and tight oil to the contrary).

In short, this may well be the best deal the US is going to get.

But let’s not let a realist analysis get in the way of a vigorous discussion in the finest traditions of the internet.

35

MPAVictoria 11.26.13 at 1:46 am

” but from a fear that the President may have “delegated” too much play-calling to Kerry, in whose judgment I do not have the greatest confidence. But perhaps 6 months will change that.”

Kerry has been a pretty successful Secretary of State given the challenges he has faced. No war in Syria, new deal with Iran not too shabby.

36

Watson Ladd 11.26.13 at 1:49 am

Cranky Observer, there is a bit of a difference between retaliation weapons intended to stop an invading army after three wars nearly resulted in genocide, and weapons in the hands of a state supporting terrorism around the world. Not every country deserves nuclear weapons: certainly Pakistan shouldn’t have them. But would you be worried if Sweden got a few? It isn’t terribly crazy to conclude some countries are just better than others, and Iran isn’t on anyones nice list.

37

P O'Neill 11.26.13 at 1:56 am

Maybe so, but I can’t figure out what Obama’s next sneaky move could be…

It already happened. It was leaving Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus.

Also, WSJ op-ed headline —

GLOBAL VIEW
Bret Stephens: Worse Than Munich

38

Cranky Observer 11.26.13 at 2:15 am

= = = Watson Ladd @ 1:49 am Cranky Observer, there is a bit of a difference between retaliation weapons intended to stop an invading army after three wars nearly resulted in genocide, and weapons in the hands of a state supporting terrorism around the world. = = =

And yet throughout the W Bush era we were told that professional security analysts must only consider capabilities, not cloud their judgement by attempting to divine intentions. How exactly would Middle Eastern nations that are not confirmed possessors of nuclear weapons such as Iran know that those possessed by the one that is are merely “retaliation weapons” and not intended for an offensive first strike?

In any case, AECA Section 101 is a United States law that applies to the actions of the United States, not any foreign power. Not that an empire in the process of acting, as we will, pays attentions to trifles such as duly enacted laws.

Cranky

39

John Holbo 11.26.13 at 2:26 am

That’s great. I look forward to the day when anyone who argues that every deal is as bad as Munich is guilty of being a peacenik squish. In fact, every deal is WORSE THAN MUNICH!

40

nick s 11.26.13 at 2:54 am

Munichaeism.

41

Palindrome 11.26.13 at 3:31 am

I am reminded of the words of that famous realist, George Kennan:

“I think that no episode, perhaps, in modern history has been more misleading than that of the Munich conference. It has given to many people the idea that never must one attempt to make any sort of political accommodation in any circumstances. This is, of course, a fatally unfortunate conclusion. Hitler was, thank heaven, a unique phenomenon.”

42

LFC 11.26.13 at 4:04 am

Andrew F. @32
I don’t have the time, energy, or sufficient familiarity w the wording of the deal to address most of this at the moment.
As to this:
My concern is that the retention of any significant enrichment capability provides the regime with additional means of supporting a covert enrichment program.
I’m sure you’re not alone in that concern. I wd note that the deal calls for inspection of centrifuge manufacturing/production workshops, or so I gather.
Jeffrey Lewis on the NewsHour (11/25):

Well, look, there’s an easy problem in Iran and a hard problem. The easy problem is verifying the declared facilities. And so having daily access to those facilities I think gives one a very high level of assurance. The hard problem in Iran is always going to be the possibility of a covert facility, a facility one can’t see. And so the way that one needs to address that is by having a much broader and more comprehensive access to the Iranian program. So, for example, what Greg [Jones] mentioned was access to the workshops where the Iranians build the centrifuges. Right now, the Iranians can build as many centrifuges as they want and if they show up at Natanz, the inspectors see them. If they show up in a mountain somewhere, in a tunnel, we don’t see them. So being able to get inside those workshops and see how many centrifuges they’re making — and, in fact, the deal contains a constraint on how many centrifuges they can make — helps deal with that second harder problem of sites we don’t yet know about.

But I suppose — to anticipate a reply — this doesn’t rule out the poss. of covert workshops!
However, as I’ve hinted, or more than hinted, in the other thread (on Corey’s post), I don’t hold the apocalyptic view of this whole situation that some (I’m not saying you) do. I realize that’s cryptic but I don’t feel like elaborating more right now.

43

LFC 11.26.13 at 4:11 am

@cranky observer 33
I have no idea what Atomic Energy Control Act 101 is or what “that shot in the deep South Atlantic” is.

@palindrome 41
Very apt quote. (Delivered at Kennan’s 1966 Senate testimony on Vietnam, if not mistaken.)

44

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 11.26.13 at 4:30 am

This evening’s Monday Night Football game: WORSE THAN MUNICH!!1!
~

45

bad Jim 11.26.13 at 6:11 am

Is it worth noting that the only country which has ever used nuclear weapons also has a long history of sponsoring terrorism? I thought not, which is why I didn’t make this comment.

46

Zamfir 11.26.13 at 6:55 am

Removing the enrichment capability entirely would reduce the regime’s opportunity for cheating

Why use this this as counterfactual for the deal? It’s not as if the US was making progress towards this.

47

Palindrome 11.26.13 at 7:33 am

@LFC 43: You are correct. And he was prompted to this utterance by the persistant invocations of Munich by (among others) Dean Rusk, Henry Cabot Lodge, and LBJ himself.

Just as an example, Johnson later told Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Everything I knew about history told me that if I got out of Vietnam and let Ho Chi Minh run through the streets of Saigon, then I’d be doing what Chamberlain did in World War II … I would be seen as an a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser. Someone had to call Hitler and someone had to call Ho.”

Letting analogies do your thinking for you is a recipe for disaster.

48

Mao Cheng Ji 11.26.13 at 8:15 am

Interesting comment from Watson Ladd, and interestingly phrased, as a ‘deserve’. I would like hear more about it.

It reminds me of a couple of conversations. One with an older Swede guy I worked with, for, like, 10 years. He told me once, casually: “Hitler had the right idea, but he didn’t go about it the right way.” The only time I heard anything like this from anybody.

These days I have a Pakistani colleague, who used be in the army, most of the time stationed in Kashmir, where the war is ongoing, bullets and artillery shells fly all day every day. He says there was a moment a few years ago when Indian invasion seemed imminent. Pakistan deployed 3 lines of defense, the first two lines were to be sacrificed to slow down the invasion, and the last one was supposed to stop it, although everybody knew there was no hope of that. He was in the second line. He says, it was only after Pakistan declared that it will definitely use its nukes, the situation normalized, down to the usual mess.

49

Mao Cheng Ji 11.26.13 at 8:27 am

Here, it must’ve been this one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001%E2%80%932002_India%E2%80%93Pakistan_standoff

Various statements on this subject were made by Indian and Pakistani officials during the conflict, mainly concerning a no first use policy. Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said on 5 June that India would not use nuclear weapons first,[27] while Musharraf said on 5 June he would not renounce Pakistan’s right to use nuclear weapons first.[28] According to one think tank of the Pakistani government, the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan prevented escalation to an all out war by India.

50

Niall McAuley 11.26.13 at 9:01 am

Champions League Group Stage: Dortmund WORSE THAN MUNICH!

51

ConallBoyle 11.26.13 at 9:35 am

And there’s me thinking that Munich was a clever ruse by Chamberlain to buy time for the UK to build up its armaments?

silly me! pass my umbrella!

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Zamfir 11.26.13 at 10:46 am

Conall, of course, and that’s what worries the Realists. Give Iran time to build up its armaments, and it might defeat an invasion when we get to it. Hitler lost the war, we should not follow his example.

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Bryan 11.26.13 at 4:19 pm

As time passed, Buttercup realized that when the Corner said “Realism”, what they really meant was “We are cuckoo for cocoa-puffs”.

54

LFC 11.26.13 at 5:34 pm

Since I noted it in the other thread, I’ll also note here that there is an interesting exchange btw C. Kahl and K. Waltz, touching on some of the issues raised here, in Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 2012.

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Andrew F. 11.26.13 at 6:46 pm

LFC – I don’t have an apocalyptic view of this either. And yes, the deal calls for IAEA access to all points along Iran’s nuclear process, from mines to enrichment to use to disposal. And that’s good. But the difficulty in identifying undeclared sites and activities is a real problem, particularly if a regime continues to have an incentive to cheat to and develop nuclear weapons, and continues to have the capability to divert resources to undeclared sites and activities.

Zamfir – honest question: how certain are we that such an outcome was unlikely, had the pressure continued unabated? Why this deal now?

Peter T. – I agree with (1), but I don’t think (1) implies that Iran has no interest in developing or acquiring nuclear weapons capability. Agreed that possession of 20% enriched U doesn’t necessarily indicate bomb program, though it can certainly be used to that end (my understanding is that the process of enrichment is not linear, so that it takes much more work to enrich from 5% to 20% than it does to enrich from 20% to 90%). As to (3) and (4), I think you overestimate what a feasible military option must be for that option to constitute leverage (it doesn’t have to involve occupation of Iran, or even certain eradication of all Iranian nuclear facilities), underestimate Russia’s willingness to continue to stand by, and overestimate the relevance of Brazil to any of this.

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Chris 11.26.13 at 8:32 pm

@38: by that logic we must immediately strike Israel before they gain the capability to deliver their already existing nuclear weapons to our shores. I don’t think you can ignore intentions completely or you start too many hares at once, although some amount of humility about the reliability of your estimates of others’ intentions is probably wise.

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Ronan(rf) 11.26.13 at 8:48 pm

Andrew F @55

Well there are never going to be any perfect solutions here (ie ones that dont have some hypothetical flaw) so the question is what is the best solution.

I guess you have three main options (feel free to elaborate on any more you think I left out though)
(1) attack the relevant sites
(2) continue sanctions
(3) negotiate

All have costs and benefits associated with them, but I think option 3 is the most likely to be sucessful.
If you look at the the Iranian regimes negotiating position over the last decade, *they have* shown themselves willing to give up any potential nuclear program (a lot of which was rejected by Bush in 2003 and set back by the axis of evil rhetoric)
Afaict, the consensus seems to be that the Iranian regime wants the ability to build a bomb (to use for negotiating purposes) without actually building one (which would be strategially counterproductive, expensive and lead to greater isolation). So it seems they can be talked out of building a bomb.

It doesn’t seem that an attack would be particularly effective (leaving aside the politics and blowback associated) if your aspiration is no Iranian nuclear program. It’s probably not feasible (according to numerous studies) at best would set the program back a few years and would only make the Iranian regime more intransigent.

So the options are negotiate or continue sanctions. I dont see the evidence that sanctions are going to be more effective in dissuading the Iranians from continuing with the nuclear program than negotiation…..?

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Ronan(rf) 11.26.13 at 8:55 pm

“Why this deal now? “

I would think in part Rouhani coming to power and in part that the Iranians really arent as committed to this as is made out.
Apparently (according to Gary Sick anyway) the main thing preventing a deal is domestic politics in Iran and the US, not a set in stone desire in Iran to build a bomb or a genuine fear in the US executive of any potential bomb.

59

Ken_L 11.27.13 at 1:32 am

Israel could reframe the whole discussion any time it liked by announcing its intention to ratify the NPPT and surrender its nuclear weapons, conditional on all other countries in the Middle-East consenting to an internationally-supervised nuclear-free zone. Arab nations have been proposing the latter for decades. Such a proposal could never be made by an American administration because of the “treason!” hysteria it would generate domestically. That’s why Iran surely approaches any negotiations with the US very cynically. It knows that acceptance of unequal treatment as between Israel and all other countries in the region is non-negotiable on the part of America.

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Monte Davis 11.27.13 at 12:34 pm

Where’s the love for C.Wright Mills, who nailed this phenomenon long ago as “crackpot realism“?

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Guano 11.27.13 at 1:54 pm

No. 9 “The Munich analogy never dies. It just gets misapplied, over and over.”

Yes, quite. Chamberlain already knew that Hitler was likely to renege on the agreement and, in some senses, the UK was already at war. Military preparations were underway, air-raid shelters were being built, plans were being made for evacuation of cities. The UK wasn’t ready for war in 1938 but it was getting ready for it.

The real appeasement took place in 1935 when the UK rebuffed approaches from France and the USSR to contain Germany.

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LFC 11.27.13 at 6:21 pm

For a succinct discussion of Chamberlain and appeasement that corrects some probably-still-held misconceptions (e.g., about the meaning of the word itself), I recommend: David Kaiser, Politics and War: European Conflict from Philip II to Hitler (1990), pp.385-87 (including fn.51).

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Andrew F. 11.27.13 at 10:44 pm

Ronan –

I don’t have anywhere close enough insight into the Iranian regime to say. But let’s make an assumption that there are some factions within the regime that favor nuclear weapons development, and some factions that don’t. Both, analytically, can make cogent arguments, and both would likely include some influential groups. At the very least it appears that the pro-weapons faction held considerable sway, and that more militaristic elements within the regime would also be more inclined to develop weapons – or at least a very fast breakout capability – in the dark. Perhaps though economic suffering and the prospect of continued drought and possible war has tilted favor towards those more moderate.

But if it has tilted favor in that direction, why not continue to insist on the safest possible enrichment arrangement for everyone? Why ease the pressure when that pressure has moved things closer to your best outcome? Why capitulate on certain demands? Why not continue the pressure, until you’ve moved things to the best reasonable outcome?

There could be lots of good reasons not to do so. An easing of pressure will strengthen (relative) moderates in Iran, and increase the odds of a peaceful resolution; monitoring capabilities are now sufficient to detect covert programs with a high level of confidence; economic trade with Iran will strengthen the middle class and tend inevitably to liberalize etc etc etc.

Who knows, they could all be true and well supported reasons. I simply don’t know. So I’m not opposed to the agreement – simply skeptical.

LFC – Appreciate the reference – thanks

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Ronan(rf) 11.27.13 at 11:51 pm

I agree that skeptism is probably the right stance.
But the negotiations havent even really opened yet, so we’re as well off waiting to see how they turn out, is my only point

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Barry 11.28.13 at 1:10 am

Andrew F: “There could be lots of good reasons not to do so. An easing of pressure will strengthen (relative) moderates in Iran, and increase the odds of a peaceful resolution; monitoring capabilities are now sufficient to detect covert programs with a high level of confidence; economic trade with Iran will strengthen the middle class and tend inevitably to liberalize etc etc etc.”

On another rare occasion I agree with Andrew.

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