Cooler Than Lukewarm

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Pursuer of happiness. Bon vivant. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. There's a Twitter account at @burtlikko, but not used for posting on the general feed anymore. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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169 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    …what I hear is, “Well, it’s this or war,” and I just don’t believe that’s true.

    As I understand things, the allies have said: (1) we’re going to sign the deal regardless of what Congress does, (2) we’re going to resume trade, (3) we’re going to unfreeze the Iranian assets, and (4) some of us will veto any Security Council resolution to resume sanctions unless the evidence is a hell of a lot better than you’ve shown in the past. What’s left that’s not an act of war under any sane definition?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Well, the obvious answer would be not sign it but not declare war.Report

      • aarondavid in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And this.

        Couldn’t have said it better @tod-kellyReport

      • Notme in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I thought that would the answer but obama says that if we dont make the deal then it will inevitably lead to war. Im not sure how that logic works exactly.Report

      • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        What is the advantage to not signing? The Iranians get almost everything they want and we get nothing!?Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

          Oh, I thought the question was what possible options there were to signing or going to war.

          The question of what we should or shouldn’t do is a different one.Report

          • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Okay. That is an actual option. A bad one, but an option nonetheless.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

              @greginak Also, I have to say I think it’s kind of a specious argument. It’s given as if the deal the allies are taking took place in some vacuum that we could but observe, rather than us having been one of its chief architects. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal or that we shouldn’t embrace it (or at least live with it), but the “our allies are doing it, what else were we to do?” is a little eye-rolling.

              And that being said, I think the other side is being equally specious. “How can he say there’s no choice but war” feels to me a pretty insincere argument after having watched several hours of those opposed to the treaty saying we should bomb/invade/execute ’em all on national television.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Well, the scary thing is that when McCain sings “Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran” I don’t think, like conservatives apparently, that he’s joking.

                Come to think of it, they don’t think he’s joking either. So why were they so pissed off o-so-long-ago when liberals didn’t find it funny?Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                There are two arguments happening simultaneously:

                1) Obama could have negotiated a better deal
                2) Now that a deal has been negotiated, Republicans can block it and negotiate a better one

                The “our allies are doing it anyway” response is meant to counter argument (2) and not (1).Report

              • nevermoor in reply to trizzlor says:

                (1) is, of course, impossible to prove and therefore will persuade only the pre-persuaded.Report

    • Chris in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Right. Rejecting the deal puts the U.S. in a very awkward position with its European allies and with Iran. We’d have few diplomatic options left, and few allies willing to back any aggressive play we might make.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Least bad is pretty much the same as The Best Deal. This is a good deal and about 99% certain to go in effect. O has been pushing on this and several key members in congress have already said they are for it. The biggest defection was Schumer, but he did that on friday right after the R debate and before two week recess. That says to me he is rejecting it and burying the news as much as he can. He can tell the people that back him he is against it, without doing much to stop it.

    I’m not sure how this is least bad or at least i’m questioning the framing. The arguments against are somewhere between laughable and “impressive goalpost moving”. The inspections we are getting are far more than we got for the various SALT and START treaties which led to the triumph of the Glorious Soviet Union. The people attacking the deal have such brilliant arguments as the Iranians are getting their money which has been frozen for years and sanctions are being lifted. They are complaining the Iranians are getting the big important things they want from a negation. And we used our bargaining chips to get what we wanted. The outrage…in a negotiation both sides got most of what they wanted.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

      Least bad is pretty much the same as The Best Deal.

      Oh come on, greg. Would Trump Putin riding naked on a tiger have accepted this deal? No way, bro. He’d have put so much pressure on the Iranians that they’d have promised to not try to enrich weapons grade uranium either now or, like, Ever!, and then he’d expand some trade relations with them.Report

    • Chris in reply to greginak says:

      So far what I’ve seen is, “This is an absolutely terrible deal, and here’s why: 1.) [Practical issue that can be overcome.] 2.) [Conjecture about possible future political changes in Europe.] 3.) Iran is evil. 4.) Hardliners in Israel don’t like it.”

      Interestingly, the opposition consists of American hardliners, Israeli hardliners, and Iranian hardliners. “Christian, Muslim, and Jewish conservatives agree! This deal sucks!”Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        Yup. I’ve heard that Iran isn’t going to stop doing everything in the mid east that we don’t like. Of course that was never going to happen nor was it on the table nor did the Soviets after our treaties with them. How dare they not capitulate to us.Report

        • Chris in reply to greginak says:

          Sanctions have done such a great job of that so far!Report

        • Notme in reply to greginak says:

          You mean these trustworthy russians? I cant imagine why obama is hiding this report. If you ypu cant trust the rusdians surely we can trust the Iranians.

          • greginak in reply to Notme says:

            No i meant the Soviet Union…big empire, lots of vodka, fur hats and heavy accents. Made a great cold war villain. They were in all the papers for, like, ever. They were bad guys with many big boomie things. They were far worse and far more dangerous than Iran. We made treaties with them. We engaged them. They were still jerks and we had some tense times. But we made treaties because it was good for both sides. Even with the treaties, where we had far less in terms of inspections then we got with Iran, we won and they went bye bye.Report

            • Notme in reply to greginak says:

              You are talking about the treaties those kinder gentler russians are now violating?Report

              • greginak in reply to Notme says:

                Which kinder gentler Russians? Who said that. The SU was evil and Putin is an effectively a dictator. The point is we still dealt with them. Even St Ronnie. If the russians are breaking treaties now then it seems like we got a few good decades and one failed empire out of all those SALT and START talks.

                You’re trying to troll and hustle those goalposts. Nice try but it’s obvious.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        The one good argument I heard was from … some Democrat Senator who I can’t recall right now (I’ll look it up) … and it went like this: if the sole purpose of an Iranian nuclear program is to develop power plants, then that product can be bought on the open market and supplied to them. Now, I don’t know about the details of that claim but it’s not a bad argument if true. Course, it presumes that the Iranians must meet a burden of proof determined by the West to engage in domestic activities that even the French are allowed to engage in.Report

        • France gets a post-WWII Security Council seat pass. They’ve got the bomb, and get to keep it. They can do whatever they want — and do, including reprocessing spent fuel to extract plutonium. A more interesting example would be Japan, who’s going to be allowed to do reprocessing and plutonium extraction, with accounting as the primary safeguard against them building a bomb.Report

        • Notme in reply to Stillwater says:

          Whats really sad is that the terms the french proposed were in many respects tougher than obamas. Thats pathetic.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

          Well, it’s one thing to deal with the French, it’s something else to deal with Iran. The level of mutual goodwill is considerably different, for starters.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

        Basically what I hear is “We can’t really be sure if the Iranians will continue to fund and/or arm Hezbollah sub rosa even after this deal, so we shouldn’t withdraw sanctions.”

        To which I say, true enough, but the sanctions apparently haven’t stopped them from doing that anyway. We’ve seen how well sanctions work in changing government policies in places like Cuba and North Korea, so why not try more of the same with Iran?Report

        • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Because Iran is getting worse not better at asserting military power to become a regional hegemon?

          OP says that Iran’s infrastructure is mainly inwardfacing, so it would have a hard time expanding it’s military influence. I see Hezbollah, I see Yemen, I see a country that is quite capable of arming people and being a regional power.Report

          • Patrick in reply to Kim says:

            Fostering low- to mid-grade terrorism and political unrest is very limited power.

            It does a great job of destabilizing your neighbor. That doesn’t necessarily give you positive power to do anything else.

            You look at the Middle East, this is basically been the story since colonialism fell apart and the European-drawn colonial borders became mostly arbitrary lines drawn on a map, again.

            So Iran can screw around with (insert bordering state here)

            (1) They can – and do – do this anyway.

            (2) They have been doing this for sixty years now. Its affect on our national security is not negligible, but even in the height of the Cold War its affect on our national security was arguably well smaller than our response to it.

            (3) Largely, they would continue to do it… just like Irish Americans donated money to the IRA in the 30s to the 80s. Or like Cuban-Americans and Cuba, or Central-American-Americans and their one- or two-generation removed native countries.

            Because “Iran messing with its neighbors” is a function of “Iran’s government is messing with its neighbors” and “Iranian citizens, who closely identify with subpopulations in neighboring countries, will continue to interact with those subpopulations regardless of what Iran’s leadership is doing” (see also: Pakistan and Afghanistan, Crimea and Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and anywhere else where the political line drawn on the map is not a 1-1 overlay of the ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic population maps.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

            That’s money and small arms, which have both been relatively easy for states to move wherever they want for well nigh 200 years now.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to greginak says:

      It’s pretty clearly bad-faith opposition, which to his credit Obama has called out.

      Nuclear non-proliferation like this is ALWAYS done with a bad actor on the other side. And this deal has everything you could hope for from nuclear non-proliferation.Report

      • Notme in reply to nevermoor says:

        Except the part about how the iranians can strecth out the time before an inspection? The rest of it is great im sure.

        • Kim in reply to Notme says:

          My inclination is to believe Iran. They’ve got way more to gain by putting the nukes away than by trying to hide them in plain sight.Report

        • North in reply to Notme says:

          If Iran had the technical capacity to erase all signs of nuclear production facilities from a given area within 24, 48 or even 120 hours we wouldn’t be talking to them about limiting their nuclear program, we’d be begging them on bended knee to export their technical knowhow to the rest of us puny mortals.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Notme says:

          That’s for sites with no history of enriching uranium and no equipment to do so. The actual sites with the equipment are subject to immediate inspection and continuous monitoring.

          But we can’t roll onto a random Iranian military base on no notice and claim we’re there to “inspect for possible nuclear programs”. Apparently Iran paid attention to the fact that the US inspectors in Iraq used that excuse to visit regular military bases for espionage.

          Your objection appears to be “Iran won’t let America spy under false pretenses”. HOW ARE THEY SIR.Report

          • Notme in reply to Morat20 says:

            Are you really that naive? Do you honestly believe that when a Russian comes to one of our bases to verify our adherence to an arms treaty that that person isnt gathering intelligence (spying) at the same time? Everyone does it. The only foolish thing is giving them such a long time to clean up the evidence.Report

            • Kim in reply to Notme says:

              Japan doesn’t spy. They don’t need to, they spend all their military budget on prototypes, and they build stuff better than us.Report

            • Patrick in reply to Notme says:

              You may want to read up on the engineering requirements to run a nuclear facility.

              You can’t hide that in 40 *days*, let alone 40 hours.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

                I suppose in Notme’s world, radioactivity doesn’t linger either. You can enrich uranium without leaving any pesky traces that can be picked up from satellites or guys with Geiger counters months later….Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Notme says:

              *eyeroll*. Should not have engaged the troll. My bad.

              I forgot you live in TV and Movie world, where nuclear programs can be moved and leave no traces — or even set up on a timeframe shorter than “months”.

              Must be all those hand-held centrifuges, right? And non-radioactive radioactive materials.Report

      • Notme in reply to nevermoor says:

        Do you mean when obama compared republicans to the Iranian hard liners?Report

    • North in reply to greginak says:

      Agreed, no way that Chucky Schumer with his eye on Democratic leadership in the Senate votes against this thing unless his whip counts tell him with absolute confidence that the GOP won’t be able to muster enough votes to override a veto.Report

    • Kim in reply to greginak says:

      Aipac say jump, Schumer jumps.
      He’s one of the few most beholden to the Jewish vote, so he gets to defect. If they needed his vote, he’d be there — with TONS of armtwisting and bribery to get him there.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kim says:

        Except, like North says above, Chuck also wants to be party leader in the Senate, which is bigger than either his state’s voters or any particular lobbying group. A cursory read of the net roots show them aligning against Chuck for that leadership spot because of this vote. It will be telling if it turns out that netroot opposition doesn’t matter.Report

  3. greginak says:

    Really good article about the support for the treaty in Iran.

    Key graf:
    “Those supporting the deal include moderates inside the government, many opposition leaders, a majority of Iranian citizens, and many in the Iranian American diaspora—a disparate group that has rarely agreed on anything until now.”

    They note 2/3 of Iranian Americans support the deal. Also key Iranian human rights activists support it. But read the entire thing.

  4. trizzlor says:

    I loathe the Vox reporting style, but this interview with someone who actually studies non-proliferation makes a strong, fact-based case that we’re getting what we want from the deal.Report

  5. North says:

    Seriously Burt, I do not understand where you are coming up with the notion that the only argument in favor of this deal is that the alternative is war. Obama sounded tired of the arguing so that must mean his deal is weak? Have you not been following this issue? Are you unfamiliar with our current President? Obama has been a horrible salesman and always seems annoyed and disengaged that he has to justify himself to the public. This is one of his glaring weaknesses as a President. In fairness, the GOP’s absolutely insane opposition to everything Obama does is somewhat unprecedented. To paraphrase Winston if Obama were to invade Hell you’d see at least a couple positive articles about Satan on the pages of National Review and from some speeches from the GOP in the House.

    Substantively the deal accomplishes or sets us up to accomplish what we set out to do:
    -Iran’s high enriched Uranium is gone. Their path to a plutonium bomb is completely and verifiably eliminated.
    -We’ll have inspectors crawling all over the entire Iranian nuclear supply chain. This means it will be both be A) very hard for Iran to sneak back into enrichment and furtively get enough fuel for a bomb and B) we’ll know Iran’s nuclear program inside out by the time this deal expires which is a hell of a lot more than we know now.
    -Iran has unequivocally promised they aren’t seeking a bomb. Their word may or may not be good but if they get busted going after it that heightens the pressure they’ll be under.

    So what are the criticisms of this deal?
    -Israel and Saudi Arabia are uniformly against it: Well sure they are, first of all they’re rather twitchy about Iran for obvious reasons and second of all for matters entirely unrelated to the bomb both of those nations would much prefer that Iran remains a global pariah. For SA if Iran gets rehabilitated it’s a boost to a hated Shia nation and will reduce SA’s importance in the ME. For Israel if Iran gets taken off the table as a going national concern they also lose influence and fear that attention will shift back to the Palestinian issues.
    -Iran gets to retain their nuclear program: The right and other opponents seem to maintain the delusion that Iran could somehow be forced to abandon their entire nuclear infrastructure and skill set through negotiations (actually they didn’t believe that which is why they were opposed to this deal from the get go but once the deal got under way this is the unreasonable bar they set). This is impossible, Iran has a solidly developed nuclear skillset that exists in the minds of thousands of specialists and technicians. We can neither bomb, not assassinate nor bully our way into making that knowledge vanish. The only way to get rid of that knowledge is to make it never have been developed in the first place but Bush and his mind-bendingly idiot neocon cowboys sailed that ship away back in the aughts when they slapped the “Axes of eeevul” sticker on Iran.
    -Iran is going to get a lot of money out of this deal: Yes they are and yes they could plausibly spend a significant part of it stirring up other troubles in the Middle East. There’s no way of knowing how much trouble Iran will try and cause but this is incidental to the nuclear deal. Also even if the US matched Iran dollar for dollar in spending in the ME (which I do not advocate) no matter how much Iran spent it would still be a cheaper deal for the US then trying to fishing invade or bomb Iran.

    Now what happens if we back out on this deal?
    -Russia and China will take us to the cleaners in the court of national opinion. We’ll look like we’ve lost our damned minds.
    -Russia and China, and most likely Europe, will go through with the deal anyhow. Iran will get most of their money and trade but we won’t be there enforcing the deal from our side. It’d literally be like giving the store away to Iran. It’d be up to them whether they adhered to the deal or not and we’d be in no position to detect them or stop them.
    -Since we would not be involved with the inspections we’d have no more knowledge of the Iranian nuclear system then we do now. Those ambiguities would naturally push us towards confrontation towards Iran. Especially with our bomb bomb Iran contingent here thumping their drums.

    To be honest Burt, I don’t follow why you or your congressman would be lukewarm on this deal. It’s a solid, if not spectacular deal.Report

    • Kim in reply to North says:

      This deal represents the end of Israel’s status as the sole friend of America in the Middle East. That’s an existential issue, and a very real one.

      Without support from Uncle Sugar, Israel’s still pissing off the edge of the diving board.Report

      • North in reply to Kim says:

        Just because Iran may be coming in from the deep freeze doesn’t mean they’re going to be a friend; certainly not a friend like Israel.Report

        • Kim in reply to North says:

          Nobody will be a friend like Israel, unless you want to count Japan.
          We are damned, and rightly so, for having friends like these…

          Iran may be a better friend and ally than Israel — in ten years time.
          In thirty? We should be placing bets on how Israel ceases to exist, not whether.Report

          • North in reply to Kim says:

            I am not willing to concede the game to the Israeli right to that degree Kimmi.Report

            • Kim in reply to North says:

              Good answer — and as long as you’re fighting, we’ll be standing on your side — even if it doesn’t look it.

              In the meantime, the boycotts are causing enough hilarity and trolling — they’re actually considered treasonous actions, you know? A Palestinian decides not to buy Israeli goods, and that’s now treason, of all things? We know they don’t want to be Israeli, and the Supreme Court is calling them thatReport

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

        We have better than working relationships and tacit understandings with nations like Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis host one of our military deployments. Our relationship with Iraq is complicated but not unfriendly. It’s fair to say Israel is our best friend in the region by a large degree, but I think inaccurate to say Israel is our only friend. It’s also unlikely that Congress buying in to this deal converts Iran from a strategic rival to a friend and valued trading partner. Iran achieving that status is at least a generation in the future.Report

        • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Jordan is indeed our ally, and a decently steadfast one. But they haven’t the brains that the Iranians do, nor the water.
          It would be a mistake indeed to assume that the Sauds are our allies. They raise a snake’s brood at home, and when it slithers away to Afghanistan, they want to wash their hands of it’s inevitable conclusions. I’ll not let them get away so easily. Their regime spreads poison…
          Egypt would do as a friend, if it wasn’t already dying.

          Ten years will go by quite quickly, I think you’ll find. Iran would far rather be our friend than our enemy — we have a lot more in common than you’d think.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

            Iran would far rather be our friend than our enemy — we have a lot more in common than you’d think.

            I fundamentally agree with this. The road to get there is longer than ten years, though, given the nature of Iran’s political leadership and the degree to which playing up Iran as a geopolitical rival is to the political advantage of our own domestic politicians still working out of pages from the Cold War Playbook. But the timing is a quibble — agreed that all sides have a lot of money to be made in doing business together rather than conducting proxy wars against one another, and the profit motive works as inexorably on public policy as does gravity on projectiles.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to Burt Likko says:

          It’s fair to say Israel is our best friend in the region by a large degree,

          Honest question: what does Israel do for us to qualify as being a friend.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to nevermoor says:

            I’m so going to leave that for @leeesq and @saul-degraw !Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to nevermoor says:

            1. Israel has provided a lot of the research and development that helped developed many of the technological innovations of the late 20th and early 21st century.

            2. Despite some differences in opinion on occasion, Israel has been a reliable ally of America in the Middle East and North Africa since it declared independence. When many Arab states supported the Soviets or were at least warmer to the Soviets during the Cold War, Israel was on the American side. It generally sides with the United States when most of the rest of the world is condemning it. Israel intelligence agencies have provided information to the United States government.

            3. For Christian Americans, Israel provides safe and reliable access to the holy sites of Christianity. It is arguable that a Palestinian Arab state would also do this because of tourist revenues but Arab states, tend to have very mixed feelings towards the tourist industry at best due to certain factors of Arab nationalism.* Palestinian nationalism was always strongly religious tinged, which would have even more ambivalent relationship with tourism than the secular Arab nationalist governments.

            *A lot of successful tourism involves playing into stereotypes people have about your country or area. Texan tourism revolves around a lot of the idea of Texas as cowboy country while tourism to Japan involves a lot of samurai, karaoke, tech gadgets, anime, manga, and the general idea of Japanese weirdness. Arab nationalism always took a very dim view of the stereotypes that non-Arabs had about them, the entire Arabian nights feel, and never really liked falling into this stereotype. The conservative nature of Islam also hinders tourism.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

              The reply I initially contemplated drafting here was going to look similar. High points were:

              1. Israel serves as a proxy extension of our military, checking against pretty much any other nation state’s expansion of its ability to project military force into the Middle East and thus limiting the ability of any other nation to grow beyond “regional power” status.

              2. If we really, really needed to, we could base our own military assets alongside Israeli military assets. We don’t on a regular basis because it’d be bad politics for both countries, but if we really needed to, we could do this.

              3. Israel is a pretty good trading partner.

              4. In theory, Israel demonstrates that liberal democracy can exist and succeed in this region. In practice, its lapses from the sorts of things we expect of liberal democracies are questionable.

              5. May you believe in the extent and competence of Israel’s cloak-and-dagger operations and Israel’s willingness to do our wet work for us, or maybe not. I kinda don’t, myself. But as an intelligence partner, Israel is really helpful to have on our side.

              6. The aliyah provides a vent against European anti-semitism, and thus safeguards against a return to the Bad Old Days that tore Europe apart: if it gets bad enough for Jews in, say, France, they have somewhere else they can go.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Israel is a lot more democratic than any other country in the region even if it doesn’t resemble the current preference for a multicultural, post-ethnic state. Israel is supposed to be Jewish and democratic not just democratic. This leads to some policy choices that slightly differ from that of a post-ethnic European state. Keep in mind that a lot these allegedly post-ethnic European states aren’t doing that well with the post-ethnic stuff these days.

                The only country in the Middle East and North Africa where the Christian population is growing rather than shrinking. One of Israel’s top diplomats is from an Arab Christian family. Another Israeli Arab presided over the trial of ex-President Moshe Katsav for rape and convicted him. There are Arabs in the Knesset, Arab civil servants, and Arab judges in Israel. Arab MKs often engage in some rather violent rhetoric against Israel and Zionism in the Knesset and do not get in trouble for it. Israel basically only has the death penalty for one very specific crime, participating as an offender in the Holocaust, and only applied it once.

                Compared to other ethnic conflicts of the 20th century and 21st century, the Israeli-Palestinian or even the wider Israeli-Arab conflict is not a really even close to the bloodiest despite it’s prominence in the news. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t suffering but Sri Lanka, former Yugoslavia, Burma, and Northern Ireland had bloodier conflicts over a shorter period of time with many more atrocities on both sides.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

      While I feel that the Iran deal is the best possible and the only alternative to war, the thing that really gets me is utterly dismissive a lot of people have been about the anti-Semitism of the clerics that run Iran. There is an assumption of rationality that even though the clerics might continually threaten Israel with genocidal rhetoric, they don’t really mean it and are secretly rational beings. I happen to take paranoid Jew-hatred on face value and wish there was less of an assumption of logic and reason. People seem to have a very difficult time assuming the sincerity of Jew-haters.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I have no doubt that Iran’s establishment is anti-Semitic and rabidly anti-Israel. What, however, does that have to do with the price of yellowcake in Tehran? It is patently obvious that while the regime is anti-Semitic they leaven their anti-Semitism with an obvious strong eye towards their own self interest. Iran has many means to harm Jewish people in general or Israel in particular within their reach right now. They do not employ them. If the regime were rabidly fixated on harming Jews they would employ them regardless of the consequences. That they do not do so indicates pretty unequivocally that they value their own wellbeing materially over any satisfaction they’d get from harming Jews.

        Since that is the reality what further, then, is to be gained by dwelling on how horrific the Supreme Leader’s rhetoric is towards Israel?Report

        • Kolohe in reply to North says:

          “They do not employ them”

          Because the Qods force and Hizbollah have been busy in Syria over the last half decade.Report

          • North in reply to Kolohe says:

            Yes, so what? They did not employ them six years ago nor did they ten years ago. Iran did not become rabidly anti-Semitic within the last half decade.
            The basic reality: Iran would like to hurt Israelis specifically (whether they wish to hurt Jews everywhere is a more murky question) but they are not willing to pay any price to do so, indeed the price they appear willing to pay to hurt Israel appears to be generally quite low.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to North says:

              Iran has engaged in a low level proxy war against Israel using Qods force and Hizbollah since the Islamic Republic was founded. They haven’t used the Artesh because of trust, and haven’t used the Guard force because of mission and capabilities (but the capabilites are about a parity now)Report

              • North in reply to Kolohe says:

                Trust, Parity of forces, capabilities.. sounds like a regime that’s worrying about consequences. Why haven’t they rounded up all the Jewish people in Iran and exterminated them? Why do they not have Hezbollah raining rockets over the border right now? Because they don’t like the idea of what would happen to them or to their proxies if they did such things.

                And an Iran that worries about the consequences of those comparatively actions is not an Iran that can believable be characterized as an Iran that will accept any price so long as they harm Israel. Indeed it sounds more like it’s an Iran that’s unwilling to accept much of a price at all for its anti Israeli activities and thus by and large avoids doing things that will incur them.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to North says:

                “Why haven’t they rounded up all the Jewish people in Iran and exterminated them?”

                Because over 2/3 of them, in the language of our day, ‘self-deported’ in the wake of the Revolution?

                “Why do they not have Hezbollah raining rockets over the border right now?”

                I don’t know, maybe they’re on a union break? They’ve had no problem raining rockets from time to time over the past few decades.Report

              • North in reply to Kolohe says:

                There wouldn’t be any Jews still in Iran if they were as bad as the critics are saying.

                A doomsday worshipping Iran doesn’t get nervous and offer to negotiate over everything with Bush W just because he invades their neighbor with prohibitive ease.

                An insane Jew hating government doesn’t keep Hezbollah on a short leash because if they go over the line the Israelis will kill them all (and a ton of Lebanese civilians).

                Hell I agree entirely that Iran has bad policy towards Israel and a bad attitude towards Jews in general but portraying them as rabidly irrational and willing to wreck themselves to harm or destroy Israel requires hand waving away the way Iran behaves and has behaved.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          The issue isn’t whether or not Iran can or would harm Israel or Jews. It is the dismissal of the hatred with a hand waive and the tendency of Western progressives to assume a “they don’t really mean it” posture that is infuriating. If diplomatic and progressive protocol could be broke on one occasion and they could be treated as serious in their hatred, it would be a lot more comforting.Report

          • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Okay, I agree Iran are a bad bunch and they have anti-Semitic policies and positions. So does Obama, so does Kerry. Hell Obama has flat out said that Iran would do bad things to Israel if they didn’t have to worry about the price. What more, exactly, do ya want?Report

          • greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Yeah Iran has a lot of bad characters. They also have a large number of much more moderate and pretty pro-western citizens. I’d wager if you took 20 random Iranians and 20 random Saudis you would get more pro-western, pro-modern world and less harsh religious conservatism in the Iranian bunch.Report

          • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

            That’s just it, though. They DON’T really mean it. are you fucking kidding me? this is IRAN for god’s sake! it’s not saudi arabia. Iran accomodates — there are private bars where the middle class goes to get drunk, never you MIND that’s well against Islam — women and men even mix there, and without head scarves on too.

            Does that sound like the IRAN you think of?

            How about the Iran where prostitution is religiously legalized through temporary marriages? Where women have more rights than most places in the Middle east, because they can and DO get divorces?

            Iran is a tricksy place, full of boltholes and ways in and out — seven different ways out of Iran, it’s a hard country to get stuck in. If the conservatives won’t smuggle you out, the liberals will.

            That’s Iran — a place that shifts and changes like a mirage shimmers in the sun.

            Did you know women serve in the Revolutionary Guard?Report

          • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Hate to break it to you man, but other people than you have set foot in Iran. Read Geraldine Brooks’ book, Read horowitz’s book, and then tell me you think they really mean it.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Have you lost your mind? Do you seriously believe we don’t have psychological profiles of these people? Every Single One of them???? They’re perfectly rational people who may have a taste for genocide. Need I introduce you to our perfectly rational Andy Jackson? How about Abe next? Perfectly rational people intent on genocide.

        Please, these people aren’t ill, even if they are complete pieces of trash not worthy of being on the same continent as yourself or I.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to North says:

      @north “… if Obama were to invade Hell you’d see at least a couple positive articles about Satan on the pages of National Review and from some speeches from the GOP in the House.”

      Assuming we didn’t see Satan at the next Republican candidate forum, and not at the “kiddies’ table.”

      Agree with much of the rest of your analysis, especially its focus on the perceived self-interest of each of the parties to the deal, and of all constituencies reacting to it. They take two main forms, and then divide again according to degree to which any given respondent can be deemed to be acting fully self-consciously. The latter is very tricky to assess, but can’t be entirely put aside when, for instance, someone whom you know to be a sophisticated observer of human affairs takes to repeating and reinforcing the kind of “talking point” that on almost any other subject he or she would consider laughably simplistic.

      Putting the matter most cynically, once you assume that “the deal” will not be overturned (or perhaps for all intents and purposes cannot be: see, e.g., ), the primary objective for everyone concerned, consciously understood or not, becomes positioning to deprive principal adversaries of benefit and to extract maximum concessions from anyone vulnerable to criticism. So, if Burt wanted to get a second meeting with his congressperson, he would stop worrying (so much) about whether it was a good deal in the abstract (I think it obviously is, on balance), but on how the congressperson should play it.Report

      • North in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        That is an excellent point CK, and highly salient.

        As a lot of angry commenters on right wing sites observed and observe Obama’s deal was mainly set in stone when the GOP cut the deal that required a supermajority to block it back during the original Congress getting to weigh in debate.

        Other than Israel side where I suspect Bibi is doing his utmost to try and forment the Jewish Democratic revolt that is the only conceivable means by which the Dem’s blockade of a supermajority rejection would be broken*. Everyone else is acting as if the Iran agreement is a done deal.

        *And, note, is failing as I am inclined to think Schumer defection and the current polls of American Jewish opinion indicate.Report

      • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        if Obama were to invade Hell you’d see at least a couple positive articles about Satan on the pages of National Review and from some speeches from the GOP in the House.

        “Sure, Satan is the Deceiver and enemy of all that’s good and pure, but a land of squabbling tribal factions like Hell needed a strongman like that to keep the chaos from spilling over. Ever since we took Lucifer out, the Succubi and the Jinn are at each others’ throats. We need a puppet government and an exit plan!”Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to North says:

      One thing I can say for this, @north : it’s a much more substantial and energetic bit of advocacy than I heard from the President!

      I have already realized that the deal is the least bad, and therefore best available, option on the table. Doing nothing about Iranian nuclear weapons development is not an option, this at least is something and it is everything essential. And I’d already planned on mentioning that we made a series of deals with the Soviets despite the fact that they were more overtly hostile to us than Iran and it was very difficult for us to verify those deals at the time.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

      You basically said the same thing as me, except you said it better.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    Based on what I’ve read about the deal, it sounds excellent.

    Iran gets rid of most of its enriched nuclear material, and gets rid of its site that is best suited to producing nuclear weapons. That way, we know it can’t make a nuclear weapon in a short time even if it does break the agreement. This is much better than the status quo. Iran also agrees to inspections. If Iran breaks its committment, the economic sanctions which it currently faces automatically snap back into place. That settles the main issue: it prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Sometime within the next 10 years, a new deal will have to be agreed upon; that’s a reasonable level of flexibility given how much can happen in 10 years.

    The sanctions are lifted from Iran, so that we’re no longer immiserating the people there.

    Iran is permitted to pursue civilian nuclear power. It has as much right as any other country in the world to do so, so that’s not a problem.

    And as a result of the deal (if it passes), America and Iran are no longer on the brink of war, and are in a far better position to work together on other issues. Given that Iran opposes ISIS and so does the United States, opening some kind of possibility for the two countries to work together on issues where their interests coincide is a plus.

    The main points that I’ve heard voiced against the deal:
    1) It only lasts 10 years. I think that’s a good plan given the general inflexibility of treaties; we don’t know what the situation will be in 10 years.
    2) Israel doesn’t like it. Of course Israel doesn’t like it! Claiming that Iran is an imminent threat is Netanyahu’s #1 way of diverting attention from his treatment of the Palestinians. Anything that makes his warmongering against Iran less credible is a huge blow to him.
    3) Saudi Arabia doesn’t like it (even though they haven’t said so openly). So what? In what way is Saudi Arabia a better place than Iran, or a country whose leaders’ opinion we should care about more? Iran opposes ISIS. Saudi Arabia is at least tacitly in support of ISIS. Saudi Arabia is the source country of the majority of the 9/11 hijackers. Saudi Arabia treats women even worse than Iran does. And Iran and Saudi Arabia both have oil, so “the Saudis have oil” isn’t a good enough reason.
    4) Iran will use the money it gets from the deal to do other things we don’t like. Specifically, one Atlantic article said that preventing Iran from being a regional power in the Middle East was more important that preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. The idea that America’s foreign policy objectives should include preventing one of the most populous nations in a region from having any influence within that region is not one I agree with. America cannot dictate whether each and every country in the world should or should not have influence. At any and all times, some country will be doing things we don’t like. That’s geopolitics.

    At this point, to complain that Iran support Assad is essentially utopianism: the two main forces in Syria are Assad and ISIS. A Syrian resistance movement of powerful pro-American democratic secularists is not going to appear just because you’d like that to happen.

    The deal is a ton better than the status quo. I’m bewildered by why everyone in the US seems to be treating it like a terrible, or at best marginally passable, idea.

    Honestly, the only way I can fathom the opposition to this deal is the right wing crying “WAAAAH! Now we don’t have a casus belli for war anymore!” That, and a steadfast and fallacious belief in American omnipotence.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    It just occurred to me that this deal will increase the production and consumption of oil and increase the reach of Global Capitalism – two of the main items on the naughty list of the modern Left.

    So I guess what Bibi really needs is for someone in Congress to propose to add a free trade pact with Iran to this deal, then the opposition would line up nicely.Report

    • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

      You would think tearing down trade barriers and letting some sweet sweet capitalism flow into Iran would have the conservatives all excited. Don’t they believe in the transformative powers of free markets??? R’s should love this deal.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe says:

      @Kolohe, true to form, offers up the most adroit Realpolitik, geopolitik, politikal-economic angle on the deal in the thread. The reality is that it will be a boon for the world (and U.S.) economy through relaxation of energy costs.

      For this reason the deal is incredibly good news for Hillary, even if she can’t be especially open about that fact. It will contribute to an America economy that will, as a result, be improving even more strongly than it would without the deal. Which will be a significant boon to her chances of being elected president.

      Whether this likelihood made Obama much more interested in getting a deal than his FP legacy desires already made him, and thus much more open to less onerous terms for Iran, we probably won’t ever know for sure, though it’s certainly possible. That is indeed the way the tail wags the dog in global political economy (in which all politics are local).Report

  8. Michael Drew says:


    I think there is every reason to see Obama’s very quick reliance on the “What’s your alternative?” argument as a bit evasive and/or defensive about the terms of the deal. If that’s the basic issue you have, I don’t think reviewing other iterations of his argument will help a lot (though I think he has done better on that score since the deal was inked than he does here).

    However, if the issue is mainly the president’s fatigued demeanor, I would suggest that maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one interview. He has been making the case for the deal just about non-stop for almost four weeks, with a trip to Africa thrown in in the middle. He pretty much cops to being fried at the start with Inskeep, jesting that NPR is the last thing between him and vacation. I think thats a fair cop, but then I’m sympathetic (to the deal and the man). If you’re inclined to say, Look, this is an official part of the p.r. campaign for the deal; why should I make an allowance that the president is tired (and tired of this particular argument) when all he had to do was maintain energy for one last interview, then he could go rest and recover – that’s fair enough; it’s your prerogative.

    But this was hardly your only option for giving the president’s case for the deal a hearing. There are numerous presentations you could choose from from the past few weeks. If an energetic, lawyerly presentation is what you’re looking for, two I’d particular recommend would be this press conference where he pretty much talks the press corps out of questions to ask (even asking himself about an argument he wanted to rebut that no one raised), and this lengthy speech (which does rely heavily on the “What’s your alternative?” point, but at least does so with considerable energy).

    I agreed with you about Obama’s level of energy and apparent interest in the NPR interview. If the president’s demeanor in this one interview is really what primarily concerns you – i.e. that, per se, the president should ever present himself that way about any important topic – that’s fair enough. Also, if the quality of his arguments are underwhelming to you, these other appearances may not radically change your view (though I would say, still give them a chance). But if the issue is that the president’s demeanor caused you not to be able to give his arguments the best consideration you could, or that you suspected he may have better case to make and wasn’t do to fatigue or disinterest, I would say that one or both of these other appearances would be just what you would be looking for, if you’re interested in the best case the administration can make for this deal.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

      The questions against the deal that say “Why in the hell are we giving them money when we know that they’ll just turn around and give money to Hezbollah?” or “Why won’t we be able to inspect suspected sites 24/7?” are not, in themselves, unreasonable questions to ask. NPR reported that Kerry said something to the effect of “Dumbya, to his credit, tried to get a better deal and he wasn’t able to. Then, to his credit, he tried to get a better deal again and he wasn’t able to. This is the deal that we were successfully able to get.”

      The question of whether we’d be better off with this deal or without it depends heavily on how much you trust the people at the table.

      If you see the people at the table as acting in good faith, then the question becomes one of “is this set of benefits worth the cost?” (and put an “in the long run” at the beginning there, if you want.)

      If you don’t trust them to be acting in good faith, the calculus gets a lot trickier. How much are they going to cheat? Will the amount that they cheat still get us to a place where we’ll say that we’re getting more than we’re spending?

      (Cue joke about how “and we’re not even talking about Iran yet!”)Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        Can you point to an instance where opponents of the deal are making this kind of cost-benefit analysis? There are like a hundred people running in the GOP primary, have any of them released a cost-benefit analysis? The closest I’ve read was from Schumer, of all people ( ).

        The reason that Obama can get away with the “what’s your alternative” argument is the same reason Republicans still haven’t presented an Obamacare alternative after five years – they’re simply not interested in policy right now. And unlike domestic stuff, where the opposition can at least wave in the direction of the status quo (“the greatest health-care system on earth!”) this is a multi-lateral agreement, which means the status quo changes whether we sign it or not. The opposition has to pick an alternative, and that has left them bewildered. If I’d spent two terms chasing a resolution to the greatest existential problem that faces our greatest ally, and then the most constructive criticism I got was “we want it to be BETTER” I’d be pretty tired too.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

          Well, whether or not this is a bad deal should not be measured on whether the stupid, obstructionist Republicans are able to string two words together.

          Any more than you should use Nobel Prize Laureate Barack Obama’s support for it as a measure for how good it is.Report

          • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

            No, but Obama’s media strategy (which is what I read the OP as criticizing) can certainly be evaluated based on his opposition. Can you point to an instance where opponents of the deal are making this kind of cost-benefit analysis?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

              No, not at all.

              What conclusion ought we reach from my inability to point to an instance where opponents of the deal are making this kind of cost-benefit analysis?Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

                We can conclude that Obama is not being misleading or evasive in repeatedly saying that his opposition proposes no alternative.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

                If we agree that this is more about Obama than about the plan itself, then we have pinpointed my misgivings about the plan itself.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                So your heuristic for why you don’t think it’s a good enough deal to want is, “Obama struck it.”

                How come?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                That is a misstatement of my position.

                My own position is closer to “I’d rather we be able to quickly inspect suspected sites” and “I’d rather we not give them quite so much money, or any money at all for that matter, given my suspicion that a chunk of this money will go to pay for stuff like Hezbollah” followed by “Iran is going to get a bomb anyway and this plan isn’t going to prevent that”.

                And I haven’t quite hammered out whether that is going to result in a situation worse than the status quo, equal to it, or better than it.

                I mean, if what I think about this plan, personally, is of any import.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                In fairness, let us note that we’re not “giving” them a dime. We’re lifting sanctions which allows them to repatriate their own money, sell their oil and otherwise conduct normal business.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                Returning sanctioned assets is, yeah, significantly different from “giving them money”.

                I should have phrased that differently.

                That said, the sanctioned assets were sanctioned as a result of them breaking the previous treaty. Which is something that doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of emphasis.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

                …And we’re lifting sanctions that exist only for the purpose of incentivizing Iran not to build a nuclear weapon. If we conditioned their lifting on Iran’s ceasing its use of proxies to project force in its region (funding terrorism), then we would blow up any possibility that the nuclear sanctions could ever have their desired effect, since Iran will never deal away its prerogative to support proxies so that they can have the chance to also deal away its nuclear program. It becomes sanctions for sanctions sake at that point; the sanctions are more direct attacks on IRan’s ability to do that force projection than they are sanctions actually meant to change behavior.

                There are sanctions that will remain in place that seek to change Iran’s behavior in the region. They aren’t extensive enough, and I’d be for revisiting the issue directly. But it completely messes everything up when you mix the purposes of the different sanctions regimes. Suddenly you need perfect behavior from the target across all portfolios in order to get progress out of sanctions on any, since the entire functionality of each individual set of sanctions revolves around the carrot of their being lifted.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Uh… okay.

                “If we agree that this is more about Obama than about the plan itself, then we have pinpointed my misgivings about the plan itself” is kind of a weird way to characterize that position, but… my mistake I guess?Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well at least we can stop pretending the actual plan, you know the subject and details, are relevant.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

                This *thread* is more about Obama than about the deal. Outside of this thread there have been a dozen thoughtful analyses written about the deal, including the interview with a non-proliferation scholar that I linked to and the >1hr press conference that Mr. Drew linked to. Let me quote Burt’s post for you:

                “Frankly, after hearing Obama be so wan in his advocacy of the Iran deal, I have to conclude that the best argument for the deal is the only argument for the deal: there is no better alternative available.”

                This conclusion is mistaken. First, Obama has actually made detailed pro-deal arguments on multiple occasions. Second, Obama is now – at the end of his PR tour – primarily emphasizing the “Do you have an alternative” angle because his opposition has yet to offer one, and it would make no sense for him to continue rebutting reasoned counter-arguments that his opposition doesn’t even bother to make (which is what he did initially in the press-conference linked above). How do we know that the opposition has failed to offer a cost-benefit analysis? Because no one in this thread has been able to point to one.Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well thing is those cost benefit questions have been answered and answered pretty well in my opinion.
        -It’s acknowledged that letting up on the sanctions on Iran will give them resources to spend on other non-nuclear troublemaking. That’s a price we’re paying to tamp down on their nuclear trouble making. This agreement also leaves us completely unfettered with regards to countering their money with our money (which we have much much more of).
        -W, it should be noted, was offered the whole kilbasa right after he invaded Iraq. The Iranians, feeling pretty uneasy after watching how swiftly the US offed their nemesis, offered to negotiate with the US with everything on the table. Instead W and his posse of neocon clowns decided that Iran was on the verge of collapsing and included them in the “Axis of Evil” list. That’s the point at which Iran really surged in their centrifuge production and installation.
        -How much are they going to cheat? Potentially they could try but the deal puts in an enormous amount of ways for us to catch them cheating. Making a nuclear weapon is not a light footprint activity. It will be very hard and very expensive for them to hide their cheating if they do so that’s resources they won’t be spending on other things and we’re very likely to bust them at it in which case all the sanctions go back into effect and Iran ends up wearing it instead of us. Hell, hawks should pray to Jeebus that Iran cheats.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          Eh. From what I understand, that particular story of Kerry’s got Three Pinocchios.

          The story I’ve heard more recently is this one: SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the – listen, I will answer that question and I’ll answer it directly but I need to put this agreement into its proper perspective, folks. You have to look at the history, and when I hear a senator or a congressman stand up and say, “Well, we should get a better deal; let’s stop and we’ll negotiate and go get a better deal” – that is not going to happen. There isn’t a, quote, “better deal” to be gotten, because George Bush to his credit in 2003 tried to get the better deal. And to his credit in 2008 tried to get the better deal. And what happened was in both occasions Iran went from a 103 or -4 centrifuges to 19,000. They went to 12,000 kilograms of fissile material, low-enriched, but if further enriched it would have produced 10-12 bombs.

          I don’t know how many Pinocchios that story gets.Report

        • greginak in reply to North says:

          And i’ll note again, we didn’t get inspections like with do in this deal when she repeatedly had arms control agreements with the Soviets. Somehow we survived. But then again there were people who were against dealing with the Soviets. They were bad dudes. We relayed on technological surveillance to verify with the Soviets. I’m guessing we’ll have some sat intell working on the Iranians for quite a while.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        BTW, I’m trying to work on my reading comprehension skills, is this a fair summary of our conversation or a misstatement?

        Jaybird: Obama needs to address the reasonable questions raised by a cost-benefit analysis.
        Trizzlor: Opponents of the deal haven’t offered a cost-benefit analysis.
        J: Dumb opposition doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.
        T: Okay, can you point to a cost-benefit analysis that Obama should respond to?
        J: No, and what does that tell us?
        T: It tells us that Obama doesn’t have a cost-benefit analysis to respond to.
        J: See, all this focus on Obama is why it’s a bad deal.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

          (I changed some things, mostly my own answers, but I changed your third answer to how I read it the first time.)

          Jaybird: There are quite a few reasonable questions raised by a cost-benefit analysis. (By implication: the fact that Obama is spending time saying “what’s *YOUR* plan?” elides that these questions are reasonable.)
          Trizzlor: Opponents of the deal haven’t offered a cost-benefit analysis.
          J: Whether it’s a good deal doesn’t depend on opponents of the deal.
          T: Okay, can you point to a cost-benefit analysis that Obama should respond to?
          J: No, and what does that tell us?
          T: It tells us that Obama is not being misleading or evasive when he’s talking about the opponents of the deal.
          J: And now we’re talking about Obama instead of talking about the deal.Report

          • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

            Thanks (honestly)! I pretty severely misunderstood your final point. In my defense, I think a discussion that starts with the claim that Obama elides the reasonable questions is – inevitably – going to involve talking about Obama. I guess part of my confusion stems from the fact that Burt titles, starts, and ends his post about the deal’s optics, but it is now clear that his intent was to talk about the deal’s content (which is more or less a free-for-all where people link to stuff and say “read the whole thing”).Report

    • For me, it’s kind of a blend of both.

      On the one hand, I think the fatigued, unengaged advocacy itself is revealing — mainly about the President as a leader. If the ineffectiveness of his presentation is the result of him over-extending himself on other matters, that’s an insight, too.

      On the other hand, the deal ought to stand or fall on its own merits. What are they? Getting a “least bad” argument from the President failed to persuade me, and the responsive argument that “we just can’t trust Iran” also didn’t seem logically persuasive despite the passion of its delivery.

      So I thought to come here and solicit opinions with the hypothetical. (I’m not really having lunch with Congressman McCarthy. Would that I had that sort of juice; I’d be a judge already.)Report

      • That seems a rather broad kind of judgement to make on the strength of one interview (on a topic on which the president has shown considerable energy on a number of other occasions – again, are you really this concerned about the impression left by this one interview which happened to be the one you heard?; had you had occasion to listen to his other appearances since the deal was reached or are you interested in doing so now?), but then it’s never seemed to me that you’ve been much interested in evidence that Obama may not be an ineffective leader over the years, or, at the least, have always been quick to say when you think something is evidence that he is.Report

      • greginak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The question you would ask your Rep is the one people for the deal, like myself, have been consistently asking with no response. What is you alternative? Now some people will “get a better deal” which should be followed with detailed questions about how the spork they do that since that is extremely unlikely. Find out if they can explain how you rip up an agreement without being seen as acting in bad faith and losing your partners on the other side. Ask how you negotiate when our allies all tell us to go piss up a rope and drop their sanctions. Ask how we get a better deal after emasculating the people who want to negotiate on the other side, with less leverage because the sanctions regime is dead and then we are supposed to get more stuff. Or refer to the Atlantic article i linked above where it seems lots of Iranians are for the deal including prominent human rights activists and Iranian Americans.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        On the one hand, I think the fatigued, unengaged advocacy itself is revealing — mainly about the President as a leader.

        Yeah, it means — at most — he was tired at one interview. As others have pointed out, he’s been over this topic MANY times, showing far more energy.

        So why you keep insisting this is the important interview that provides the secret information necessary in face of all the interviews that contradict it I don’t understand.

        Why is THIS so telling, when all the other interviews and speeches that were energetic and detailed are ignored?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Morat20 says:

          I make no such insistence. That’s you putting words into my mouth; please do not do so again. In fact, I’m more than a little bit displeased that somehow I’ve personally become the subject here.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I only ask because a number of posters have commented that Obama has tackled this subject in other forums, very recently, with energy and vigor. So this appears to be a on-off.

            Yet it still appears you are drawing (or defending) the conclusions you drew from this NPR interview as if it were representative.

            So to avoid putting words in your mouth, can I ask for clarification? Do you still feel this interview is either ‘representative’ or ‘telling’ in some way about the deal or Obama’s feelings on the deal? If so, how to explain others where his demeanor was quite different?Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Morat20 says:

              All I’m defending is my impression of this interview, which left me sorely disappointed. If I may be permitted the vanity of quoting myself from the OP:

              …after hearing Obama be so wan in his advocacy of the Iran deal, I have to conclude that the best argument for the deal is the only argument for the deal: there is no better alternative available. It’s no wonder that Congress’ reaction to it seems cooler than lukewarm. I’d like it if someone could tell me why I’m wrong. (second emphasis added.)

              So what I’ve really been looking for is, “Someone please give me a better reason to be an advocate for the deal than what Obama did that morning.” Mostly, that’s what I’ve seen come out of the thread: the deal is actually pretty good from a deterrence and containment perspective in that it gives inspectors plenty of latitude to do all of the meaningful inspections they need since the evidence of non-compliant enrichment simply can’t be spirited away within the time limits proposed by the deal; the fears of what Iran is going to do with trade money and release of impounded assets are really fears about what Iran is doing with whatever money it has at any given time; the deal makes it less likely rather than more likely that Iran will behave belligerently; this deal paves the way for a means of finding common cause with Iran to neuter ISIS; and most intriguingly, the deal and resulting opening of trade with the West has a reasonable chance of having a transformative effect on Iranian culture and government. All of those are better arguments to me than “It’s the least bad choice on the table since the only other choice is war.”Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Okey-dokey. That makes sense. Because there was a lot of posts — both about the deal and linking to other interviews and press conferences by Obama — that went into just those details.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Drew says:

      “I think there is every reason to see Obama’s very quick reliance on the “What’s your alternative?” argument as a bit evasive and/or defensive about the terms of the deal.”

      Although it’s what we always hear in reference to criticism of, say, the ACA — “well how would YOU solve all the problems then, HUH?!”

      (cue “but this is IRAN you IDIOT, not HEALTHCARE”, as though that were relevant to the point I’m making)Report

      • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

        What is your alternative is a completely reasonable question and if there were coherent answers that weren’t full of holes we would be hearing them. Especially if have a situation where it is a yes or no vote on a treaty.

        And the opposition to the treaty have been offering plenty of alternatives, bombing for one or trying to negotiate more even without explaining how the hell that is supposed to work. The problem is more that the alternatives either make no sense or are acts of war.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    Dog spams man… nothing to see.

    Now, if man spams dog? Well then…Report

  10. greginak says:

    I’ll throw this link down here. I’ll admit it doesn’t have anything to do with Obama’s personality or energy. So fwliw it is an arms control blog discussing how Schumer is wrong in many of his statements about the inspections. We have far more inspections then the foes of the deal have let on.

    One of the key grafs “Schumer says “in the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement. First, inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling.” This line obfuscates inspector access to declared sites with inspector access to undeclared sites. In addition to continuous surveillance at areas like Iran’s centrifuge-production areas and uranium mines and mills, inspectors will have short-notice access to all Iranian declared nuclear sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be able to access any declared site within 24 hours, and sometimes, in as little as two hours. This ensures that any attempt to move toward nuclear weapons using Iran’s declared facilities would be quickly detected. Iran would need to replicate its entire nuclear supply chain—from obtaining the uranium ore to enrichment—covertly if it chose to violate the deal and pursue nuclear weapons.”

    There are actually to many items the critics have been wrong about to just list here. I fully admit actual details of the deal are of little importance compared to the messaging and whether people like Obama.

    • Burt Likko in reply to greginak says:

      This is very useful!Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

      greginak: There are actually to many items the critics have been wrong about to just list here. I fully admit actual details of the deal are of little importance compared to the messaging and whether people like Obama.

      Correcting for sarcasm, most of the expressed opposition has to do with “messaging” and “liking Obama,” since in key practical respects the deal is a fait accompli and the congressional vote is about other things than “the deal itself.” Even OG Likko, who wants the decision to be about “the deal itself,” is troubled by Obama’s demeanor, which, for OG Likko, casts a shadow on “the deal itself.”

      Bottom line: Both “the deal itself” and “relatively emotionally uninvested President” are two sides of the same decision that the country made, after extensive testing of the main alternative, as validated in two contested presidential elections and as reinforced in countless ways, including by omission, over the years since 2007 and the last gasp of W-ism.

      We are now concluding the period of testing O-ism: If we do not wish to treat Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil worthy only of war, then the only real world alternative is to treat Iran as potentially susceptible to negotiation in good faith, morally and practically requiring a willingness to take whatever risks of being wrong. In electing O, we chose the estimate that those risks were less than the risks of W-ism.

      O-ism is the approach to which once-upon-a-time candidate Obama clearly and distinctly committed himself, and nominee and finally President Obama re-committed himself, in vivid contrast to his opponents and to his predecessor, as a matter of defining or overarching orientation. He did not commit himself to pacifism or isolationism and has not acted as a pacifist or as an isolationist, but he did commit himself and has acted more within the tradition of liberal internationalism for an epoch of retrenchment, rather than within neoconservative imperialism for an epoch of aggression or attempted expansion.

      So to repeat the main contention in response to OG Likko: Though American opinion can be fickle, I think that overwhelmingly, in many different ways, it can be said effectively to have chosen the somewhat uninvested persona that OG Likko observes and reacts against in this post. That doesn’t mean that America is perfectly happy with Obama or with a more restrained stance in the world. It may mean that America remains happier with – or less anguished over and disappointed in – Obamism than with Bushism.

      Any such calculation is subject to change. There are no guarantees that this Obamian correction will make for a lasting re-orientation of American foreign policy. It could be that Obama’s approach will be judged successful, or in any event unavoidable, and that American presidents and the American People will grow more comfortable working within its limitations. It could be that a Neocon renaissance is on the Rubio-colored horizon. I tend to think that even President Rubio would act with more restraint (or more within real constraints) than Bush, but would be more aggressive or quick to aggressive, unilateral military action than Obama.

      For now, to me, the expressed opposition to the deal clearly has less to do with the merits of the deal on balance, in relation to the Iran nuclear issue or general Iran policy, compared to alternatives, than with a desire for a different world and a different role for America in it.

      This desire is sometimes perceived and acted upon as narrow professional and political self-interest: To put it bluntly, a neocon American policy is better business for neocons. The other side is no more or less vulnerable to the same compromises.

      However we choose to look at motivations and particulars, we remain still too much in the post-Bush epoch or the Obama epoch, to articulate the anti- or post-Obama position coherently. The incoherency sometimes is expressed as inchoate dissatisfaction, sometimes as conspiracist lunacy, sometimes as crude contempt. More sophisticated participants will generally simply ignore the fact that their presentation has missing essential pieces, not just the absence of alternatives in the narrow sense, but the absence of any clear and attractive idea for how, if not in this Obamian way, they would prefer for the US through its leaders to conduct itself in the world.Report

      • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I disgree strongly with this “Both “the deal itself” and “relatively emotionally uninvested President” are two sides of the same decision that the country made” Firstly O has spoken on this deal many times so one time he may have sounds tired and other times energetic. In either case his style isn’t related to the substance of this deal. If a great salesman talks you into buying a Yugo, its a still a Yugo whether or not the salesman made you see sparkles.

        Substance and style are separate things. If people wanted O because we wanted less intervention ( which he has sort of kind of given us) and more openness to diplomacy ( which have gotten here) then that is nice for those of us who voted for him.

        There is quite a bit of goal post moving in the opposition to the deal. While the incoherent opponents have been quick to scream Munich our long history of arms control deals with the Soviets has been forgotten. If anything O and this deal are in decades long tradition of making treaties over nukes. This is one of those areas where O is far less radical and more allied with successful US actions than the conservatives who are opposing him.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

          I disagree that you disagree strongly.

          W-ism was self-consciously a departure from that “long tradition” of which you speak. O is in some sense a correction back to within it, under somewhat altered circumstances.

          “Relatively emotionally uninvested” is not the same as “totally uninvested” or “totally emotionless.” It just means here “more reflective/less apparently reflexive or combative.” In Mead’s terms, less Jacksonian. It’s really a very simple thing and I don’t know why people have such a hard time absorbing it. Obama’s personality and his approach to the world somewhat complement and conform to each other. Same with Bush. Same with most of us.

          There are exceptions of various types. There are always exceptions. In this instance, however, NPR Obama is not an exception to the Obama Era rule, but even more Obama than Obama usually is. NPR Obama expresses in terms of personal projection the difference between Obama and Bush, conforming to the difference between Obama Era and Bush Era, conforming to the difference between America 2015 and America 2003.

          The observation isn’t meant to tell you everything there is to be known about any of those subjects. It does support the thesis that the reaction to the deal has more to do with those reacting or their predicaments than with anything specific to the deal, which I think was your main point.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      One of the key grafs “Schumer says “in the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement. First, inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling.” This line obfuscates inspector access to declared sites with inspector access to undeclared sites. In addition to continuous surveillance at areas like Iran’s centrifuge-production areas and uranium mines and mills, inspectors will have short-notice access to all Iranian declared nuclear sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be able to access any declared site within 24 hours, and sometimes, in as little as two hours. This ensures that any attempt to move toward nuclear weapons using Iran’s declared facilities would be quickly detected. Iran would need to replicate its entire nuclear supply chain—from obtaining the uranium ore to enrichment—covertly if it chose to violate the deal and pursue nuclear weapons.”

      When Schumer says “in the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement. First, inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling.”, a response that talks about “declared sites” and “declared facilities” doesn’t address Schumer’s concerns about undeclared sites and undeclared facilities.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yes it does. We can access those sites it just may not be immediately or 24/7. However undeclared sites are inherently hard to hide given that radiation thing and the infrastructure it takes to build them. You can bet we will have satellites keep tracking of any likely construction. We can get into undeclared sites after going through the procedure in the treaty. Lets say we spot something suspicious and declare we want to check it out. 24 days is the absolute max time to get in their. In the mean time we have a satellite or spy planes watching that site 24/7 and then we still get in. The Iranians will certainly know that the suspected site is under surveillance.

        Again this is far more then we ever got with all the treaties with the Ruskies.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          No, it doesn’t.

          But a response, such as your answer, that talks about the undeclared sites does address it.

          Lets say we spot something suspicious and declare we want to check it out. 24 days is the absolute max time to get in their. In the mean time we have a satellite or spy planes watching that site 24/7 and then we still get in. The Iranians will certainly know that the suspected site is under surveillance.

          This exact same paragraph, with just a few rewordings, could be made to be a criticism of the deal.Report

          • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            Well anything can be turned into anything if you want it. The deal has far more inspections then the opposition is either admitting to or understands. That is the facts. Schumer, who is by far not the most vociferous opponent, can’t even get it right. We will lot’o’access to all the sites we know about. Building nukes is like making chicken crates. The deal seems to make it really hard for the Iranians to hide anything.

            And again, this is far more then we ever had with the Ruskies and far more than we would ever allow to our own facilities.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              Well, allow me to demonstrate:

              Lets say we spot something suspicious and declare we want to check it out. We’ll have to wait for as many as 24 days to get in their. In the mean time we have a satellite or spy planes watching that site 24/7 before we get in. The Iranians will certainly know that the suspected site is under surveillance and have 24 days to prepare.

              That didn’t take a whole lot of effort.

              And again, this is far more then we ever had with the Ruskies and far more than we would ever allow to our own facilities.

              The sanctions that the USSR was living under for much of its existence were self-imposed.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jay, we didn’t get inspections of the Soviets. We used technological methods of surveillance to monitor their compliance. We didn’t have people in all their declared facilities or quick access to undeclared. It is simply a fact we have a far more intrusive and powerful inspections regime in this treaty then we ever got with the soviets.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

                Every treaty with the Soviets and then the Russians since 1986(pdf, pg 10) has had on-site inspections.Report

              • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

                START wasn’t signed until 1991, and it is I believe the first to include inspections, which were not carried out until after the fall of the Soviet Union as far as I know.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

                Yes i was overly broad. I don’t’ believe the SALT treaties had inspections but START had some. However the current deal still has far more than we had with the Soviets.Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            It could be reworded to a criticism, yes, but it would be an exceedingly weak criticism since the idea that Iran could within 24 hours, or 5 days or even a couple weeks, relocate equipment, material and personnel; scrub a suspected nuclear site of incriminating evidence and leave no detectable traces all while being under surveillance strikes me as unicorn riding leprechaun level fantasy. If Iran could accomplish such a thing we would not be sanctioning them for building nuclear weapons; we’d be begging them with dump truck loads of money to share their incredible technical and physics bending expertise with the rest of us mere mortals.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to North says:

              Sure. But if they manage to become a nuclear power (or, at least, credibly bluff that they’ve become one), the dynamic changes significantly.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Seems to me that requires a successful test detonation.Report

              • Francis in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The Little Boy design was successfully tested over Hiroshima. These days, the reason to launch a successful test somewhere in the Indian ocean is to announce that you are joining the nuclear club. (press releases don’t have the impact.)Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well yes, but this deal credibly offers to prevent them from becoming a nuclear power and, when it ends, leaves us in the position we were prior the deal except with enormous intimate knowledge of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                At this point, the criticism has become, “If we are incredibly incompetent, and they are diabolical geniuses, this will not work,” which, if it is a valid argument against this deal, is a valid argument against any deal that doesn’t involve us just taking over Iran altogether.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                My misgivings are more of the form “since we are incredibly incompetent, is this deal likely to be better than the status quo, about the same, or worse?” and I don’t know how to measure that.Report

              • Francis in reply to Jaybird says:

                If you honestly believe that the US govt is incredibly incompetent, then you should be thrilled that major allies and major non-allies (eg Russia and China) want to sign the deal. If we’re too stupid to inspect, maybe they can.

                If Iran really wants a nuke, they’ll make one. The US did with 1940s technology. Pakistan did. North Korea (!) did. The deal on the table provides some evidence (not conclusive) that Iran is willing to forgo the weapon in return for rejoining the community of nations.

                The sanctions regime is collapsing. Our allies are tired of our intransigence. There is no ‘status quo’. There is (i) sign the deal, (ii) persuade the group to renegotiate (look, mom, unicorns!), or (iii) unilaterally walk away.

                If we choose option (iii), because we (or Israel) believe that the deal is a farce and Iran will build a nuke anyway, our choices are (a) live with the risk, (b) preemptively invade, or (c) preemptively launch our own massive air strikes.

                When mapping out your path, please consider that from the Iranian point of view, if the US walks away from the deal it’s a clear sign that the US is considering bombardment at a minimum. Why not build a nuke or 3 as quickly as possible? At that point what’s to lose?Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        How would “anytime” inspections of undeclared sites even work; the IEAE gets to enter any structure in Iran at will? My initial assumption was that Schumer had simply gotten the inspection details wrong since he never mentions declared sites. But do you really interpret him as saying that the deal is flawed because we don’t have unilateral, immediate access to all of Iran?Report