The Non-Ideological Ideologues

At this point, it should be clear to everyone that American policy makers have no idea what they are doing in the Arab world. The Iraq fiasco and the never ending Afghanistan blunder is proof enough. Just in case it is not clear, the Obama administration is trying to cut a deal with Iran that underscores the incompetence. The American foreign policy establishment is just a collection of people with positions not based in reality, but designed to set them apart from the other experts, because that’s what they do.

A good example is this piece from someone named Paul Pillar. His bio says he is a former CIA employee. He’s now “non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, as well as a nonresident senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence.” That’s quite impressive until you start reading his article on the pending Iran deal. It is a strange mix of logical fallacies and random positions that don’t seem to fit together very well.

For anyone who genuinely wants to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon and whose attitude toward the nuclear negotiations with Iran has not been shaped by some other agenda, the “Joint Plan of Action” that was agreed to in Geneva this weekend is a major achievement that deserves enthusiastic applause.

When you start with a no true Scotsman fallacy, it is safe to assume you have staked out an indefensible position. In this case, anyone who thinks the deal is a bad one or defective in some way is guilty of having a hidden agenda. or, worse still, wants to see Iran get the bomb. If he had come to this conclusion after an exhaustive analysis of the various criticisms and alternative, maybe it is OK to make the claim. To unilaterally declare your position the only morally acceptable one says you have a weak hand. It gets worse.

First, it unmistakably moves Iran farther away than it is now from any ability to make a nuclear weapon, and even farther away from any such ability it would have in the future in the absence of this agreement. Among the facets of the deal that do this are the stopping of enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and the conversion of all current material enriched to this level into forms making it unavailable for enrichment to the level required for weapons.

That sounds good except Iran has never stood by any of its past deals. Why should we believe them now? If you are truly concerned about Iran getting a deliverable nuclear weapon, what you have to assume is they are willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to get one, so taking their word for anything is a non-starter. If you’re just trying to make it tougher for them, but you accept they will eventually get the technology, then there really is no point in making any deal with them.

Second, Iran’s program will be subjected to an unprecedented degree of international inspection, going beyond the treaty obligations of Iran or any other country and providing additional assurance that any Iranian departure from the terms of the agreement would be quickly detected.

How is this different than what has been in place for a decade or so? He does not say, but we have technology in place to monitor them now. There are roughly four ways to develop fissionable materials for a  nuclear weapon. They are gaseous diffusion, calutrons, centrifuges and breeder reactors. We know the only option for Iran is centrifuges and we know that’s what they are using. This requires a lot of resources and human capital, which we can monitor and get a good idea of their progress. We don’t need inspectors.

The Iranians, however, have weighed on on this point. Iran’s current president said, “Let anyone make his own reading, but this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before.” In other words, they will sign no deal that they think binds them to inspections or halting their program. That means whatever deal is done, will have no practical impact to how the West deals with Iran.

The point is, this whole Iran deal is just an exercise. It is a task for career people in the foreign policy establishment, like recess of finger painting for school kids. This is fine for European countries like France, as they don’t count. The American empire does matter, so these silly exercises have an impact. Whether it is cutting a bad deal with Iran or screwing over the Saudis to get it done, these time waster done by time servers in the foreign policy establishment can make the world worse.

The fact is, we have no business in the Middle East. Buying oil and gas does not require a million troops in and around the region. Selling the Saudis and Israelis the tools to keep the really bad actors under control can be done from a distance. We can certainly give them quiet assistance if they need to put a beating on one of these bad actors. Otherwise, it is not our problem. Left on their own, the Iranians can’t get a nuke without help from outside and The Jews and Saudis can do a better job policing that.