Morgan Liddick’s views on Iran negotiations lack civility (letter)
I have been following the Iranian nuclear deal closely, so the headline of Morgan Liddick’s column caught my eye on Tuesday (“Iran deal lacks trust from all sides”). I am generally sympathetic to Mr. Liddick’s views about individual responsibility and the size of government, but I regret that he has recently fallen into the same trap that most pundits, both right and left, have fallen into: the abandonment of civility in disagreement.
Mr. Liddick’s main point is the lack of trust in the agreement with Iran. “Should the West, especially the United States, trust Iran?” This is in the best tradition of American arrogance. It blithely ignores the question, should Iran trust the United States? How difficult was it for the Iranian negotiators to sit at a table with a country that engineered an overthrow of their democratically elected government in 1953 and then forced a puppet Shah on them until 1979? How much do the Iranians trust America’s closest ally Israel with their nuclear weapons?
Mr. Liddick accuses President Obama of “willful failure to understand one’s opponents” and asserts that “Tehran owns the White House.” But how much does Mr. Liddick understand Iran, or anyone else who has the impertinence to disagree with the United States? The current mullah-dominated Iranian government is indeed a pain. Its indiscriminate support of everything Shia will probably be its undoing, though it is currently helping our efforts against ISIS. But the Persians are a proud people who predate the United States by some six millennia.
Negotiations do indeed involve trust and understanding your opponent. But most important, they require compromise. If you’re not willing to compromise, you’re assuming a bully’s arrogance and aren’t really negotiating. If you don’t negotiate, you’re willing to ignore the problem. That’s something Congress is good at. Blasting a treaty is easy. Getting one is much, much harder.
I assume that Mr. Liddick thinks this treaty is bad, though he is too busy with his political vendetta to actually say that. He may be right. Benjamin Netanyahu may be right. But I’m willing to give it a chance. I’m willing to try to rebuild the trust between our people because the alternatives frighten me. Sanctions no doubt played the biggest role in getting the Iranians to the bargaining table and, hopefully, gave Iran pause to think about its relationship with the rest of the world. But sanctions were not going to stop Iran from getting the bomb. What next? Turn Israel loose to (probably ineffectively) bomb Iran’s nuclear sites? Bomb or invade Iran ourselves?
I disagree with President Obama on many things, but I welcome this treaty and the fresh air he has brought to our foreign policy. He’s been brave enough to admit that the United States cannot be the sole policeman for the world, that our Cuban policy was a failure and to question Israel. His foreign policy is not perfect; no president passes that test, though President Polk was close. I share Mr. Liddick’s disgust that President Obama drew a red line in Syria apparently without knowing what he was going to do if that red line was crossed. And I’m afraid there will be a price to pay for not standing up more to Putin in Crimea and Ukraine.
But I appreciate that President Obama seems to understand that America’s greatest asset is its freedom, ideals and prosperity, not its military strength. When I hear the bombast from Congress about the tentative deal with Iran, I take some solace in that President Kennedy’s most vocal opposition to his plan to blockade Cuba, besides his military advisers, was Congress.
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