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“This Whole Debate Is A Charade”: Let’s Stop Pretending Republicans Have A Serious Critique Of The Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry went to Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. As expected he absorbed a lot of insults and invective from Republicans who are critical of the deal. Along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Kerry tried to rebut the criticisms as best he could.

But you could see in Kerry’s occasionally exasperated expression something that we all ought to be willing to acknowledge: This whole debate is a charade.

There’s a reason no Republican has managed to answer President Obama’s challenge to articulate an alternative that would be preferable to what the six-party negotiations produced, and it isn’t because this deal is perfect or couldn’t have been better. It’s that from where Republicans sit, any deal negotiated with Iran is a bad one by definition.

That’s partly because it was negotiated by the Obama administration, of course, and the GOP has gotten itself to a position where opposition to pretty much anything Barack Obama does is not just reflexive but mandatory for any elected Republican who wants to keep his job. It’s also because the sustained critique of Obama’s foreign policy that Republicans have pushed for the last six and a half years is that everything Obama does is “weak.” The word comes up again and again in Republican statements about foreign policy; ask them what they’d do differently, and in every situation their answer always revolves around being stronger. The content of this strength is rarely detailed, but when it is it usually involves more aggressive use of the military.

And it assumes that when dealing with adversaries like Iran, negotiation is weak, again by definition. Negotiation means talking to those we hate, and even offering them concessions. Successful negotiation ends with an outcome that our adversaries actually praise, when what we really want is for them to fall to their knees and surrender to our might. This is what elected Republicans believe, and more importantly, it’s what they’ve been telling their constituents for years, so it’s what those constituents demand.

So there was literally no deal this administration could have negotiated with Iran that Republicans would have agreed to. None. From their perspective, the substance of the deal never mattered. No one who has been remotely attentive to our politics in recent years could honestly deny that.

And there’s something important to understand about whether Republicans have an alternative. Yes, it’s a reasonable rhetorical point to demand that they explain what other kind of deal they’d support. But right now, they are actually proposing an alternative: that the U.S. pull out of this deal. And we need to explore what that means.

You can argue that this deal should have been different, but when it comes time to vote on whether it should go forward, members of Congress will be choosing between two options, neither of them hypothetical. A yes vote means all the parties — not only Iran and the United States, but also the United Nations, China, Russia, and the European Union — implement this deal. A no vote, in contrast, doesn’t mean that some fantasy deal will fall from the sky. It means that the U.S. walks away from this deal, and it collapses.

That also could mean that the existing sanctions regime collapses. We can keep our sanctions on Iran, but the reason sanctions have been so devastating to the country’s economy is that they haven’t just come from the U.S., but also from the United Nations, the European Union, and elsewhere. If those other sanctions were to disappear, Iran would get most of what it wanted without having to fulfill any obligations at all. And if they want to pursue a nuclear weapon, they could then go right ahead.

So now that the deal is on the table and congressional votes are on their way, what Republicans really need to explain is not what sort of deal they might have preferred. We know their answer to that question — they’ll say they would have rather had a deal where Iran gives us everything we want, and we give up nothing. But that’s irrelevant at this point. What they need to explain now is why the U.S. pulling out of this deal — and what happens afterward — will be preferable to implementing it, imperfections and all. Do they think the Iranians will come crawling back and make further concessions? Do they think the rest of the world’s powers, which support the deal they helped negotiate, will just follow us and impose new sanctions in the hope that eventually that might lead to more negotiations (which, like these, would take years) and ultimately the fantasy deal where Iran capitulates? What precisely is the chain of events Republicans think will occur if we pull out?

If they’ve given that question even a moment’s consideration, you wouldn’t know it to listen to them. But it’s what they ought to be asked now.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 23, 2014

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, John Kerry, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“No Sense Of History”: John McCain; ‘Everything I’ve Predicted … Has Come True’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has reason to be pleased with his recent promotion. In the wake of the 2014 midterm elections, his party is not only in control of the Senate, but the Arizona Republican is now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a post he’s reportedly wanted for quite a while.

But when the senator looks around the world, he isn’t pleased at all.

“We are probably in the most serious period of turmoil in our lifetime,” said the 78-year-old Republican from Arizona, whose control of the committee is the culmination of decades of tenacious advocacy for a muscular foreign policy. “Everything I’ve predicted, unfortunately, has come true, whether it be in Iraq or whether it be Syria.”

The notion that all of John McCain’s predictions have “come true” isn’t just a bizarre boast, it’s also laughably and demonstrably untrue. As Rachel put it on the show awhile back, “Let the record show, John McCain was wrong about Iraq and the war in Iraq in almost every way that a person can be wrong about something like that.”

But it’s this argument, which McCain has made before, that we’re seeing “the most serious period of turmoil in our lifetime” that seems especially odd.

As we discussed the last time the senator made this assessment, McCain’s lifetime includes the entirety of World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War. To suggest turmoil is greater or more “serious” now may be politically convenient – one assumes McCain is both eager to blame President Obama for unrest and anxious to make the case for more wars – but it’s also completely at odds with reality when considered in a historical context.

Dylan Matthews noted last week, “If anything, the world is safer than it’s ever been. The threat of nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union has lifted. Great power wars of the kind that plagued Europe until 1945 are a thing of the past. Peoples’ odds of dying from violence, including warfare, have never been lower.”

I’m also reminded a good piece from Fareed Zakaria along the same lines, noting conditions in 1973, the year McCain was released from a Vietnamese prison. That year, Zakaria noted, several hundred thousand people died as a result of the war in Vietnam, tens of thousands died in the Yom Kippur War, OPEC imposed an oil embargo, and Cold War tensions pushed the United States literally to DEFCON 3.

Today’s world is unpredictable, but it doesn’t compare with the kinds of geopolitical dangers that existed for decades during the Cold War, not to mention before that period. […]

For all the problems, let’s keep in mind that we live today in a world with considerably fewer dangers. Nuclear war is unimaginable. The Russian-American nuclear arsenals are down to one-fifth their size in 1973 and at a much lower level of readiness. In 1973, Freedom House published its first annual account of political rights around the world. At the time, countries listed as “not free” outnumbered “free” countries. Today that is inverted, with the number of “free” countries having doubled. Open markets, trade and travel have boomed, allowing hundreds of millions to escape poverty and live better lives.

Of course there are crises, problems and tensions around the world. But no one with any sense of history would want to go back in time in search of less turmoil.

Around the same time, President Obama delivered remarks to White House interns and stressed the same point: “[D]espite how hard sometimes the world seems to be, and all you see on television is war and conflict and poverty and violence, the truth is that if you had to choose when to be born, not knowing where or who you would be, in all of human history, now would be the time. Because the world is less violent, it is healthier, it is wealthier, it is more tolerant and it offers more opportunity than any time in human history for more people than any time in human history.”

This isn’t to say that peace and stability reign around the globe. That’s never been the case, and it probably never will be. But to see alarming developments, here and abroad, as evidence of a world unraveling is to focus far too much on the trees and not enough on the forest.

McCain has been around for real periods of international turmoil. It’s easy, and perhaps ideologically satisfying, to insist conditions are worse now, but by literally no measure is that assessment accurate.

It’s likely that the senator has a political goal in mind: if Americans believe the world is coming apart, and that instability is scary, maybe the public will blame the president and reward McCain and his allies. Perhaps McCain will even persuade people that a few more wars will ease global tensions and paradoxically reduce violence.

But reality suggests no one should take his rhetoric seriously.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 23, 2015

January 24, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, John McCain, War Hawks | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need To Support All The Troops”: Military Women In Line To Get Same Rights As Civilian Women

If you’re a member of the U.S. military and you happen to be a woman, you might think you were entitled to the full range of health care allowed your civilian counterparts. But you would be wrong. That’s why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., crafted an amendment to the National Defense Appropriation Act that would grant, according to the Ms. magazine Web site:

the same rights as civilian women under federal policies that provide affordable abortion care to women who are the victims of rape or incest. Under the current policy, servicewomen are only eligible for abortion care if the woman’s life is at risk.

On Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the amendment by a 16-10 vote. The measure must next move to the Senate floor, and faces an uncertain future if, as expected, the appropriations bill goes to a joint conference. (The House bill is not expected to include a similar provision.)

Currently, abortions are forbidden to military personnel unless they are victims of sexual assault or the pregnancy endangers their lives. But if the pregnancy is the result of a rape the soldier, sailor or Marine must pay for her own abortion — a cost that can be prohibitive on a military paycheck. And in a war zone, a woman in uniform will likely find no civilian medical professionals available to her who will perform the procedure.

This is all the more galling when one considers the epidemic of sexual assault against military women that continues to grip the armed forces — assaults perpetrated by men who are supposed to be their comrades.

In 2009, reporting for CBS News, Katie Couric delivered this statistic:

One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world.

And the numbers haven’t changed much. Because of the stigma attached to reporting one’s rape by a fellow soldier, it’s not unheard of for a woman made pregnant through rape to try to self abort. (For one account, see Kathryn Joyce’s outstanding 2009 article, “Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend,” at Religion Dispatches.)

If Congress really wants to show its appreciation to all of our troops, it will pass the appropriations bill with the Shaheen amendment in tact. But with this Congress, whose freshmen claim to love, love them some Constitution, military women will likely learn the limits of the right-wing version of the U.S. Constitution. (Now, what do you need all those rights, for, little lady?)

 

By: Adele Stan, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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