On Tuesday morning, President Obama announced a deal aimed at reducing the threat of a nuclear weapon being developed in Iran. He was joined by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia in a negotiated settlement with Iran that is now on its way to the United Nations for approval. Besides the U.N. review, legislative bodies in Iran and here are also giving it a look.
In the 2012 fact based, Oscar winning movie, “Argo,” the CIA devised a crazy idea to rescue several stranded workers from the U.S Embassy who were in hiding following the Iranian seizure of the embassy in 1979. The idea was to enter the country posing as a film crew of what would have been a terrible movie, and while there, smuggle the Americans out. It took a real effort to convince the bosses at the CIA and in the White House that it would work. Bryan Cranston aptly described the scheme to his boss by saying “this is the best bad idea we have sir…by far.”
Conversely, the nuclear deal this week is not a bad idea. Merely getting a deal done is a great achievement. It is even greater when compared to all of the other alternatives I have read this week. Predictably, the staunchest opponents of the deal have come up with exactly nothing.
So, one might ask what is so great about the deal? Probably the most important part for me is our role as a member of the international coalition that signed it. It is such an American trait to presume that this is all about us. In this case, it might be less about us than anyone involved. However, our role as a part of the team may have the longest payback of any one aspect of the deal closing.
Of the seven signatories to the agreement, we arguably rank last on that list of economies most affected by sanctions that have been in place since 2010. Iran’s economy has suffered a recession that is quadruple the size of our 2008-09 disaster. France and Germany are salivating over not only the broader access to oil, but the ability to import their own goods back into Iran. Simply stated, the economic impact of the deal is enormous. The American led, 2010 sanctions against Iran have also been enormous, even more so to every other signatory to the new deal than us.
The debate that has ensued since Tuesday has been peculiar. Republicans in Congress, joined by a smattering of Democrats have objected to the deal. Many of them objected to the deal before there was a deal. But what makes the debate odd is that the argument being made by the opposition is void of any alternative at all. The whole political approach of opposing big policy ideas with nothing as an alternative has truly run its course. It is a pattern that has served Obama well, and looks like it will again this time.
From my perspective, Obama’s three biggest policy moves have been the Affordable Care Act, the Executive Order on Immigration, and the Iran nuclear deal. All three of these decisions have been met with oppositional outrage by Republicans in Congress but as of yet, not one real alternative to any of them.
The ACA was signed in March of 2010, and while its national support has been tenuous since then, the lack of an alternative plan has allowed it to become largely beyond repeal. The recent decision to uphold the Act by the Supreme Court should be the end of the road on that one. Keep in mind that the ACA was passed in response to an indisputable problem.
Fast forward to December of last year. The president issues his executive order that effectively allows 5 million illegal immigrants the ability to stay in the country, gain work permits and receive other benefits. Talk of legal action and even impeachment ensued immediately. 26 states sued. Court proceedings are still in progress. But what isn’t happening? The Republican controlled Congress is nowhere on passing its own immigration package, a move that would make the executive order moot. Again, the executive order was only made to address an obvious problem that required action. Congress has its own authority to create and replace the angering policy, but won’t.
That brings us to today. The Iran nuclear deal also isn’t perfect. For example, I can’t fathom the deal being implemented without getting the four Americans that are detained or missing in Iran back on our soil. But this deal will be implemented and those who oppose it can thank themselves for that. It is their latest installment of prebuttals and defiance, warnings that if heeded, would result in nothing.
The fact is that the Iran deal isn’t great. No one signatory to a deal this big could view it that way. But when compared to every other approach put forward, and I mean absolutely every single one, the deal rivals the proverbial sliced bread brainchild.
Let’s face it. It’s easy to be great when compared to nothing. And those who keep proposing nothing should start acknowledging their roles in creating such greatness. To the enraged opponents of the best bad idea available, from a grateful country, and more importantly a grateful international community, we thank you.