I got a phone call yesterday from my friend Myles Berkowitz. I don't always agree with his politics, but I always admire his thinking. And if anyone obsesses with thinking through the details of politics, it's Myles. We do agree often, but when we don't it's not because he's conservative or too liberal. It's not even before he says he's a Libertarian. Because he's not, as much as he thinks he is. His thinking disagrees with Libertarian doctrine much too often. That's why I say he's a Mylsist. His thinking is unique unto himself.
(I always say that his wife Elisabeth is the luckiest person alive, guaranteed a lifetime of entertainment. All she has to do is say, "So, Myles, what do you think about...?" and fill in the blank with anything. She's sure to set Myles off on a wonderful rant. If the blank is filled in with Alex Trebek or announcer Al Michaels, then that rant is even more certain to last longer than most.)
As I said, Myles called to say that he'd figured out his position of Barack Obama's negotiation with Iran. He'd given it a lot of thought (of course), and he'd come to the conclusion that it was a very good thing.
Mind you, Myles being Myles, he didn't reach that conclusion for the reason most people did.
"I decided to give it my new 'What would George do?' test. I realized that George Bush had such a terrible record making foreign policy decisions that whatever he'd do in any given situation must be wrong. So, the opposite is the right thing. And with that in mind, I knew there was no way George Bush would ever have done this deal with Iran. No way in the world. So, that means negotiating a peace with them must be the best thing to do. I'm serious."
While I think there are other, perfectly good reasons to support the deal, I can't say that Myles is wrong in his thinking. I can't think of a single foreign policy his Administration made that worked well, and most seemed to be total disasters. And no, Mr. Bush would never have made a deal with Iran, let alone negotiated with them. They were part of the Axis of Evil, after all.
The thing is, the deal is fraught with the potential of it failing. It is a risk. But then, many deals are. But that doesn't make them wrong. And I keep trying to think what the alternative is to trying it -- and I can't think of any that are remotely palatable. They all seem to come down to 1) keep piling on sanctions, and 2) war. The first appears to be un-ending and doesn't make the area any less unstable, and the second is too terrible to want to consider. So, that pretty much leaves trying a peaceful solution.
I know that Benjamin Netanyahu has been publicly and strongly against the deal. The thing is, Mr. Netanyahu is a lot more conservative than many, even in Israel, so his word alone hardly makes the stance the right one. Besides which there's always the nagging question of how much is his reaction for public consumption, while behind the scenes he's grateful that there might be a solution that doesn't end with Israel being bombed.
I know, too, that many conservatives are strongly against the deal because Iran is too untrustworthy, and because the current Israeli leadership is against it, publicly. But then, when Ronald Reagan negotiated for detente with the Soviet Union, many of our European allies were against him doing so -- and the Soviet Union was always considered deeply untrustworthy. Yet that deal has worked out pretty well.
Besides, going back to "What would George do?" -- for those who think Mr. Obama's overtures are the wrong way to fly, and we should "remain tough" like George Bush would have...it's worth noting that when George Bush took office, Iran's nuclear program had had zero operational centrifuges, and during his Administration that number rose to over 8,000.
So, what would George do? I think that President Obama -- and Myles Berkowitz -- got it just right.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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