Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Realistic Foreign Policy

The nuclear deal agreed to yesterday after two years of negotiations by the P5+1 and Iran is an outstanding example of true strategic foreign policy success.  Given the opposition from multiple quarters against the negotiations, it is good to see some common strategic sense prevail.   The details of the deal run into 100+ pages, however what is clear is that the US got what it wanted.  That is, a verifiable way to ensure that Iran does not move towards a militarized nuclear threshold for the foreseeable future.

For the opponents of the deal, I have no sympathy.  Their ability to critically think and ask the “why question” appears to be lacking.  They never had a realistic alternative to dealing with a nuclear Iran.  Military strikes, while appealing tactically to those who do not comprehend strategy, would have at most set the nuclear program back just a few months.  While at the same time only confirming for Iranians the need to develop nuclear weapons as deterrence.  To think that the US intelligence could find every secret site responsible for nuclear production to target is ludicrous.  The US intelligence couldn’t even figure out that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction.  To accomplish this search for secret nuclear sites, a full invasion would be required.  Does anyone sane really think that it would be a good idea?  Probably only those same experts that said Iraq would be a cakewalk.

The negotiations were always based on a simple premise.  The Iranians are rational actors.  If they were not, as many opponents of the deal seem to believe, then they would have no reason to negotiate.  If the Iranians where truly irrational and suicidal, then they would just ignore sanctions, don’t negotiate, and build a nuclear bomb in secret.  After that they would attack Israel and then watch as their country was turned into radioactive wasteland by the Israeli counterstrike.  Such scenario is ludicrous, as is the belief that the Iranians are irrational actors.  Now, that doesn’t mean that they are robots in their decision making, they are just people after all, but it does mean they could be bargained with.  Ronald Reagan did so in the 80’s as many opponents of the deal seem to forget.

In the agreement the US got everything it wanted without resorting to military force, which in itself would only be a poor temporary solution.  For those who thought that other issues should be part of negotiations, such as Iranian support for Shiite terrorist groups or recognition of Israel, they are wrong or naive.  The US continuously negotiates or even directly supports states such as China or Saudi Arabia, which are not Jeffersonian democracies.  To tie those issues to the issues of the nuclear negotiations only confirmed to me that the people supporting such view are either ignorant or simply trying to sabotage the negotiating process.

What will happen in 10-15 years when the agreement expires, no one knows.  If someone tells you they can predict the future they are lying.  For all we know in 10 years Iran will be a Jeffersonian democracy.  I highly doubt it, but stranger things have happened.  For those worried the Iranians will break their word, don’t worry, we still have the ability to exercise military action if required.  In that case, the military option would actually be justified if the Iranians cheated.  I do not believe they will, as they have nothing to gain from that course of action.

To sum up.  The agreement reached yesterday is a text book example of a realistic foreign policy, based on achievable strategy.   It is good to see our foreign policy apparatus moving away from the “Star Wars” like foreign policy of the past.  One can only hope that this is just a beginning of a realistic US foreign policy, which is grounded in facts, not wishes.


Afghanistan – Helping Those Who Do Not Want To Help Themselves

Two days ago, once again the Afghan Parliament rejected the nominee for the post of the Defense Minister.  The latest events should be a wake up call for those in the US foreign policy apparatus who still think we have a partner in Afghanistan.  The fact, that the country which is facing an existential threat to its existence is unable to even come up with one person to lead their armed force is a disgrace.  The Afghani elites are clearly not that worried about possible Taliban takeover or are simply relying on the US forces to keep them in power forever.

The indefinite support for the Afghan government, proposed by some in the US is the worst possible strategy.  The Afghan elites are clearly not interested in governing.  As such the US should not continue pouring resources into supporting the dysfunctional government in Kabul.  After all the years in Afghanistan it is tough to walk away, but not doing so risks the never ending support for the political system which has no interest in governing, just collecting rents.  Right now, it seems that the US is more interested in preserving Afghanistan, then the Afghani elites are.  Until that changes the government of Afghanistan will not bring about successful conclusion to this war.

The Taliban are successful, because the government is corrupt and incompetent.  To fight the insurgents, without actual true reform of the Afghani state means a never ending commitment on our part.  At some point we have to make the Afghans responsible for their own security and governance.  If the Afghani people do not hold their leaders accountable for their failure to govern, the US should not bail them out by providing continued support.  The best course of action now is to withdraw all US forces and make the Afghan government take responsibility for this fight.  They will be forced to reform or will be replaced by someone who will take the necessary action to reform the state.  If no one rises to the occasion to become the true leader of the country, then we move on.  It will only prove that we never in fact had a partner, just someone who was using the US support to stay in power and enrich themselves.