Iranian nuclear deal debate reflects lack of diplomacy

The nuclear deal with Iran now being debated in Congress represents a rare victory for diplomacy. Americans don’t care much for diplomacy these days. With so much power at our disposal, we prefer threats, economic sanctions, military posturing and coercion to the quiet cultivation of allies and influence. Chas Freeman Jr., a 30-year career diplomat who wrote the entry on diplomacy for the Encyclopedia Brittanica, remarked in an interview a few months back that even many in our diplomatic corps fail to grasp the necessity for diplomacy or understand its basic principles.

Ambassador Freeman has had a long and distinguished career, which includes being the chief U.S. interpreter during President Nixon’s first visit to China in 1972 and serving as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He has had a front-row seat at significant junctures in our history, and when he says, as he did in June in a speech to the Academy of Philosophy and Letters, that “Judging by results in the complex post-Cold War era, diplomacy is something the United States does not now understand nor know how to do,” it seems important to learn more.


In his speech “Too Quick on the Draw: Militarism and the Malpractice of Diplomacy in America,” Freeman ascribes Americans’ disregard for diplomacy to our atypical experience of war. Many wars are fought for limited objectives, which end in a negotiated agreement that reconciles the defeated to a new status quo that, it is hoped, establishes the basis for a better, lasting peace. But the Civil War, World War I and World War II were wars of subjugation and conquest, in which the United States demanded unconditional surrender from its opponent. Peace terms were imposed, not negotiated, and what followed was a complete restructuring of the defeated side’s society.

Our more limited wars in the 20th century did not change that departure from diplomatic norms. In Korea an armistice signed in 1953 has still not been translated into a peace. Our first war against Iraq did not end in an agreement negotiated with Saddam Hussein but with the United States using the U.N. Security Council to impose onerous conditions on Iraq that he never accepted. In Grenada and Panama, and in Iraq in 2003, the United States imposed regime change. “Our military interventions have nowhere produced a better peace,” Freeman says. “Americans do not know how to conclude their wars.”

The unexamined assumptions underlying our national security strategy lead American leaders to regard belligerence rather than persuasion as the key to peace. Smashing the enemy militarily, not resolving the issues that lead to conflict, is regarded as the desired objective. During the Cold War, the United States relied on military deterrence to contain the Soviet Union. With nuclear war at stake, freezing situations in place seemed a safer course than taking steps to adjust to them, alleviate them or take advantage of them. Preserving the status quo took priority over diplomatic agility or answers.

The Cold War is over, yet Freeman says the United States has yet to adapt to the new conditions confronting it. It has discarded efforts to lead by example or persuasion, but its embrace of militarism has not made Americans safer nor advanced U.S. interests. To the contrary, it has been disastrous.

Freeman’s speech deserves reading both for its own sake and for its relevance to the debate over the nuclear agreement with Iran. Critics in Congress argue that the accord is not tough enough, but what measures would be tough enough to satisfy them and still win Iranian acceptance? A negotiation is an agreement, not an ultimatum, and that fact is what seems to frustrate them. We have not pulverized our enemy; therefore the agreement must be inadequate.

Listening to the discussion, one might think we are all militant amnesiacs. Americans should keep in mind that Iran is not a threat to the United States and its threat to Israel has been exaggerated, that the extent of Iran’s nuclear program has been consistently overstated by our politicians and that any addition to the world’s nuclear club is undesirable. But a situation in which states with nuclear weapons make no attempt to get rid of their own weapons while denying them to others is ultimately unsustainable.

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Richard Murray
3 years 5 months ago
Dear Ms. Patterson, You come very close to bopping neocon zionism on its head. What drives this hawkish mentality that you accurately speak of? In the God-awful War Upon the Human Beings of Iraq, a cause of that unending catastrophe was neocon zionism. A wonderful book about the role of the Israel Lobby in recent misadventures of the United States is “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. This book lays out, in straightforward honest facts, how aipac and the Israel Lobby have come to take over Washington, DC. America’s government has been reduced to an arm of the fascist Likud party of israel. We are israel’s big dumb robot. This is why the world hates us more and more. More proof? Why, this March, Bibi Netanyahu took our Congress hostage, and our Senators and Representatives excitedly cheered and fawned over the murderer who committed another Genocide in Gaza last summer. What did the Arab/Muslim world think of that? At this moment, 30 of our Representatives are in israel on an aipac propaganda tour; all of our freshman Representatives except for 3 will be on one of this summer’s junkets, the tradition of which began a few summers ago. These propaganda trips to a foreign nation are illegal. But the constitutional lawyers at aipac merely emailed a new bill to their pawns in the U.S. Congress, and told them to pass it, which the obedient Senators and Congressfolk did. The new bill legalized these junkets to israel. And it’s like there’s a media blackout on these trips. 70 years ago America had no enemies in the Middle East. The people of the Middle East actually liked America, and connected us, happily, with the virtues that we say we stand for. Enter zionism, which has been a disaster for world peace and for America. If we realize that neocon zionism is a foreign enemy and a domestic enemy of the United States, there is a chance of freeing America from this dangerous menace. And a better chance for a just peace in the Middle East.
Gabriel Marcella
3 years 5 months ago
Margot: Chas Freeman is a brilliant statesman and gifted writer and speaker. He served our nation well. We used his book on diplomacy and statecraft to teach at the US Army War College. His brilliance, however, has little to do with the flaws of the Iran deal. Verification, the critical element in any arms control deal, is the big problem. There is a 24 day delay before inspection of nuclear facilities can be done. The delay would allow Iran to hide evidence. Moreover, the US cannot inspect unilaterally. It requires majority approval by the joint commission of 8 members. Americans are right to question the deal. Additional point: Is this the best deal that American diplomats could have gotten? Iranians are tough negotiators. History will tell us about the quality of American diplomacy in this case. Gabriel Marcella Retired Professor US Army War College
Richard Murray
3 years 5 months ago
Professor: That you know Army strategy is fortuitous. May I ask you a question that is related to the topic? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending hundreds of millions of dollars building bunkers in israel. We are also paying for the sure-to-be expensive mezuzahs that will be affixed to the doorways of these bunkers. (Mezuzahs are containers that hold verses from the Torah within it. They can be made out of porcelain, wood, metal, etc.) The U.S. is also paying for the two-part proofreading process of the Mezuzahs’ Torah verses. First, computers will proofread them, in what is sure to be a very expensive process. Then, rabbis will personally proofread the Mezuzah papers, which is sure to be an even more expensive process. The Chief Rabbi of israel is doling out the jobs to rabbis he chooses. This is the same chief rabbi who warned the youth of israel from getting too connected to African-American stars. Except he didn’t say “African-American,” no, he used a racial slur. Yes, the proofreading of the mezuzuahs will be a hugely expensive project indeed. But wait . . . . Doesn’t the U.S. have something called the Separation of Church and State? So why are we paying for these mezuzahs, and for the two-part process of the proofreading of these mezuzahs? Professor, here’s the link to the Washington Post article that blew open the story, then was subsequently ignored by the MSM. The intrepid Walter Pincus did us a great service in discovering it: And the U.S. Army proposal for the work: Each bunker is costing $100 million, before cost overruns. In israel. We don’t know how many of these bunkers are being built, just that there are plural bunkers. If we are building 5 of them, that’s half a billion dollars. Before cost overruns. In israel. Which is on top of the billions that we give israel in plain sight, and the other billions that we give israel in hidden ways. My final question, Professor, is: What is the purpose of these bunkers? If you could shed some light on this mystery in the Holy Land, I’ll be greatly obliged.
Gabriel Marcella
3 years 3 months ago
Margot: A fine piece by Chas Freeman on the Middle East:


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