You may not fully understand our constitutional system

The Republicans are such comedians. Hahahahaha they’re sabotaging an agreement that could avert Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, in order to say yaboosucks to Obama. So so funny!

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker has one opinion piece of the many many opinion pieces out there.

Forty-seven senators, all of them Republicans, have sent a letter to Tehranthat might be summarized this way: Dear Iran, Please don’t agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don’t like Barack Obama and, anyway, he’ll be gone soon.

That may be shorthand, but it is not an exaggeration of either the tone or the intent of the letter, which was signed by the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. The signature drive was organized by Senator Tom Cotton. He is a thirty-seven-year-old Republican, who entered the Senate two months ago, from the state of Arkansas. Senators, as the letter helpfully informs the Iranians—this is an actual quote—“may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.”

Or perhaps not. Presidents have term limits and  Senators don’t. That doesn’t mean Senators will necessarily get re-elected over and over again. It also doesn’t mean they can’t be charged with treason. There are a lot of things the absence of term limits doesn’t mean.

The letter opens, “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.” As the letter writers tell it, “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” It is a bit more complicated than that: Presidents can make commitments that are difficult to get out of (unless one wants to provoke a crisis), and Congress, instead of just being able to merrily modify, has to deal with things like vetoes. What is more extraordinary is the intent behind this tinny civics lesson—to tell a foreign power, one with which the United States is at odds, not to listen to the American President.

In the hope, perhaps, that Iran will develop nukes and a phalanx of Republican Senators will then vote to nuke the whole country into radioactive rubble. Is that the thinking? Or is it not as long-term as that? Is it really just “Hey, ayatollahs, don’t listen to that uppity guy in the White House, we hate him and you don’t want to piss us off”?

The prospect of Iran getting a nuclear bomb is a grave threat to world peace. The Obama Administration, which is trying to stop that from happening, has only a certain number of cards to play, and yet the Republicans are doing whatever they can to weaken its hand. (Their rationale is that key provisions of the deal on the table would reportedly last for only ten or fifteen years—even though a decade is a lot longer than the possible alternative of no years between now and an Iranian drive to build a bomb.) As with the invitation that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, extended to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, to speak before Congress, it is not clear whether the primary impetus has to do with foreign policy or with partisan theatrics. Is the intention to scuttle the nuclear negotiations, without regard for the ugliness that it brings to our politics? Or is it to humiliate and insult President Obama, no matter the cost to the goal of nuclear nonproliferation—even if it means another bomb in the world?

Another bomb in the world in the hands of fanatical theocratic clerics, which is absolutely the last place you want such bombs.

Here’s an odd thing – this scenario is basically the same as the plot of the latest episode of the network tv show “Madam Secretary,” in which a rogue diplomat murders the previous Secretary of State and does other bad things in aid of backing a coup in Iran, and it comes to light just as the President has signed a treaty with Iran. It was written well before this letter was sent. Maybe the Senators got their ideas from the tv show.


  1. says

    Well, so much for the idea that Rand Paul represents any significant internal dissent against the Republican establishment.

    Divergents are a threat to the system. Fortunately for the system, Rand Paul is no divergent. He’s just another stupid-assed irresponsible chickenhawk who’s perfectly happy to gin up a war, knowing fine well no one he cares about will actually have to fight in it.

    And John McCain? That’s even more shameful. He’s old enough, and experienced enough, to know better. So much for elder statesmen too.

  2. says

    Another bomb in the world in the hands of fanatical theocratic clerics, which is absolutely the last place you want such bombs.

    Oh please. The threat Iran poses to regional security has absolutely nothing to do with nuclear capability. That threat won’t grow is they get a bomb, and it won’t shrink if they don’t.

    And besides, if Iran really wants to get a bomb, there’s nothing the US can do about it anyway. We’ll just have to live with it, just like we learned to live with a nuclear China and a nuclear USSR. We didn’t have to bomb either of those two countries to stop them from getting a bomb; so why should a much smaller nation like Iran be any more frightening?

  3. iknklast says

    Most of the signers were Republican presidential wannabes. They want the chance to posture on the campaign trail, and it’s easier to work with Iran, which most Americans have heard of, then develop a nuanced position (or their usual simplistic position) against another country that might (or might not) be threatening to us. They want to swoop in and save the day, rather than let Obama make a sensible move now.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    The US has had a hate on against Iran ever since they so impudently overthrew our puppet shah.

    Iran’s putative nuke program has nothing to do with it.

    Like a gangster kneecapping a slow-to-pay debtor (thus further reducing the chances of getting payments), this seems irrational, but serves the “realpolitik” purpose of keeping the others under the protection racket toeing the line and paying on time. (Also see Cuba, Iraq, Venezuela…)

  5. says

    Another bomb in the world in the hands of fanatical theocratic clerics, which is absolutely the last place you want such bombs.

    I’d be much, much more worried if Pakistan had the bomb.

    Oh, wait.

    Bad joking aside, you sound like you’ve swallowed a helping of the “mad mullah” kool-ade. Consider that Iran’s actions have actually been eminently rational: they are, in fact, trying to avoid confrontation with the US or Israel and if they were trying to develop nuclear weapons at one time, it was defensive, not offensive. The US has shown itself to be effectively deterred by the threat of a nuclear weapon and damn little else and has demonstrated over and over again that the way to get the US to take you seriously is to have the ability to negate the threat of invasion by the US. That, by the way, is why Pakistan more or less ruined itself to develop nuclear weapons; it was clear that India was going to invade it whenever it wanted to and engage in nuclear blackmail at will. Just as the US and it’s forward operating base, Israel, have been doing in the middle east for decades. For that matter, as the world’s most notable proliferator, and the only country that has used nuclear weapons (and on 2 cities full of civilians, at that) the US has been doing nothing but engaging in nuclear blackmail since the end of WWII.

    Casting it as an issue of Iran being a theocracy shows some remarkably shallow thinking on your part. The issue is not whether Iran is a theocracy, or not, but rather whether it is a dictatorship; the question is where political control is vested and how many people are able to stop or initiate a horrible mistake. In all of those matters, Iran is not significantly better or worse than the existing nuclear club, and is demonstrably more rational and less aggressive than the US, Israel, and Russia.

  6. RJW says

    If only the U.S. would apply the same principles to Israel, apparently Zionist nuclear weapons are well, ‘kosher’, but Islamic ones aren’t, the Iranians probably have calculated that they need nuclear weapons to protect themselves from Israel.
    America should stop attempting to make the ME safe for Israel and adopt a rational foreign policy.

    @6 Marcus Ranum,

    Agreed, except that Israel isn’t so much America’s ‘foreward operating base’, as the senior partner in formulating US policy.

  7. Broken Things says

    Because the government of Iran is theocratic as opposed to Communist and secular.

    Israel, for all intents and purposes under Bibi and Likud, is a violent theocracy. Israel has at least 200 nuclear weapons, not acknowledged by the international community. In addition to being another hateful ugly act by by a hateful ugly bunch of bad people, the letter is intended to signal to their fundamentalist religious constituents their support for Israel.

  8. nathanaelnerode says

    For reference, it’s quite clear to anyone who’s done the research that Iran’s government has no interest in a nuclear bomb. There is a faction of scientists who want one, but they’re marginalized. The experience of being attacked by chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War (with the US backing Saddam Hussein), which led to all kinds of grotesque illnesses and injuries, has led to a horror of chemical and radiological weapons in Iran, and repeated religious edicts against them, from both Khomenei and Khamenei.

    What nearly every faction in Iran’s government wants is a nuclear reactor, for electric power and medical purposes. And they are actually guaranteed the right to have one under existing treaties. I think it’s kind of stupid, after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, but it’s very very clear that that is what they want. They want to end their oil dependence (yep, really), and they don’t want to depend on imports for medical isotopes, either.

    As others have said, it would actually stabilize the region if Iran, which hasn’t invaded anyone in 300 years, had nuclear weapons as a deterrent. (Unlike the terribly unstable faction-ridden government of Pakistan, or the terribly unstable, theocratic, paranoid, racist government of Israel, both of which have nuclear weapons.)

    Now, suppose you’re a negotiator from Iran, and you’re dealing with these Westerners, who for some reason think that you want nuclear weapons, even though it’s prohibited by multiple fatwas, and who keep claiming that you’re going to attack, even though you haven’t done that in 300 years, and who keep trying to refuse to let you have nuclear power, which you’re guaranteed the rights to under the various “Atoms for Peace” treaties. Even though they all have both nuclear bombs and nuclear power. You’re going to think that the Westerners are maniacs — deranged.

    Then, top it off with the US having a rogue faction that announces that they intend to break any agreement made by the current President… while violating all diplomatic protocol… you’re going to start thinking “These guys are completely, utterly nuts.”

    I don’t know how you’d react next, but probably very cautiously, given that you’re dealing with maniacs with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, who’ve nuked two civilian cities, who invaded Iraq on false pretenses, and who wrecked Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Now, suppose you’re a diplomat or statesman (stateswoman) in another country with a clear view of things, which understands what’s going on in Iran. You’re *also* going to think that the US is run by maniacs. And this is where it starts to get really dangerous for the US, as every other country in the world starts trying to figure out how to isolate itself from the US insanity. We’ll end up with, at best, a “containment” strategy, and at worst, a United Nations determined to stop the US by any means necessary.

    Given the instability in the US, the presence of Christian theocratic nuts (particularly in the Air Force), and the stunts the US Air Force has pulled with the nukes recently, I think the last place we want nuclear bombs is the US. 🙁 Much safer in Iran than *here*.

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