Paul R. Pillar
James Carden and Jacob Heilbrunn provided in the current issue of The National Interest an extensively documented review of how the ever-more-neocon editorial page of the Washington Post “responds to dangerous and complex problems with simplistic prescriptions.”
The Post‘s most recent editorial about the nuclear negotiations with Iran is firmly in that same simplistic, destructive tradition. It is hard to know where to begin in pointing out the deficiencies in this effort by the Post‘s editorialists, but noting some of them can illustrate how the tendencies that Carden and Heilbrunn cataloged constitute, as the abstract for their article puts it, a crusade for doctrines “that have brought Washington to grief in the past.”
The current editorial offers a prescription that is so simplistic that it isn’t really a prescription at all. And that – the absence of any plausible proposed alternative – is its most basic shortcoming. Instead it is just a collection of ways of saying, “We don’t like where these negotiations are going.”
Even though the writers claim that “we have long supported negotiations with Iran,” the effect of their piece is to add to the negative background music to which those determined to defeat and derail any agreement with Iran – including Benjamin Netanyahu and confirmed deal-saboteurs in the U.S. Congress – dance and from which they derive energy.
The editorial posits as one of its complaints a version of the familiar meme about the U.S. administration supposedly conceding too much to Iran – even though that image is quite at odds with the actual history of these negotiations, in which it is Iran that has made the most significant concessions.
The editorial says the Obama administration supposedly “once aimed to eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium,” although there is little indication that this administration ever believed that a zero-enrichment formula could ever be the basis of an achievable agreement.
It is interesting to note, however, that more than a decade ago a different administration, evidently thinking a demand for zero enrichment was the proper policy, spurned an opportunity to negotiate an agreement with Tehran when Iran had only a tiny fraction of the enrichment centrifuges it does now – and we all know how that policy worked out.