For six years the mantra of the Obama administration about the Iran nuclear negotiations has been simple, direct, and powerful: "No deal is better than a bad deal." One cannot count the number of times the President, his secretaries of state, his national security advisors, and his negotiators have said exactly this--including this week when Susan Rice repeated it to an AIPAC audience.
Some people believe the proposed deal is a bad deal, and therefore that no deal is better. One might have expected the administration to reply "No, here we disagree; on its merits this deal is a good one."
The administration says that but cannot leave it there. We also hear, and have been hearing for months, that unless you accept the proposed deal you are choosing war. If you’re the prime minister of Israel and criticize the deal, you’re no longer an ally; you’re treated with vicious invective. If you object, you’re told you don’t really seek a better deal; you are seeking a collapse of the talks.
To quote Susan Rice,"we cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal." But how does one define what is totally unachievable? Our Congress is not permitted by the administration to play any role. The administration seeks to limit public debate by scolding and warning the Israelis against revealing supposedly secret information-- not secret from Russia, or China, or Iran, but from the American people.
Suddenly our choice is not a bad deal or no deal, it’s this deal or a conflict with Iran. The administration treats disagreement on this as a nearly form of sedition. Yet those who disagree include not only the government of Israel: many members of Congress in both parties fear the terms of this agreement that is apparently near conclusion. From the bitter experience of North Korea the administration has apparently learned little--and that was a bad deal that was surely worse than no deal at all.
Disagreement is predictable and a healthy debate is essential. But the explanation that we must now choose between any deal this administration can get or war with Iran is an unworthy argument that should be met with derision.