September 15, 2017

Why Trump is Right and the Experts are Still Wrong about the Iran Deal

Dana Mathewson

Maybe it's just me, but since National Review took its Never Trump stance last year during the campaign, I've found less to interest me on its site. Less... but certainly not nothing. The estimable Jonathan S. Tobin contributes this article, with which I am in full agreement. If you are not, please, please comment!

Among the many factors that led to Trump’s unexpected victory last November was a deep and abiding skepticism among many voters about the wisdom of experts. To his supporters, Trump, the ultimate non-expert on most policy issues, had the savvy to do the right thing even on topics to which neither he nor they had ever previously given much serious thought. While that cynicism is not always wise, the groupthink in the foreign-policy establishment and among nonproliferation professionals is proof that Trump’s instincts are not always wrong.


Trump should ignore their arguments and those inside the administration who are echoing them. It’s wise to have some skepticism about experts’ opinions; their consensus can have little to do with achieving the goals they’re tasked with accomplishing. But the problem is not only that the deal was a bad one. It’s also that plenty of experts place more value on diplomacy per se — getting a piece of paper signed and then defending its value — than on the conviction that diplomacy will stop Iran from getting a bomb. The agencies that monitor the deal all agree that Iran has kept to its terms. But their certification of Iran’s compliance vindicates Obama’ critics, who warned that once in the deal was in place, the signatories’ desire to preserve it would lead them to ignore a host of small violations. Over the past three years, the IAEA and Washington have routinely ignored reports about a variety of problems, including obstruction of inspections, illegal attempts to purchase nuclear and missile technology, and exceeding the limits on uranium enrichment and production of heavy water. Viewed in isolation, each violation is insufficient to justify threatening Iran with new sanctions or an end to the deal. So the signatories ignore or rationalize the infractions. In the negotiations that led to the deal, Obama and the secretary of state jettisoned their demand that Iran end its nuclear program and stop advanced nuclear research, and that it concede it had no right to enrich uranium, They always saw getting an agreement on any terms as more important than the details. The same applies to keeping it in place despite multiple violations. That’s why the arms-control community wound up endorsing a deal that did not put an end to the Iranian threat; at best, it kicked the can down the road for a few years on proliferation. But the point of isolating the Islamist republic via sanctions wasn’t to "reduce the risk” of a nuclear Iran; it was to end the risk altogether. Even if Iran is complying with the terms of the JCPOA, it allows them to go on working toward a bomb. Moreover, the JCPOA expires within a decade, so the deal can’t be said to be doing much to make the world safer.

There's much more. Remember, if you will, what the late President Harry S Truman said about experts: "You can't tell an expert anything, because then he's not an expert."

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