I have an American Spectator piece going up in the morning about this subject, that I’ll link to in an update, but I have a few extra thoughts about it worth tossing out for Hayride consumption. (UPDATE: Here it is.)
What you saw this morning, setting aside for a while the question of whether our president and his secretary of state weren’t acting intentionally against American interests (I will leave that argument in the capable hands of Daniel Greenfield, who has a definitive treatment of it our readers owe it to themselves to read), is why you don’t put somebody with no business or executive experience of any kind in charge of the country. Barack Obama is a former community organizer who has never run anything of consequence before taking over as president. He’s never done a business deal, he’s never been responsible for increasing a bottom line, he’s never been responsible for getting other people to voluntarily do business with his organization. And Kerry has even less executive or business experience than Obama. Kerry has been a public sector lawyer, politician and gigolo all his life; putting him in charge of the State Department is a lapse in judgment of criminal proportions which serves to strengthen Greenfield’s argument.
A community organizer or union boss only knows one thing about a negotiation, which is how to chisel money out of somebody who has it. In their negotiations they don’t actually have anything to give other than they’ll stop doing something the other party wants to put a stop to (protesting outside their retail location, for example, or ending a strike). If you’re Barack Obama and your background is that you were a field rep for ACORN, and your job was to rile up a bunch of poor people to picket outside some store that didn’t take food stamps, or the utility company whose policy toward people not paying their bills on time involved shutting off the power, the only leverage you know about where negotiations are concerned is that you can make rotten publicity for the entity providing a product or service to your people with obnoxious Alinsky tactics.
Ditto for a union. Yes, a union represents the labor force of a company, and yes, a strike is a basic piece of leverage fundamental to a typical sort of business negotiation, but a win-lose labor negotiation isn’t really a business deal. It’s still fundamentally about getting money out of someone who has it in return for foregoing the denial of one piece of their productive enterprise. A union does not provide anything to a company. Its members might provide that company with labor, but as individuals they might do just that without the union’s existence. That’s why unions need a coercive force in order to create leverage in their negotiations – the government forcing management to deal with them in a certain way, or the mob sending enforcers to threaten violence, for example.
The kind of business deal that prepares you for a foreign treaty, or a nuclear deal with the Iranians in the instant case, is nothing like the union negotiation or the community organizer’s chiseling adventure. In a real negotiation, you have equals – or something like them. In such a negotiation both parties have both an unsatisfactory status quo and something specific to be gained altering that status quo through the negotiation.
A corporate merger would be an example. A major real estate transaction would be another. A joint venture or even a service contract contains the elements we’re talking about. Obama and Kerry know nothing of such negotiations. And in negotiations like those, the experience of which would provide a basis for competence in negotiating a deal such as the one Obama concluded this week, you can’t be a supplicant. You have to have something to give that the other guy desperately wants, or you don’t really have a deal.
This is important. You have to have, on both sides of such a deal, the uncomfortable status quo PLUS a specific, realizable aim the negotiation can produce.
And there was never such a basis for a deal with the Iranians. An experienced negotiator would have seen that and walked away long before committing this country to a catastrophically terrible deal such as the one Obama agreed to this week.
Other than getting rid of some sanctions that they knew were ultimately going to break down, we don’t have anything the Iranians want – and we lack the will to change that equation by starting to do things they would want to put a stop to.
Yes, the sanctions were hurting the Iranian economy. Do you really believe that regime cares about economic growth? Look at their policies since 1979 and explain your answer. Iran has been in a constant state of war with America since 1979; prior to that reality coming to pass America was far and away their largest trade partner and they had the busiest markets, most lavish military technology and highest standard of living in the Near East as a result. Since, they’ve descended into poverty even with vast mineral riches at their disposal.
Iran never cared about sanctions, and it was only a matter of time before they’d broken through the sanctions regime by cutting a deal with the Russians and Chinese. Sanctions may have “brought Iran to the table,” but only in the sense that they felt an opportunity to take advantage of the Obama administration. And our leverage where the sanctions were concerned was breaking down thanks to the Europeans being ready to throw open the doors to Tehran, which is put forth as a reason why this was the best deal available.
And let’s recognize that the Iran deal doesn’t actually solve the problem with Iran. This deal doesn’t mean the Iranians are giving up support for Hamas and Hezbollah, or the Houthis, or the Afghan Taliban. It doesn’t mean Iran is done supporting international jihadist terror. It doesn’t mean the government-sponsored “Death To America” street theater expositions are a thing of the past, and it doesn’t put a stop to Iran’s practice of assassinations of its enemies across the globe. None of those things are going away, and even with this deal Iran is still a sworn, active enemy of the United States representing a military and asymmetrical threat to us and our allies. We couldn’t even secure the release of the four Americans languishing in Iranian jails for, at best, dubious charges.
Meaning that we never had an avenue toward resolving an unacceptable status quo through negotiations with Iran. We had an avenue toward giving away some $100 billion or more in assets and sanctions relief the Iranians wanted in return for a series of promises about their nuclear program, but that hardly addresses American concerns about Iran. All of our concerns about them persist after the completion of this deal, and thus we accomplished virtually nothing.
If you wanted a deal worth having with Iran, you needed to actively put existential pressure on that regime – something Obama had a supreme opportunity to do when the Green Revolution blossomed in the summer of 2009, but he stood idly by and missed it.
Even after 2009, though, there have been opportunities to create in the Iranians the discomfort with the status quo whereby a grand bargain could be struck to stop them from continuing as a sworn and active enemy. As in, arming rebel groups like MEK inside or outside that country or giving them staging bases in Iraq and Afghanistan under U.S. military protection. Or blockading Iran’s ports and cutting off their oil exports. Or staging relentless cyber attacks that constantly shut down their telecommunications or power grid. Or, through some means military or otherwise, knocking out the oil refinery at Abadan which supplies the bulk of Iran’s gasoline. The point being that we had the power to pressure the Iranian regime into bargaining away their current posture, and we chose not to exercise that pressure despite having all the moral justification in the world to do so. The thousands of Americans wounded and killed by Iranian-made roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan alone gave us that justification, not that we didn’t have much more.
What wins a hostile negotiation is pressure – the kind of pressure discussed above – and lots of it. We have put little to no pressure on Iran, and we allowed them to dictate the terms of a deal to us.
This is the worst president America has ever had. He proved it this week. Millions of people will ultimately die because of what he’s done with this deal.