Monday, August 31, 2015

IIASA and Richard Perle

For a substantial part of my Foreign Service career, while Reagan was President, I frequently crossed swords with Richard Perle at the Pentagon.  He was much superior to me.  He was an assistant secretary of Defense; for much of this time I was a junior officer at the State Department.  However, I often worked on technology transfer issues, and Perle was very interested in technology transfer issues, especially as they related to the old Soviet Union.  He always kept an eagle eye on CoCom, the old Coordinating Committee that regulated technology transfers from Western, allied countries to the Soviet Union. 

My first brush with him must have been shortly after Reagan was elected and Perle was installed at the Pentagon.  I got a call from the science advisor to the State Department Under Secretary who handled technology transfers.  He said that Perle was cutting America’s support for and participation in IIASA. 

IIASA is the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.  (IIASA web site, and IIASA Wikipedia entry.)  In the Cold War 1980s its mission was to promote cooperation between scientists from Western and Communist countries.  Perle was apparently concerned that it might be a conduit for uncontrolled technology transfer from the West to the East.  It was such an innocuous, academic institution that this seemed ridiculous.  The Under Secretary’s science advisor and I tried to stop Perle from blocking US participation, but as I recall, we failed. 

The good news is that IIASA survived and is still going today, with a broader mandate, since the old bipolar Cold War has ended.  It was my introduction to Richard Perle, who always seemed to be on the opposite side of issues that we were both interested in, from East-West technology transfers to third world transfers involving nuclear proliferation or other high tech problems.  

Reagan, Casey, and the Ayatollahs

I was in a meeting with Bill Casey not long after he became head of the CIA.  I had been the State Department representative working on NIE-11-12-80 (CIA link to it is here - ) regarding Soviet military science and technology.  Reagan was elected more or less while we were working on it.  The chief CIA honcho was a guy named Jan Herring, who is apparently still around (link - ).  He and CIA deputy director Admiral Bobby Inman quit abruptly about the time of the election and the naming of Bill Casey to be CIA director. 

There were of course many military types working on the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), and I was the lone working level State Department rep.  After a while I got concerned that the hawks were going nuts finding new technological ways the Soviets were going to kill us in our beds, and I started to push back and say that we can’t be sure that this unusual frequency or substance is being developed to use as a super weapon.  And I found the CIA was supporting me, although they wouldn’t take the lead in opposing the military.  However, after Jan Herring left and Casey came in, there was no hope of toning down the Estimate.  In addition the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research usually is headed by a senior Foreign Service officer, but at this time it was headed by a senior CIA official on loan.  He was not about to take a stand against the new man who was going to be his boss when he returned to the CIA.  So, at the big, final meeting with Casey to approve the NIE (which I attended), he did not make any waves about State Department concerns.  Casey really did mumble; I could not understand a lot of what he said.  I would like to think some of the “alternative view” language in the NIE was due to me, but after 35 years, who knows where it came from. 

Anyway, I like to think that Reagan’s election was orchestrated by the Iranian ayatollahs, rather than the ayatollahs being manipulated by the Reagan campaign.  There is a movie about the “Manchurian Candidate.”  I think Reagan was the “Iranian Candidate.”  The Iranians hated Carter for letting the Shah come to the US for medical treatment when he was dying.  They wanted “anybody but Carter.”  If Carter had rescued the hostages there is some chance that he might have been elected, because he would have appeared a stronger, rather than a weaker ("malaise") President.  Reagan probably would have won anyway, but who knows? 

I saw Carter recently when he came to Denver to sign copies of his new book, “A Full Life.”  I bought one and he signed it.  Recently someone asked him if he had any regrets, and he said one was the failed rescue mission, because if it had not failed, he might have been re-elected.  The Iranian hostages were a major factor in the election.  Incidentally, one of the hostages was a classmate of mine in the A-100 class.  This is the group of 40 or 50 officers that you come in with and there is a 6 or 9 month orientation, and then you can kind of keep track of your classmates to see who becomes the first ambassador, who goes the highest, etc.  Several of my classmates became ambassadors, but I didn’t make it.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Second Letter to Congressional Representatives

As the date for voting on the Iran nuclear deal approaches, please note that despite the split of public opinion on the issue, the vast majority of those knowledgeable about the issue support the deal.  A number of military officers, scientists and diplomats have publicly weighed in on the issue, and in almost all cases they favor approval of the deal.  I urge you to support the deal. 

Three dozen retired generals and admirals have written an open letter supporting the nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same.  They called the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”  ( and

Twenty-nine top American scientists have written President Obama supporting approval of the deal.  Many of those who signed have worked on America’s nuclear weapons program; some were Nobel laureates.  The New York Times notes that many of the scientists hold Department of Energy “Q” clearances allowing access to sensitive technical information about nuclear weapons.  I held a “Q” clearance when I was a State Department Foreign Service officer, because I worked on nuclear non-proliferation issues.  ( and

Finally, many of my former State Department colleagues have written supporting the agreement.  A letter to President Obama signed by more than 100 former American ambassadors stated, “If properly implemented, the comprehensive and rigorously negotiated agreement can be an effective instrument in arresting Iran’s nuclear program and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the volatile and vitally important region of the Middle East.”  I served with a number of the ambassadors signing the letter, some when we were young junior officers together; others were ambassadors under whom I served overseas.  I have recently been corresponding about this issue with Amb. Dennis Jett, who signed the letter.  ( and

I hope that you will take the views of these experts who favor the Iran nuclear deal into consideration in your deliberations.  In addition, they represent the views of many others from their professions, like myself.  I believe that it will make the world, the United States, and the Middle East, including Israel, safer.  It will significantly restrict Iran’s nuclear activities, and it will provide ten to fifteen years of breathing space in which to work out the next steps for preventing further nuclear proliferation in the region. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Reply from Representative Perlmutter re Iran Deal

Congressman Perlmutter did not reply to my letter regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

Reply from Sen. Gardner re Iran Deal

Thank you for contacting me regarding Iran. I appreciate you taking the time to write. It is an honor to serve you in the United States Senate and I hope you will continue to write with your thoughts and ideas on moving our country forward.

Concern about Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities has been growing for over a decade. In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) first discovered that Iran was engaging in a variety of nuclear activities, which violated its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The international community has since pressured Iran to discontinue these activities through both diplomacy and sanctions. After twenty months of negotiations, a deal was reached between Iran and the six P5+1 countries, which include the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The parameters of this agreement are outlined in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA).

The more details we learn about the deal, the worse it seems. Reports indicate that this deal accomplishes none of the goals it should, nor the goals the negotiations began with. It would make Iran a globally approved nuclear threshold state. It would endanger our closest ally in the region, Israel. The sanctions relief in the deal would give Iran billions to pour into continued international terror operations. Full access to all of Iran's undeclared nuclear facilities or military facilities where nuclear work may be conducted is the only way to ensure Iran's compliance with the JCPA. In this agreement, however, inspectors must wait at least 24 days before they can set foot on these sites, which is far from the Administration's promise of "anytime, anywhere" inspections. Iran remains the largest state sponsor of terror in the world and continues to provide weapons and supplies to terrorist groups that have killed Americans, such as Hezbollah or Iran-backed militants in Iraq. Furthermore, despite the advice our military leaders, such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, this deal lifts the current conventional arms embargo against Iran in five years and lifts sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program after eight years, allowing Iran to become an even bigger threat to the region. 

There is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize an already volatile region and directly threaten our U.S. national security and that of our close allies, such as Israel. Ever since its statehood, Israel has been a shining light for democracy in a politically unstable region. Iran's regime, however, refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and has repeatedly said that it plans to "wipe Israel off the map". It is imperative that we do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and from becoming nuclear-capable. That means doubling down on the sanctions that brought Iran to the table in the first place and working to enact a deal like the President originally promised: one that prevents Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon rather than putting them on the glide path to a bomb in a few short years. We must also continue to provide all the support we can toward Israel. Standing by Israel is one of my top priorities in Congress. The American people and the world deserve a better deal. Congress should reject this deal and deliver on the promises made at the outset of these negotiations. 

Again, thank you for contacting me, and do not hesitate to do so again when an issue is important to you.


Cory Gardner
United States Senator

Reply from Sen. Bennet on Iran Deal

Thank you for contacting me regarding U.S. policy toward Iran. I appreciate hearing from you.
Over the past decade, there have been international concerns that Iran has made progress toward obtaining a nuclear weapon - a prospect that we cannot allow.
In the Senate, I have supported tough sanctions on the Iranian government. Sanctions can be an effective tactic but they do not represent a coherent diplomatic strategy. We must aggressively use all of the political, diplomatic and economic tools available to us to mobilize the international community and ensure the effectiveness of our sanctions.
In November 2013, the Obama Administration along with the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China (P5+1) began a series of diplomatic negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. While I support the efforts to engage Iran and its people through diplomacy, I'm cognizant of the security risks Iran poses to our allies in the region and to the international community at large.
On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 reached an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which I supported, Congress now has 60 days to review the final text. Our primary goal must be to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That would be the worst outcome. In evaluating this deal, we must weigh the terms of the agreement against the realities of the current situation. I am carefully reviewing the agreement and consulting with a variety of experts. Congress has an important responsibility in this process, and playing politics right now is the last thing we need. The stakes are high, and I take this decision very seriously.
Like many Coloradans, I am deeply concerned by many other issues with the Iranian government.  In May 2015, the Senate passed a resolution calling on Iran to release all U.S. citizens wrongly detained in that country and to  work with our government to locate missing U.S. citizens. I supported that amendment and will continue to address other areas of concern.
I value the input of fellow Coloradans in considering the wide variety of important issues and legislative initiatives that come before the Senate. I hope you will continue to inform me of your thoughts and concerns.
For more information about my priorities as a U.S. Senator, I invite you to visit my website at Again, thank you for contacting me.


Michael F. Bennet
United States Senator

Letter to Congress re Iran Nuclear Deal

I am writing to urge you to approve the agreement among the United States, Iran, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and the EU, under which Iran agrees to restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of economic sanctions against Iran.

This agreement significantly restricts Iran’s nuclear program and will make it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, which it was already prohibited from doing by its membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The NPT allows members to develop nuclear energy in almost any way as long as it is not used for military or explosive purposes.  Nuclear energy, scientific research and medical activities are all allowed, along with the infrastructure to support those activities.  Iran has agreed to much stricter controls on its program.  Its current program will become much smaller and less threatening, with less nuclear material, less enrichment capability and less plutonium production capability.  It has agreed to a more intrusive inspection regime than that usually applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  I am sure that in addition, the US will use its own “National Technical Means” of verification like that it has used to monitor nuclear agreements with the Soviet Union and Russia, and to monitor the activities of rogue nuclear countries such as Pakistan and North Korea. 

For me, however, the main argument in favor of the agreement is the lack of a better alternative.  Without this agreement Iran would only be bound by the much less restrictive verification measures applied to NPT members, measures that already applied to Iran without this deal.  If this agreement had not been finalized, the other partners in our sanctions regime against Iran would probably have dropped out, leaving us with a much weaker regime.  The only non-diplomatic option that I see would be a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, or perhaps a more generalized attack on the nation itself, like our earlier invasions of its eastern and western neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.  I don’t support such an attack, and I think that most Americans are weary of war in that region.  It’s possible that the agreement could have been stronger, eliminating more of Iran’s centrifuges, for example, but this agreement is strong, and more delay might have alienated our partners as well as the Iranians, possibly jeopardizing any deal at all.  The best is often the enemy of the good. 

Therefore, I urge you to support the agreement. 

As background, I am a retired Foreign Service officer who spent ten or more years of my career working on nuclear non-proliferation issues.  I spent most of my time working on the South American nuclear rivalry between Argentina and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s.  At times this competition seemed to be following the course of Pakistan and India, but I was pleased that in the 1980s while I was serving as science officer at the American Embassy in Brasilia with responsibility for nuclear issues, Brazil and Argentina agreed to end their nuclear competition.  It took some time, but in the 1990s both countries joined the NPT.  While working on non-proliferation issues, I often crossed paths with other people working on the issue, such as Richard Clarke, Robert Gallucci, Charles Duelfer, and Gary Samore.  I have been retired for almost twenty years, but I remain interested in these issues and continue to follow them. 

I was motivated to write this letter by President Obama’s request on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” that ordinary Americans do so.  I agree with the President and Secretary of State Kerry that this agreement is good for the US, and for the world, including Israel and the Sunni Arab countries. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Military Leaders

I am very disappointed that none of the ten Republican presidential candidates who appeared in the main Fox debate were veterans.  At least two of the candidates in the earlier kids’ debate were veterans – Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham.  This is due to changes in priorities in the US which have affected both the military and politics.  Twenty-six of our forty-four Presidents have served in the military.  This includes George W. Bush, whom I don’t include because he avoided service in Vietnam by joining the Alabama National Guard.  In the past, men who wanted to serve their country politically would often want to serve in other ways, such as defending it in the military.  When I was growing up, almost every man who could pass the physical had served in some military capacity during World War II.  The big change in attitude came during the Vietnam War, when the military became an object or derision, and the draft was eliminated. 

Before the elimination of the draft, the military was a rather democratic institution with people from across the US, socially, racially, financially, etc.  When the draft was eliminated, men from good families served much less than those from lower classes.  The military particularly drew from lower class white men, rednecks, to whom the military still appealed as a patriotic calling, and one that was financially as good as or better than any occupation they could find in the civilian sector.  It also took in many blacks and Hispanics, who had less family connection to the military and who were thus attracted mainly by the financial aspects rather than by patriotism. In any case, we have less diversity in the military and fewer veterans in most segments of civilian society.   

One example of the elite’s contempt for the military is the fact that while she was dean of the Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan blocked military recruiters from using the school’s office of career services to talk to prospective recruits.  Harvard is not a hotbed of students seeking to serve their country; they are too interested in getting rich on Wall Street.  Harvard is producing brilliant, selfish, greedy narcissists.  It’s an example of how America’s economy is doing well while its moral structure crumbles. 

Traditionally the military has represented some of the best qualities of America and its citizens, but as the pool of military recruits shrinks, it has fewer high class individuals to draw from.  There are of course many fine people serving in the military, but there is a higher proportion of people who are not so fine. 

As a result, the military has fewer leaders to offer to the American political system.  Colin Powell was one who served in many important positions, but who never ran for public office.  In this respect, he copied General George Marshall, one of the finest men ever to serve in the military, but who also refused to run for office, leaving the field to General Eisenhower.  Eisenhower is the last military leader to follow in the footsteps of General George Washington.  Other Presidents, like Kennedy, Nixon, and Carter, served in the military, but did not distinguish themselves as military leaders.  Eisenhower was primarily a soldier who also entered politics.  Kennedy and his cohorts were politicians who had served in the military.  Kerry and McCain fall in the latter category.

McCain is rightly characterized as a hero for his actions while a prisoner of war.  However, he was not a great military leader.  His father and grandfather were military leaders, but they did not go into politics.  McCain did not succeed in the military as his ancestors had.  Neither McCain nor Kerry carried the mantle of “great military leader” into their failed campaigns for President.  There is no military leader today with any claim to that title.  Even Colin Powell’s military success came mainly as a staff officer, not a line officer commanding troops in combat.  The closest probably has been General Petraeus, for his successful surge campaign toward the end of the Iraq war.  Unfortunately, his political chances have been undermined by his immoral personal life.  In any case, his success in Iraq pales beside the accomplishments of previous military Presidents like Washington and Eisenhower.  McCain’s and Kerry’s military accomplishments don’t even deserve comparison to those predecessors. 

I think America is poorer for not having a military cadre to draw from for political office.  Generals don’t only fight.  Marshall was known in WW II as “the great organizer.”  We could use a great organizer, or just someone who inspires confidence in their leadership.  Reagan did inspire people, and I think that is why the Republicans look up to him so, although many of his so-called accomplishments have paled in the light of history.  Obama, on the other hand, may have more lasting accomplishments, but he generally fails to inspire the confidence of American citizens, or the respect of his international cohorts. 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Iran Nuclear Deal and Jewish Politicians

Senator Schumer’s decision to go against a Democratic President and oppose the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by former Senator John Kerry, whose father was Jewish, raises questions about the loyalty of some Jews to the United States.  Schumer is joined in opposition by Representative Steve Israel, the most senior Jewish Democrat in the House.  Do they oppose the deal because it is bad for the US, or because Bibi Netanyahu says it is bad for Israel?  Do they believe that Netanyahu is smarter than Obama, or that Israel’s survival is more important than America’s?  They have very Jewish constituencies and may be representing their constituents’ interests, but that would raise the broader question of whether Jews in general are more loyal to Israel than to the US. 

On the other hand, Jewish Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Sander Levin have said that they will support the Iran agreement, making it clear that Jews are not a monolithic group any more than Christians, blacks, or any other ethnic or religious group.  But there are deep undertones of racial and religious bias, highlighted first by Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to give a speech to the Congress that vehemently attacked President Obama.  The fact that a foreign country that calls itself a Jewish nation has become so deeply involved in American politics illustrates the extreme involvement of Jewish interests.  Presidential candidate Huckabee, a Christian, joined in by likening the agreement to the beginning of the World War II Holocaust.  Speaker Boehner’s actions have also inserted greater ethnic, religious tensions into this debate. 

In addition there are dueling Jewish lobbies, AIPAC and J-Street.  AIPAC supports Bibi Netanyahu and the right-wing, hawkish, Likud party, while J-Street supports more liberal, less hawkish Jews.  Israel seems to be somewhat evenly split between hawks and doves, but AIPAC is much stronger in the US than J-Street.  In addition, many Gentile politicians, like Huckabee, support AIPAC, some out of principle, many because AIPAC contributes so much money to political campaigns.  In addition to AIPAC, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has contributed millions to politicians who support Israel’s hawkish views. 

The NYT reports that Obama has been angered by the AIPAC onslaught against the Iran deal, often making arguments that do not portray the deal correctly.  I think Obama has been remarkable in dealing with religious prejudice.  When he was campaigning for President the first time, Christians attacked him for the Christian church he attended.  He basically gave up his church because of a few inflammatory things his pastor had said.  I was appalled that Christians would drive a Christian out of a Christian church, but they did.  Now, the Jews have launched a full scale attack on him.  He is replying by making factual arguments, not resorting to ad hominem attacks.  The Jews seem confident that they can withstand any attacks by waving the Holocaust card, and perhaps they can. 

To me it seems ironic that, while the Iran nuclear deal will benefit the whole world, the biggest beneficiary may well be Israel, if indeed Israel is at the top of list of countries that Iran would like to attack.  The deal makes it much less likely that Israel will be attacked with a nuclear weapon.  It gives Israel and the rest of the world a ten year cushion to figure out what to do next.  

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Senate Testimony on Iran Deal

Tempers are flaring over the Iran nuclear deal.  On C-Span, I watched some of the testimony by State Under Secretary Sherman and Treasury Under Secretary Szubin before the Senate banking committee, and the Senators I watched were not very polite, even the Democrats.  It looks like the Senators want to kill some Iranians’ they want the streets of Tehran to run red with blood.  I was appalled.  These are the same senators who have basically approved Israel’s and India’s nuclear weapons program.  And they have done little but complain about Pakistan’s and North Korea’s bombs.  This is a strange country and Congress is a strange institution.  We have already invaded two of Iran’s next door neighbors, Afghanistan and Iraq; do they just want to drop one huge, multi-megaton atomic bomb and destroy all three countries at one time? 

Meanwhile, on the PBS Newshour, Ray Takeyh and Nicholas Burns debated the effectiveness of Obama’s speech.  Takeyh thought Obama had utterly failed, and Burns did not do very well defending Obama.  Takeyh complained that the agreement will expire in ten or fifteen years, and then Iran can build a bomb, glossing over the fact that in ten or fifteen years Iran will stand exactly where it stands today without the deal.  It will still be a member of the NPT, which says that it cannot build a bomb.  He said that the negotiated deal was bad and that the US should go back and renegotiate it.  When asked if it would not be hard to drag the other parties, including Russia and China, back to the table, he said it would be hard but not impossible. 

What he failed to say, and what no opponent has said that I have heard, is that the deal will give the next President, or Israel, or the UN, or whoever, at least ten years to negotiate a new deal or extend this one.  The attitude seems to be that Kerry is a lousy negotiator, but the Republicans have no one who can negotiate anything better in ten years.  This is probably true, because Ronald Reagan is dead, and he was the only Republican who seemed able to negotiate any kind of arms control agreement.  Colin Powell has basically become a Democrat, because the Republican Party has become some kind of an insane asylum.  It turns out that Condi Rice plays the piano much better than she can negotiate treaties.  No wonder Donald Trump is doing so well.  “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”  The Republicans know they are so stupid that they cannot even understand this nuclear agreement, much less negotiate anything better. 

Another aspect of this that is very odd to me is that many of the negotiators and defenders of the Iran deal are Jewish, while Israel’s allies in trying to kill it are good ol’ Christian white boys.  Those most conflicted over the agreement are Jewish Democrats like Chuck Schumer.  Do they go with Israel, or with the President’s Democratic Party?  They may well determine whether the Senate can override the President’s veto of the bill rejecting the Iran agreement.  John Kerry’s father was Jewish, although he claimed to be Irish.  Wendy Sherman is Jewish, according to Wikipedia.  Her Treasury colleague today, Adam Szubin, appears to be Jewish.  They were grilled, and I thought mistreated, by some angry, white senators from some agricultural states, who apparently know more about cotton and corn than about nuclear energy or international agreements.  

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Obama's Iran Speech

Obama gave a good speech today in defense of the Iran deal.  He dealt with all the major issues, and answered the objections to it.  Of course, those dead set against it, many Republicans and Israelis, will not be convinced.  But it should have convinced moderate, thinking people that on balance this is a deal that should be supported because it makes the world, and the Middle East in particular, a safer place. 

He dealt with the provision most roundly criticized by opponents, the 24 day period to resolve disputes concerning sites that have not been declared as nuclear related, e.g., conventional military bases, perhaps some civilian research laboratories.  He explained that the 24 day provision applies only in controversial cases; most inspections would take place in a shorter time period.  And he made the argument that the deal is better than any alternative, especially another war in the Middle East. 

He invoked Reagan and Kennedy as two Presidents who embraced diplomacy and arms control over war.  He stopped short of pointing out that Reagan had a secret policy of appeasement with Iran by providing them banned weapons under the Iran-Contra deal.  He did mention that Bush and Cheney had strengthened Iran by eliminating its worst enemy, Saddam Hussein.  He also mentioned that the US had been one of the early providers of nuclear technology to Iran in the 1960s and 1970s.  And he did not mention that one reason Israel fears the Iranian program is that they know that Israel developed its nuclear weapons capability by tricking western countries, including the US and France, into providing much of what Israel needed for weapons. 

Israelis probably fear Iran because they have more respect for the Persian race than for the Arab race.  The Israeli-Persian relationship goes back to the Old Testament, more than 2000 years ago, when the Persian king Darius sent Daniel to the lions’ den because Daniel prayed to the God of Israel.  The Israelis probably believe that the Iranians have the expertise and infrastructure to build a bomb, unlike most or all of the Arab states, who would need much more help. 

I don’t know whether the Iran deal will be blocked by Congress.  It looks like it will be close, and the best bet for upholding it is the fact that it will be difficult for the Senate to overcome an Obama veto of a Congressional bill blocking it.  I hope the deal is allowed to go into effect.  If not, either Iran will have a much easier path to a bomb, or we will invade yet another Middle Eastern country, and this time one that is not entirely stuck in the Middle Ages, as Afghanistan and Iraq were, thus promising a bloodier, more costly war, also likely to end in defeat for the US as the Iraq war did. 

In general, I think that Obama has been a good President, especially when compared with his predecessor, George W. Bush.  Bush was probably a nice man personally, but a terrible President.  He was asleep at his post when Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center.  A relatively minor upgrade in airport security would have prevented the attack.  In contract to Bush, who was stupid and lazy nice guy, Cheney was a spiteful, mean-spirited villain.  For most of his administration, Bush was a coward before Cheney, afraid to confront Cheney’s desire to go to war with almost everybody except out closest friends.  Toward the end of his administration, as things began to visibly fall about, Bush finally began to distance himself from Cheney.  Strangely, his father’s choice of Dan Quayle to be his Vice President was one of George H. W. Bush’s worst decisions, and George W. Bush’s decision to name Cheney his Vice President was one of the son’s worst decisions.  In addition to the unsuccessful wars, Bush, who had an MBA, oversaw the destruction of the US financial system by reckless Wall Street banks, although Clinton shares the blame for his repeal of Glass-Steagall, which had reined in Wall Street. 

Obama was faced with the possibility of a second Depression when he took office, and he avoided it.  He gets criticism from the Republicans for winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who insist that if we had stayed the course we would have won.  But it we can’t win a war in a small, backward country in eight or ten years, something is wrong with our military or our strategy.  Cheney and Rumsfeld were strategic failures, whom Bush stupidly put in charge of two wars.  Their failure is highlighted by Bush I’s successful prosecution of the first Iraq war, noted recently by Richard Haass in the Wall Street Journal.  

In addition, ObamaCare expanded health care significantly.  There are still health care issues, cost and the single-payer issue, but ObamaCare was progress.  On the negative side, Guantanamo is still a prison camp that is America’s gulag.  People are being held in violation of US and international law, in spirit, if not under the letter of the law.  It is an embarrassment to a country that prides itself on its morality and rule of law.  Reagan’s “city on a hill” has slid down into the mud.  Bush and Cheney are responsible for pushing it into the mud, but Obama has not pulled it out. 

The Republicans blame Obama for his budget deficits and the growing national debt, but at least part of the problem is the Republican’s refusal to raise taxes.  No doubt some cuts are necessary, but some additional revenue is also necessary.  Today’s column by Tom Friedman in the NYT points out the intransigence of the Republicans in refusing even to raise a five cent tax per gallon of gas to fund the repair of roads and bridges.  Obama could have done better, but the Republicans made sure he was not playing with a full deck. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Reagan's Election by the Iranian Ayatollah

“The Brink” TV show on HBO made a gag of what I think is a real reason for Reagan’s defeat of Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.  The show’s Secretary of State tells a potential head of Pakistan that he can be the Pakistani Reagan by being the president when some Pakistani hostages are released.

The Iranians were really mad at the US for overthrowing their national leader and imposing the American selected Shah.  They were mad at Jimmy Carter for letting the Shah come to the US for medical treatment when he was dying of cancer.  Therefore, the Ayatollah who had taken the American hostages in the American Embassy in Tehran, wanted revenge on Carter, which he got by supporting Carter’s opponent in the American presidential election, Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was the Iranian candidate to rule America, like the Shah was the American puppet to rule Iran. 

Reagan later recognized his debt to the Iranians by giving them prohibited weapons in the Iran- Contra deal.  The Republicans owe the Iranians a huge debt for putting the man they most love into office.  Reagan wasn’t the “Manchurian Candidate,” he was the “Iranian Candidate.” 

I thought that I was one of the few who thought this until I saw the latest episode of “The Brink.”