Initial response to the Iran nuclear deal is a case of history repeating itself.

In 1794, George Washington asked John Jay (the chief negotiator of the 1783 treaty resolving the Revolutionary War) to negotiate a new treaty resolving outstanding differences with the English. The “Jay Treaty” resulted. Although its terms initially were secret, that did not stop wide protest and denunciation, including stone-throwing Republican mobs that burned Jay in effigy.

Most of the protesters simply could not countenance reaching any agreement with the hated British. Others criticized the treaty for not including a long list of what were admittedly unattainable goals. But eventually, the Republican-dominated Senate voted for the treaty, and Washington signed it.

Why? It accomplished strategic goals, such as the withdrawal of the last of the British army from U.S. soil, but mostly because the agreement was better than any available alternative. The U.S. eventually went to war with Great Britain in 1812, far better prepared for that engagement.

The critics of the Iran nuclear treaty also responded without knowledge of its terms, primarily motivated by the repugnance of coming to any agreement with Iran. Many have their own list of additional demands, but no evidence that they were attainable. They are unwilling to describe what their best alternative to this negotiated agreement might be, although at least one presidential candidate thinks we ought to bomb Iran now. Is another Middle East war a preferable alternative?

Like the Jay Treaty, this deal may not result in permanent peace. However, more than half of Iran’s population is younger than 28. In 10 to 15 years, the current hardliners are less likely to be in power and an overwhelming majority of Iran may be friendlier than ever. This agreement is far better than any current alternative.

Stephen Hayes


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