“This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring — change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. We negotiated from a position of strength and principle — and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.”

— President Barack Obama, July 14

Little as I like Barack Obama and his administration, this quotation isn’t unusually false or misleading. It’s consistent with the political boundaries of American foreign policy confusion, deception and misdirection.

The American people doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the details of foreign policy. They generally accept that this is primarily the president’s business, which makes sense pragmatically and historically. When American voters try to gauge a candidate’s foreign policy competence they weigh his record of foreign travel. This information is almost completely useless, but at least it’s understandable.

Americans want peace, and if they can’t have peace they want victory. If either of these goals seem uncertain, they want reassurance.

So Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 with the slogan: “He kept us out of war.” The trusting people re-elected him. Five months later, he asked Congress for a declaration of war, and the United States was fighting in the Great War.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1940 promising that there would be “no involvement in foreign wars.” The next year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States was once again involved in a world war.

Both presidents knew that there was a high likelihood that the nation would find itself involved. Both might reasonably have warned the nation to prepare for the war. They preferred to offer reassurances. They knew what the people wanted to hear and served it up warm, reassuring and unqualified by reference to harsh reality.

So now we have a president reassuring us that we have a deal that makes our country “safer and more secure,” even while crowds in Tehran and other Iranian cities are chanting “Death to America!” Obama, however, is undisturbed, telling us that “Just because Iranian hardliners chant ‘Death to America’ does not mean that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They are making a common cause with the Republican caucus.”

In equating American and Iranian hardliners, the president disregards the absence of crowds of American conservatives chanting “Death to Iran!” His strategy for selling the deal is to picture himself, John Kerry, Wendy Sherman and most American liberals as moderates, standing shoulder to shoulder with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi and armed forces chief Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi against the American and Iranian hardliners.

There is apparently a solid element of fact to the administration’s complicated calculations. The deal leaves the Iranian fanatics free to continue killing American troops and civilians, free to finance terrorist activities, and free to supply weapons to America’s allies. If the deal implicitly acknowledges their “right” to do all this without risking war with the United States, why wouldn’t they accept it?

Obama tells us, “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure [economic sanctions].” If my interpretation is accurate (and it is certainly disputable), he seems to have decided that since Iran would not budge on fundamental things, it was up to the United States and its partners to give way in order to arrive at an agreement to limit the Iranian menace.

“Put simply,” he tells us, “no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.” Does this mean that while we have settled down to accepting the current levels of violence directed against us, we have set a boundary on its expansion? Hard to say for sure, but it appears that the choice is not between peace and war, but between war or more war.

The president assures us that, “We give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully. If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. president in the future.”

This is a little puzzling. There seems to be some argument about how many billions the Iranian government will receive for agreeing to agree, but all versions mention tens of billions. It’s not our money, but we are giving up control over it.

The debate will go on, but here’s a reminder of something easily overlooked. The Iranian government receives billions of dollars in short order, with more to come from re-opening trade in their oil. They are free to use this money to finance violence against the U.S. and its allies. The United States receives promises of a limit to nuclear arms development coupled with a series of agreements to a complex process of verification. They may uphold their promises or they may not. Until we see a record of fidelity to their promises we have nothing but a thin rectangle of paper in return for a multibillion-dollar “signing bonus.”

At this point there is no evidence to justify Obama’s boast about “the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring.” That remains to be seen.

John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com. Email to [email protected].

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