Weekend Reading; Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal


My emphasis added below.

Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal:

Brent Scowcroft writes in favor of the deal with Iran:

Let us be clear: There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone. The world’s leading powers worked together effectively because of U.S. leadership. To turn our back on this accomplishment would be an abdication of the United States’ unique role and responsibility, incurring justified dismay among our allies and friends. We would lose all leverage over Iran’s nuclear activities. The international sanctions regime would dissolve. And no member of Congress should be under the illusion that another U.S. invasion of the Middle East would be helpful.

Gen. Scowcroft makes a strong case for the nuclear deal, and a more sober and responsible Republican Party would listen carefully to what he has to say. Regrettably, we already know that on foreign policy generally and this issue in particular the current GOP is neither of those things. Comparisons between the debate over the Iraq war and the debate over the current deal with Iran can be overdone, but it is instructive to remember that Scowcroft was one of a relative few prominent Republicans to oppose the invasion of Iraq publicly. Now he is one of a very few former Republican officials to express support for the nuclear deal.

It’s not an accident that he was right about the Iraq war. Supporters of the invasion erred in failing to consider the costs and risks of an unnecessary war because of their shoddy assumptions about American power and how to use, and Scowcroft opposed the invasion in large part because he was willing and able to weigh those costs and judge them to be unacceptably high. Unlike the loudest advocates for the invasion, Scowcroft didn’t think preventive war in Iraq made sense as far as American security was concerned, and he was also warning about the many unintended and unforeseen consequences that wars have. Applying wisdom and prudence then, Scowcroft got one of the biggest foreign policy questions of the last generation right while almost everyone in and out of elected office in his party (and many in the other party) got it badly wrong. So when the same person advises support for the nuclear deal as the sound and responsible thing to do now, his recommendation should carry considerable weight. If there is to be any accountability in our foreign policy debates, it isn’t enough to reject discredited hard-liners. It is also necessary to heed the skeptics and realists that have proved to be discerning and farsighted.

So it is more than a little strange that Scowcroft is once again almost alone among prominent Republicans in taking a pro-deal position. His caution and warnings from 2002 were thoroughly vindicated, but instead of causing Republicans to pay more attention to his advice his opposition to the war effectively made him persona non grata in his own party. If any Republican candidates have sought his counsel on foreign policy, they aren’t advertising it to anyone, and most of them wouldn’t want to linked to him for fear of being labeled too much of a realist. One reason not to trust most Republican candidates on foreign policy is that they consciously go out of their way to ignore the best advice that former officials from their party have to offer. In a competent and responsible party, Scowcroft’s argument for the deal would provide ample cover for many members of Congress and presidential candidates to support it. Unfortunately, we already know that his endorsement of the deal will instead be cited as a reason why Republican candidates should shut their ears to his words.

Weekend Reading; Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal
J. Bradford DeLong
Sat, 05 Sep 2015 12:20:57 GMT

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