Whether you like the Iran deal or not—and I do support it, though at the margin, in light of its limited time duration and its sunset clauses—I bet the Nobel Committee in Oslo will like it a lot. At least hypothetically, it represents a triumph of diplomacy over the use of force in international relations, and the Committee will probably want to lend its full support to a deal that will remain controversial and fragile for months and years to come, assuming that it is concluded and implemented later this spring.
In other words, I am predicting a second Nobel Peace Prize for Barack Obama. He will likely share it with negotiators from the EU and Iran as well.
If my prediction is correct, there is one more person that President Obama should share the prize with—George W. Bush. Moreover, it would be good politics for Mr. Obama’s supporters to make the same point, since they should be trying to reduce the partisan aspect of the debate around this accord as they seek Congressional blessing (or at least condoning) of the deal.
It was George W. Bush’s administration, with Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey and others taking the lead, who devised the smart sanctions that, once expanded upon and reinforced by Mr. Obama as well as the broader international community, created the economic leverage that made this deal possible. After a number of years in which Iran’s access to the international banking system was curtailed, its ability to import high-technology goods limited, and the ability of its oil companies to sell their main commodities abroad was severely restricted, Tehran finally became open to the kind of compromise it had refused for many years. Along the way, a more moderate Iranian president was elected in light of the population’s frustration with what the previous regime and its defiant ways had wrought on the Iranian economy. The recent plunge in global oil prices over the past year may have been the coup de grace.
Bush also reportedly refused Bibi Netanyahu permission to use Iraqi airspace to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities with Israeli airpower, at a time when the United States effectively controlled that airspace. Again, Bush’s thinking appears to have been consistent with Obama’s–military force was a mediocre option and an absolute last resort. This thinking came from the “great preemptor” himself, lending it additional weight.
Of course, I realize the pitfalls and limitations of the deal, as well as the unlikelihood that it will change Iran’s broader behavior in the region. But to me, it is still preferable to any obvious alternative, so I will hold my nose and support it.
And to the extent that credit is due, it’s just as much Bush as Obama. So if there is to be a Nobel for this, on the American side of things, they should share it.
At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?