The Iran Deal may represent an uncomfortable agreement that ultimately prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear power with nuclear weapons. Or it may repThe Iran Deal may represent an uncomfortable agreement that ultimately prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear power with nuclear weapons. Or it may represent an infamous "peace in our time". The stakes are high. Should we accept the deal as the best achievable under the circumstances? Or should we reject it as worse than no deal? In either case, could we have done better? Alan Dershowitz in this book presents his answers to these questions.
But first, some caveats.
This book isn't quite a "book". It's more a chronologically-grouped collection of Dershowitz's op-eds from roughly the past decade, discussing the problem of Iran (and, sometimes, Israel/Palestine). The op-ed format is limited. Arguments, rebuttals, and conclusions can only be briefly and almost conclusorily presented. Op-eds don't really grant the space necessary for a persuasive, comprehensive proposition. Naturally, many of the arguments are quickly sketched out with little depth. (And, somewhat amusingly, Dershowitz's various rhetorical ticks become more apparent: his fondness for Winston Churchill's "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war" aphorism, George Washington's "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace" observation, and the arguable misuse of the "Sword of Damocles" metaphor for potential disastrous results determined by Iran [rather than for the weighty responsibility inherent in great power], for example.)
As the book is largely a series of op-eds, it's likely possible to find its various parts elsewhere. There's some apparently-fresh scaffolding connecting the various parts ("Maintaining Military Options", "President Obama's First Term Approach to Iran", "President Obama's Second Election Promises Regarding Iran", "President Obama's Second Term Policy toward Iran", "Closing the Deal"). But the bulk of the fresh material is in the introduction to the book (with notable inline comments in a condensed version of the agreement, in an appendix). This is perhaps to be expected in a book reportedly written in two weeks concerning a complicated and delicate matter of foreign policy.
Dershowitz's conclusions about the Iran Deal and the windup to it are roughly as follows.
The United States did a poor job of presenting a credible threat that we would do anything to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. We claimed the "military option" was on the table, yet we were never really serious about it -- and Iran recognized this. (President Obama receives the bulk of the criticism on this point, simply due to timing, but the second President Bush doesn't escape unscathed. The November 2007 National Security Estimate that concluded Iran had abandoned its nuclear program is particularly criticized as "known to be false", with Dershowitz faulting Bush for it.)
Dershowitz repeatedly received promises from Obama that he would do everything necessary to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and Dershowitz believed him in the runs to the 2008 and 2012 elections. Yet over time, Obama's rhetoric subtly shifted toward accommodation. As a result the Iran Deal ultimately negotiated is substantially worse than it could have been. Inspection regimes give Iran substantial time to hide any forbidden nuclear operations. And the deal is time-limited, with eight, ten, and fifteen-year timelines muddying the waters to make unclear exactly how and when the deal constrains Iran.
But the choice now is not between a better deal and this deal: it's between no deal and this deal. Obama has backed the United States into a corner. The best that can be done to salvage the matter is for Congress to emphasize its understanding of a sentence from the Iran Deal's preamble (perhaps not the best place to locate operative language, I would observe) -- "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons" -- as the standard to which we will hold Iran during the deal's tenure, while simultaneously approving the deal. Congress should also authorize military action now should Iran violate the deal's terms, to emphasize that the military option emphatically remains on the table should Iran backslide.
This is no ringing endorsement of the Iran Deal. It almost seems to me (as one who did not vote for Obama and likely disagrees with much of Dershowitz's politics, to put my ideological priors on the table) that Dershowitz's conclusion is one he reaches as an unconsciously-partisan attempt to view matters in the light most favorable to the president he voted for and continues to support. Were Dershowitz not a supporter of Obama, or a Democrat in general, I wonder if he would so grudgingly support the Iran Deal. (I think there's a good argument that a gullible Dershowitz was suckered into continuing to support Obama based on incompletely sincere, privately-expressed promises Obama made primarily to gain Dershowitz's political and rhetorical support as, perhaps, a "useful idiot". I'm not sure this was the case, but it seems a very strong possibility.)
But political affiliations aside. Is Dershowitz nonetheless right, even if his opinion is the product of unrecognized partisanship? Are we stuck in the bed we've made? At the very least, I can't say he's wrong (cathartic as it might be to confidently conclude the deal is all right or all wrong). And, sad to say (for I agree this deal indeed doesn't seem very good, particularly with a state so untrustworthy as Iran), I think he might well be right: now, with this proposal as the only possible proposal, this deal is better than no deal.
I'm not sure how convincing Dershowitz's arguments will be to its target audience of the one hundred senators. (And the general public, as a far-distant second.) I suspect most Republicans' hawkishness will lead them to dismiss any argument for the deal, even an argument as critical of the deal as Dershowitz's. A few Republican fence-sitters might be willing to entertain Dershowitz's argument, yet (at least for the senators) certainly the politically safe option is for them to condemn the deal consistent with their opposition to Obama. Similarly, partisan Democrats will already approve the deal to support Obama. That leaves Democratic fence-sitters as the only audience I expect might be receptive to Dershowitz's argument.
But as we've now (as of September 15) seen, dubious political machinations (the deal requiring a two-thirds vote of disapproval to prevent its implementation, as the Iran Deal is allegedly not a treaty -- an at best dubious legal conclusion in my opinion) mean that the Iran Deal will not be voted down. So ultimately the remaining Democratic fence-sitters can vote as is politically convenient.
The most likely value of this book, for the success of the Iran Deal, is that it represents an argument for the deal, from a critic of it, who nonetheless strongly supports Israel. If you find that stance interesting, this book may be of interest to you. If not, reading it might be only an academic exercise. Either way, if the Iran Deal interests you, I think it's worth considering this book's arguments....more
The first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for SThe first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for Sherlock Holmes to investigate. How did a dead man arrive in the empty house? Why is there blood everywhere, when the dead man is apparently unwounded? What's that bloody writing on the wall about?
As Holmes capers go, the story is unremarkable in the Holmes canon. This is Doyle's first essay approaching Holmes, and he hasn't quite found the distinctive formula. Too many clues Holmes discovers, Doyle fails to relate to the reader, leaving the ultimate train of logic obscure without insights Holmes only relates in the aftermath. Also, at the halfway point in the novel there's a strange digression into 19th-century Mormon society. (A highly inaccurate account, according to the preface of the edition I read, Doyle having depended upon erroneous news accounts, in addition to the parts that are obvious fiction.) The Mormon side trip is ultimately topical, but a better novel would have segued more smoothly, as Part II first appears to be almost an entirely different story. (The first time I read it, in a different collection, the abrupt storyline change mightily confused me.) Ultimately, however, Holmes characteristically clears up the mystery to the reader's satisfaction.
But really, this novel is best appreciated for its characterizations of the now-familiar Watson and Holmes. When Holmes professes to not care whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice versa (and of the answer, "I shall do my best to forget it"), when we see Watson's grading Holmes's knowledge ("Botany — Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening."), when we see the first glimmerings of Holmes's philosophy — this is what makes the story worth reading.
I could rate this either three stars (for an imperfect story) or four stars (for the fresh impressions of Holmes). Ultimately, the story's deficits sway me to three stars....more