The nuclear talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif didn't just get an agreement for Iran to not develop nuclear weapons. It also established a relationship between the two men (and their countries) -- a relationship that has had other benefits (like the release of American sailors who wandered into Iranian waters, and the release of other Americans from Iranian prisons). It shows that diplomacy works. When nations talk to each other in an honest and respectful way, intractable problems can be solved -- problems that had only been made worse by threats and intimidation.
Reasonable people are glad to see this slight warming of relations between the U.S. and Iran. But the current crop of Republican presidential candidates aren't reasonable, and their only solutions to our problems with Iran is threats of war. They do that because it pleases the far-right elements in the Republican base (and votes are more important to them than diplomatic accomplishments). But other traditionally conservative groups, like the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News, don't understand this hard-line attitude. Here is their recent editorial about this:
Diplomacy done right adds enormously to America’s power in the world. And when it works, politicians of any stripe ought to be bold enough to say so.
Unfortunately, the Republican candidates for president — including most prominently our own senator Ted Cruz — have played politics rather than standing behind the nation’s efforts to protect its citizens and armed forces through smart use of this power.
Twice in the past week, America’s diplomatic efforts with Iran, one of its fiercest adversaries, have produced powerful results. Both times, critics of the president were too timid to speak out in favor of the success brought by improved communications between Washington and Tehran.
It was entirely understandable that the detention last Tuesday of U.S. sailors by Iran after they had drifted into Iran’s territorial waters rang alarm bells throughout America. What wasn’t reasonable, nor helpful, was the response by Cruz and others faulting America’s “weakness” they saw revealed in the capture. Nor did it make any sense to excoriate President Barack Obama’s decision to not address the unfolding crisis during the State of the Union speech that evening.
We might have hoped when word came the next day — the very next day — that the sailors had been released unharmed, that those screaming bloody murder would have apologized for their reckless statements, or at least softened their tone. That didn’t happen.
On Wednesday night, Cruz hijacked the first question of the GOP debate to up the ante, promising that “any nation that captures our fighting men and women will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.”
It’s easy to say strong-sounding words, but the reality is that such statements make us weaker. His promise that, if elected, he’d bring the “full force and fury” of the nation to bear — whatever that means — is a promise to make such crises in the future worse, not better. That goes for the sailors and for the nation.
Another diplomatic breakthrough happened over the holiday weekend. Five Americans held by Iran have been released from their prison cells. The deal involved a trade, and the U.S. pardoned or dropped charges against seven Iranians who had been convicted or charged with providing economic help to Iran in violation of sanctions.
The same critics who had blasted Obama for failing to include the release of these Americans in the Iran nuclear deal could not bring themselves to support the trade. They wanted Obama to tie lifting of economic sanctions against Iran to the release of the prisoners. That was OK. But this trade, they now say, is not.
It’s inconsistent. Uncharitable. And foolish in the face of the continued need for this country to build and exercise its diplomatic strength.