The terms of the agreement framework between the great powers and Iran were more balanced between the two sides and stronger than expected in the agreed upon controls over Iran=s nuclear development. But the responses were predictable. The Republicans went on the attack as they were expected to do on any proposal, of lack of one, which might have been the result of the negotiations. And, the Democrats tepidly and often with lack of enthusiasm supported the agreement negotiated by their past Presidential candidate John Kerry on behalf of their twice elected President Barack Obama.
History shows us that the immediate reaction to an international agreement is sometimes different than the ultimate historical opinion. When the Webster-Ashburton treaty with Great Britain was signed in 1842, Americans thought it was a momentary thawing of relations with the United Kingdom and settling of the Canadian border. History shows that it was the beginning of almost two hundred years of close cooperation between the three nations involved - the US, Britain and Canada.
When Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 it was hailed as historic and he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Within a decade both countries were involved, albeit on the same side initially, in World War I and the ending of the earlier war had few if any ramifications.
In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson personally negotiated at the worlds
first great summit the Treaty of Versailles. A group of Republican Senators, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, announced before Wilson had even returned from Paris that they would oppose the treaty and US membership in the League of Nations. They succeeded and America retreated into isolation. The verdict of history and of the American people in 1945, after the cataclysm of WWII was that Wilson=s League (for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize) might have prevented WWII and international collective security of democratic and peaceful nations became the keystone of US foreign policy.
And what of the postwar era? History now shows that the policy recognizing the Soviet Union in 1933 (by FDR) and the subsequent American strategy of containment and then detente and then competition from Truman though Reagan were the right policies because of the demise of communism and the USSR.
Nixon=s opening to Red China has resulted not in a war with that power but almost a half century of peace and economic competition. So he is hailed as a visionary.
Barack Obama has pursued a foreign policy, some points of which I have disagreed with, that prefers to use all peaceful means, e.g. economic sanctions against an enemy and negotiation with that enemy before resorting to military action. His predecessor George Bush certainly seemed to do the opposite -- shoot first and talk later. History will judge who was right in Afghanistan and Iraq; events will unfold in the next decade that will show us whether Obama is correct in Iran and Cuba.
Critics of this Iranian nuclear agreement compare it to Munich and the west=s appeasement of Hitler. But even the severest critic of that agreement, Winston Churchill, said, A to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war@. And the prescient analyst of Britain=s failure to prepare for WWII, John F Kennedy, took office telling our people: A Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate@.
Obama has chosen to advocate trying to coexist with Iran, as Presidents from FDR through Reagan coexisted with the Soviet Union; and, President=s since Nixon have followed a policy of amiable relations with China. Is Obama correct? I don=t know - history will judge and events over the next decade will determine that judgment.
We lionize our Presidents who use military force to initiate policy (Polk in Mexico, McKinley with Spain, and Reagan in Grenada to list only a few). We should at the least respect that President who has heard the voice of the American people and for their children and grandchildren has decided to A give peace a chance@.
If the twenty-first century is not to be a repetition of the twentieth century=s brutal wars, genocidal killings and mass slaughters the President of the world=s greatest power must earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in his first year in office. With the restoration of relations with Cuba and the nuclear control agreement with Iran he has.
3 April 2015