Sage members of Congress say the bedrock of a solid but tough voting decision is to dig into the facts carefully, consult widely, and flip a coin.
If flipping a coin really helped, the current debate over the Iran nuclear deal would be much easier, because we could stop worrying now whether it was important.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!
One quite senior Republican Congressman, when recently asked by a junior Democrat in the House gym what he thought about the choice, said: "It simply is a bad deal."
"Why?" he was then asked.
"Because it leaves some centrifuges out."
"So, what is the alternative?"
"Well that is a good question."
Hearing about that exchange sparked me into weighing in on the subject despite the fact that it is already being talked to death. This is not a moment for our elected representatives, with a real vote on our future, to simply parrot the party line or vent frustration with Obama.
Fair-thinking people are wondering how and why today more than half of Americans, as shown in current polls, can be thinking of rolling the dice on the future without really having thought it through.
Perhaps some politicians and citizens are relying on Obama's promised veto of a nay vote. That is risky, because the sharply negative current now running might just produce enough votes to override a veto.
One thing is crystal clear: the nature and structure of the deal is such that it is too easy for ill-informed or ill-intended people to pick at selected details which, particularly singled out from the whole, appear to be debatable. That creates the (misleading) impression of a deal riddled with serious flaws, which is NOT the case.
The first stones on this road are the technical details on reducing Iran's capability to develop a nuclear weapon. On that particular point, most people can really only assess the competence of the Obama administration's technical people, who are unquestionably quite independent-minded with their reputations on the line, competent, and capable of understanding of the matter. Since non-experts cannot independently judge those facts, they must decide who to trust. In this case, the overwhelming weight of serious opinion and authority is in favor of the deal. Opponents are relying on rhetoric.
Next are the questions about inspections and other verification mechanisms. Much the same argument as stated above applies also to this subject. And, again the weight of experienced judgment on this matter is overwhelmingly in favor of the deal.
Third, are the questions about trust, or lack thereof, and which direction, for or against, most likely over time to obtain the result we all want - an Iran that is nuclear weapon-free and an Iran which is again (as it has been in the past) a responsible country in the larger world. This is a question where instincts and logic can help all thinking people make up their own minds because it does not require technical knowledge or skills.
There are three very significant arguments to make on this third point that can help serious people reach a conclusion that they can comfortably sleep with.
1. If the U.S. approves the deal, and if ultimately Iran should violate its terms, then when the U.S. takes serious steps to enforce the deal, we will have far greater moral authority backing our action than we would if the deal is rejected now and a need for draconian steps arises in the future. We would be open then to all kinds of legitimate questions from the world at large about how we never gave the deal a chance.
We also have an important responsibility, as the leader of the free world, to be as certain as possible that we have clear moral authority for what we do in the world. To back off from this deal now -- to defy our allies and the vast community of nations that supports the accord with their technical experts -- will seriously adversely affect our leadership in the world now and well into the future.
2. It is well and widely known that a large number of the Iranian people do not favor their government, and have been trying for years to create basic changes. Iran's most recent election illustrates this very point. There are two solid reasons in this respect to vote aye. One is to give the Iranian people a chance to create change in their country. The other is to avoid, if possible, military steps which most likely would solidify the political position of Iranian hardliners.
3. There are only two choices we can make: give this peaceful, negotiated process a try, or give up and hope more economic or military pressure can topple the current regime. With only a few exceptions, history points strongly in the direction of giving an alert peaceful process a chance before resorting to force. People say 10 years is a short time and, in the vast sweep of history, it certainly is. But it's more than enough time for dramatic change to reshape the world.
Reflect on South Africa's amazing turn away from apartheid, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and fall of the Berlin Wall. Consider that in 1945, Germany and Japan were our bitterest enemies while today they are among our most stalwart allies. The Iranian people will have a chance, under this umbrella of time, to bring their country around possibly to the surprise of the world. If we reject the deal at best we postpone that chance to see a reformed Iran.
Israeli opposition to the accord is based on their belief that Iran is an existential threat to them. It is true that a pending hanging concentrates a person's mind, but rarely in a non-paranoid, rational way. We should not allow ourselves to be over influenced by what Israel thinks, despite their loyalty to us and their unique presence in the Middle East. We simply must think for ourselves in the context of our global leadership position.
By a wide margin, the conclusion, based on all the facts and options well into the future, must be to support the Iranian deal!