I’m quite concerned about the impact the Iran deal and its possible aftermath could have on our domestic politics and our standing in the world. I’m particularly worried that Congress may be devaluing the power of the executive to conduct foreign policy in future.
The 47 senators remind me of the 47 ronin. (Look it up– a famous episode in 18th century Japan when 47 leaderless samurai ran amok and ended up doing themselves in.) Our 47 ronin wrote a letter to the Ayatollah saying basically: Pay no attention to our leader, he has no authority to act on behalf of the American people and anything he plans to do we plan to undo. Whatever else this letter was, it was stunningly irresponsible.
This was a new low for something that has always been a concern in the eyes of the world. The US separation of powers raises the question, when you deal with our president, are you dealing with someone who has the ability to close a deal?
Has that ever been a real issue?
It certainly was in the case of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was inspired by and shaped by Woodrow Wilson. He made its creation a major aim of World War I. And without commenting on the wisdom of it, it clearly exemplified American idealism and our belief in a rule-bound international order.
We persuaded reluctant allies to sign up for it. It was our vision — not theirs — of what should come out of the huge war we had just fought together. But the League of Nations was repudiated by the Republican Senate, led by Henry Cabot Lodge. That repudiation led to a withdrawal of the US from international affairs – the isolationism of the 1920s and ’30s, in which the richest country in the world conducted itself selfishly and without consideration of commitments to its allies in the war.
There are other examples in our history where we’ve done that sort of thing, but the relevance to the Iran deal is obvious. We are at risk of a League of Nations moment. [Continue reading…]