Sometimes it is difficult to understand why President Obama receives so little credit for what most of the world consider pretty historic achievements. Criticism erupted even before the Iran deal was complete. Knee-jerk reactions often seem poised to be critical of anything this president says or does, even, at times, when the critic is actually in favor of what the president may have done.
Donald Trump says the Iran deal "is the dumbest deal I think I've ever seen." But as with most of Trump's statements it is as if we are supposed to take him at his word. He says it, so it must be true. He provides little or no reasoning for his statements. On the other hand, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the implementation a "significant milestone that reflects the good faith efforts by all parties." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed criticism saying that everyone is happy "except Zionists, warmongers fueling discord in the Islamic world, and hardliners in the U.S."
There is truth in what Rouhani says, and a Baltimore Sun editorial highlights some of the criticism raised against the deal's implementation, as well as where the criticism is coming from. Donald Trump is not alone in trashing a deal that almost certainly has made this a safer world, even if only temporarily.
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks of Iran developing a weapon to kill millions along the East Coast, but does not explain how this could happen in view of the inspection and verification agreements. Many Republicans have complained that the U.S. gave away too much and demonstrated weakness through the deal, even though the diplomatic channel opened has already borne fruit in the release of 10 U.S. sailors.
Columnist Jonathan Alter has taken a look at the Obama presidency and what its future legacy may be. He cites an America that now has lower inflation, interest rates and unemployment. He mentions Obama achievements to include preventing a depression, passing the Affordable Care Act -- which has already insured an additional 17 million Americans -- producing a significant environmental agreement in Paris, and winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would only mention how close we came to an all out depression. I recently saw the movie "The Big Short." It describes the 2008 collapse of the housing market and the abuses, particularly by the big banks, that led up to it. Even though I was aware of how serious things had gotten back in 2008, I came away with a new realization of the fact that we were truly on the brink of disaster. I believe as the years go by history will record what a major accomplishment can be attributed to the Obama administration in saving the financial system.
While others can legitimately have a different perspective on some of these cited achievements, we tend to only hear the loud voices of those who find failure even in what most people would see as success. Alter makes a couple of points about the Iran nuclear deal. First of all, the deal has made the world safer. Iran has taken significant steps to implement the deal. They have "mothballed" their nuclear facilities and shipped their enriched uranium to Russia. Alter notes that without the deal we would likely have had to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
I remember clearly how close we were to bombing Iran just a few short years ago. One presidential candidate even had a refrain going to "bomb, bomb, Iran." Only the most stubborn hawk could possibly believe things were better under those conditions. There is also no question that the 10 U.S. sailors who drifted into Iranian territory earlier this month would still be in custody in Iran if not for the diplomatic channels that have been opened due to the Iranian deal.
In short, I am troubled by the campaign and congressional rhetoric that seems to advocate military action as the best way to show strength and resolve conflicts. Apparently we can trust no one and talk to no one. This is not a serious foreign policy approach. It doesn't solve problems. It only exacerbates bad situations. We have to believe that we can make things better. We have to negotiate. We have to put diplomacy at the front of our foreign policy apparatus. The bottom line is, we have to be willing to give peace a chance.
Maybe we can learn the most by remembering the philosophy of a former and popular conservative president, Ronald Reagan. Trust, but verify.