Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I don't understand opposition to the Iran deal

If you want to have an expert opinion, and don't have years to dedicate to becoming an expert on something, just agree with the consensus of experts. And as I mentioned in my last post, in a poll of international relations experts, only 10% said that the Iran nuclear deal would have a negative effect.

But of the experts that do believe the Iran deal is bad, what is their reasoning?

I recently heard John Bolton on the Banter podcast explain his view on why the deal is bad. And I just don't get it. He thinks we shouldn't lift sanctions in exchange for their reduction and allowed-inspection of their nuclear program because he doesn't think they'll follow their end of the bargain. So what does he say they'll do instead?

"play Ms. Goody Two-Shoes for the next 6 months or so to get the sanctions lifted"

Of course, if they go back on their deal, then the sanctions are supposed to be re-applied. But he says we won't be able to get other countries to agree to re-apply the sanctions. I don't know why I should believe that, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt. What affects does he think the sanctions have on their nuclear program?

"I've never believed that (our sanctions) imposed real hardship... The sanctions did not slow down the nuclear program"

OK, so by his own words, if Iran breaks the deal and doesn't get their sanctions re-applied, then their nuclear program is slowed down by the 6+ months they spent playing nice, and it's not sped up by any other factor. So... wouldn't that be good? What does he think we should do instead?

"The overwhelmingly most likely outcome here - deal or no deal - is Iran gets nuclear weapons... There are only 2 options ... either Iran gets nuclear weapons (the most likely outcome), or somebody uses military force to prevent that from happening."

What!? So the deal is bad because the only good option is war? Even if war is the only alternative to Iran getting a nuclear weapon, I don't understand why making a deal that you believe they'll break reduces the likelihood of us doing that.

In other Iran-nuclear-deal-news... "United Against Nuclear Iran" is a think-tank opposed to the deal, and their president just had to step down because he has decided that the deal is good.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Team America: World Police

In Iraq, the U.S. intervened and occupied, and the result was a costly disaster. In Libya, the U.S. intervened and did not occupy, and the result was a costly disaster. In Syria, the U.S. neither intervened nor occupied, and the result is a costly disaster.
--  link

I think ideological pacifism is wrong. There have to be many cases where the right application of our military can make the world a drastically better place. But how confident can we really be in whether any given idea is one of those cases? Isn't this an area where we have to admit human beings just haven't figured out how to predict the results of our actions yet?

I struggle with how to think about this issue. Since the upside of getting military intervention right could be so high, I don't want to take a stance that prevents us from figuring out how to achieve that massive potential upside.

But to a large extent, it seems like we have to have a strong default pacifism in practice. Not because we should believe any given intervention is going to have worse results than not intervening - but precisely because we don't know. Either choice is like rolling a die. The number it lands on is massively important. But going to war means spending tons of money, killing a bunch of innocent people (our own people and accidents in the other country), and then rolling the die, while choosing not to intervene is just rolling the die without doing that. Which one sounds better?

Also there was an interesting poll recently that asked "international relations experts" and the general public questions about when a U.S. military intervention would be a good idea. In general, the experts were far less likely to support it than the general public. For instance, to the question "Would you support or oppose taking military action if it were certain
Iran was close to producing a nuclear weapon?", 63% of the public supported it, whereas only 22% of the experts did. I found that really surprising! Also, less than 10% of the experts thought that the recent Iran nuclear deal would have a negative impact.