Thursday, April 09, 2015

When Debating Iran's Nuclear Program, Sort Fact from Fiction

Scott Ritter, HuffPost
Posted: 04/09/2015 12:12 pm EDT

(TM Note: Scott Ritter was an UNSCOM weapons inspector in Iraq. He is knowledgeable about nuclear issues but has a rather erratic history. Posted for what it's worth.)

American policy makers have made it a point, expressed consistently over time, to emphasize that intelligence estimates do not, in and of themselves, constitute policy decisions, and are useful only in so far as they inform policy makers who then make the actual decisions. The logic of this argument allows for the notion of detached decision-making on the part of the policy makers, and includes a built-in premise that the estimates they use are constructed in such a manner as to allow for a wide range of policy options. This model of decision-making works well on paper, and within the realm of academic theory, but in the harsh reality of post-9/11 America, where overhyped information is further exaggerated through a relentless 24-hour news cycle that encourages simplicity to the point of intellectual dishonesty, it is hard to imagine a scenario where such a pattern of informed, deliberate decision-making has, or could, occur.

This is especially true with regard to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, an issue that has been projected front and center to the American public as a result of the ongoing debate over the viability of the recently concluded nuclear framework agreement. The technical aspects of that agreement will be the subject of intense negotiations scheduled to take place through June 30, when a final accord is expected to be reached. The details of any such accord will provide the grist for expert analysis by those equipped to engage in such. For the most part, the American public is not. However, the role of the American public is critical in determining the level of political support generated for any nuclear agreement with Iran, especially given the contentious debate ongoing between Congress and the White House over this issue. While the technical minutia of nuclear enrichment and the means to effectively monitor such may elude most Americans, the concerns over a nuclear-armed Iran do not. A meaningful debate and dialogue over Iran's nuclear program is essential in a democracy such as the United States, but it is likewise essential that any such discussion be done responsibly, and be based upon facts, not fiction.

America's decade-long experience in the post-9/11 Middle East has conditioned the American public, and by extension the American body politic, to embrace hyperbole and sensationalism over fact and nuance. In doing so, decisions are being made which do not reflect reality, and as such not only fail to rectify the situation at hand, but more often than not, exacerbate it. America's experience with Iran stands as a clear case in point, where analysts have failed to accurately depict the true nature of Iran's military capability, among other issues, and policy makers have, as a result, failed to formulate policies which deal with the issues arising from decades of American-Iranian animosity fueled by post-9/11 emotions, which continue to run high to this day. Getting it wrong on Iran has become an American institution, one which may have far-reaching detrimental consequences.

(More here.)

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