By David Swanson
By the latest count, the nuclear agreement with Iran has enough support in the U.S. Senate to survive. This, even more than stopping the missile strikes on Syria in 2013, may be as close as we come to public recognition of the prevention of a war (something that happens quite a bit but generally goes unrecognized and for which there are no national holidays). Here, for what they’re worth, are 10 teachings for this teachable moment.
- There is never an urgent need for war. Wars are often begun with great urgency, not because there’s no other option, but because delay might allow another option to emerge. The next time someone tells you a particular country must be attacked as a “last resort,” ask them politely to please explain why diplomacy was possible with Iran and not in this other case. If the U.S. government is held to that standard, war may quickly become a thing of the past.
- A popular demand for peace over war can succeed, at least when those in power are divided. When much of one of the two big political parties takes the side of peace, the advocates of peace have a chance. And of course now we know which senators and Congress members will shift their positions with partisan winds. My Republican Congressman opposed war on Syria in 2013 when President Obama supported it, but supported greater hostility toward Iran in 2015 when Obama opposed it. One of my two Democratic Senators backed peace for a change, when Obama did. The other remained undecided, as if the choice were too complex.
- The government of Israel can make a demand of the government of the United States and be told No. This is a remarkable breakthrough. None of the actual 50 states expects to always get its way in Washington, but Israel does — or did until now. This opens up the possibility of ceasing to give Israel billions of dollars worth of free weapons one of these years, or even of ceasing to protect Israel from legal consequences for what it does with those weapons
- Money can make a demand of the U.S. government and be told No. Multibillionaires funded huge advertising campaigns and dangled major campaign “contributions.” The big money was all on the side opposing the agreement, and yet the agreement prevailed — or at least now looks like it will. This doesn’t prove we have a corruption-free government. But it does suggest that the corruption is not yet 100 percent.
- Counterproductive tactics employed in this victorious antiwar effort may end up making this a Pyrrhic victory. Both sides in the debate over the agreement advanced baseless claims about Iranian aggression and Iranian attempts to create nuclear weapons. Both sides depicted Iranians as completely untrustworthy and menacing. If the agreement is undone or some other incident arises, the mental state of the U.S. public regarding Iran is in a worse position than it was before, as regards restraining the dogs of war.
- The deal is a concrete step to be built on. It is a powerful argument for the use of diplomacy — perhaps even less hostile diplomacy — in other areas of the globe. It is also a verifiable refutation to future assertions of an Iranian nuclear threat. This means that U.S. weaponry stationed in Europe on the basis of that alleged threat can and must be withdrawn rather than remain as an open act of aggression toward Russia.
- When given the choice, the nations of the world will leap at an opening for peace. And they will not easily be brought back again. U.S. allies are now opening embassies in Iran. If the United States backs away from Iran again, it will isolate itself. This lesson should be borne in mind when considering violent and non-violent options for other countries.
- The longer a war with Iran is avoided, the stronger an argument we have for continuing to avoid it. When a U.S. push for war on Iran has been stopped before, including in 2007, this has not only put off a possible catastrophe; it has also made it more difficult to create. If a future U.S. government wants war with Iran, it will have to go up against public awareness that peace with Iran is possible.
- The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) works. Inspections work. Just as inspections worked in Iraq, they work in Iran. Other nations, such as Israel, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, should be encouraged to join the NPT. Proposals for a nuclear-free Middle East should be pursued.
- The United States should itself cease violating the NPT and lead by example, ceasing to share nuclear weapons with other nations, ceasing to create new nuclear weapons, and working to disarm itself of an arsenal that serves no purpose but threatens apocalypse.