Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, warning against a deal being negotiated by the Obama Administration to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"We have been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal," Netanyahu told Congress. "It is a very bad deal. We are better off without it." Obama responded that Netanyahu's speech "didn't offer any viable alternatives" to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
What should happen next in Iran? Why can't America and its allies agree? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate.CartoonMatt Davies' latest cartoon: The new old Penn StationCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
JOEL MATHIS: It is dispiriting to watch my country being bum-rushed into starting a war by the same gaggle of hawks and Very Serious People - Benjamin Netanyahu included - who led us to invade Iraq more than a decade ago.
What did that war give us? Well, it further empowered Iran as a regional power - and, oh, not incidentally, gave that country additional incentive to acquire a nuclear weapon. Nobody invades a nuclear-armed state, after all.
Folks, we have forever been on the cusp of bombing Iran. Ben and I first visited this topic in September 2010, when the topic was on the cover of The Atlantic, and Israel - where Benjamin Netanyahu was just returning to power - was said to be no more than a few months away from an attack.
Here's what I wrote then.
"An attack on Iran, whether by Israel or the United States, would have devastating consequences for the rest of us: Iran would almost certainly respond by unleashing its terrorist proxy groups to make war on Western targets, and it could easily make life miserable for shipping in the Straits of Hormuz - a critical passage for oil exports from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Many people would die, and a shaky world economy might be plunged into depression. And that's what would happen if the attack worked." The economy is better than it was, but otherwise that analysis holds up pretty well.
Consider this: That Atlantic cover story offered this as the justification for the attack: "The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability." That was almost five years ago. There are still no nukes. Which makes every day we've had at peace in the last five years an act of deep wisdom.
Every moment of diplomacy is a moment there is no bloodshed. Netanyahu offers no alternative to diplomacy. He is wrong. President Obama is right. Let's not appease the warmongers.
BEN BOYCHUK: Yes, it's true: In key respects, the debate we're having today about Iran's nuclear program is essentially the same one we've had for the past five years. The United States says it does not want Iran to have nukes. The "international community" wishes to negotiate a resolution. Iran pounds the table. Sabers are rattled. Timelines are adjusted.
Repeat ad nauseam.
What's different now? Iran is five years further along in achieving its goals. Otherwise, not much. The proposal on the table asks Iran to "freeze" its nuclear program in exchange for easing international economic sanctions against the regime.
Naturally, the Iranians rejected that plan.
Yet the Obama administration insists on pressing negotiations - as though it expects different results from repeating the same ineffective strategy.
Diplomacy isn't just talk. "Diplomacy," as political scientist Angelo Codevilla has observed, "conveys reality: either you are willing to force the other party to act against his will, or you are not." The Obama administration isn't willing. Neither was George W. Bush's administration, by the way. Yet the U.S. posture remains the same. "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable," Obama told reporters a few days after his election in 2008. In 2012, the president even said the possibility of U.S. military strikes on Iran is "not a bluff." Of course it is a bluff. Judging from the president's deeds, not his words, the "unacceptable" is perfectly acceptable.
For more than 35 years, the U.S. foreign policy establishment has looked for some sign - any sign at all - that it can "do business with" the mullahs. Perhaps if we give them what they want, they'll moderate themselves. Or so the thinking goes.
And for 35 years, Iran has worked steadily to advance its interests by exporting terror, threatening its Sunni Arab neighbors and, of course, vowing to wipe Israel off the map.
We talk and talk and talk, but our actions betray fecklessness and weakness. If diplomacy conveys reality, then the reality is Iran will have the bomb and there is nothing we can do about it.
Ben Boychuk (email@example.com) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Joel Mathis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.