We can walk away from the table

Trigger Warning: war, sanctions, imperialism, medical violence

It’s easy to dismiss the rejection of the new accords between Iran and the US as a sort of simplistic radicalism. Actually, with people like former congressional representative Michele Bachmann, saying that these terrible deals are ushering in the end times but are also great because its, again, ushering in the end times, it’s difficult not to conclude that it’s a mix of strange eschatology and hypernationalism that has led to members of both nations to speak out against the deal.

To be fair, that isn’t an entirely unrealistic depiction of the case in Iran, where the government has “suspended” one newspaper for stating that Iran’s negotiators gave away too much ground in this deal. Support for the deal, which would end the international sanctions which have devastated Iran’s economy and restricted access to critical medical supplies and other necessities, is clearly something that many people are willing to show. The dangers and difficulties to be faced by the majority of Iranians if the deal doesn’t go through – the threat of invasion, of war, of economic hardships – are visible, known, and actually a coercive factor in pushing all but the most fiercely militaristic into supporting the deal.

That isn’t the lived experience for most residents of the United States, however. Involvement in some sort of war in broader Middle East and southern Central Asia has been on-going, a part of American life for more than a decade now. But for all but the small minority of people in the US military, it’s a distant reality. War is something that happens somewhere else to someone else. The tiny fraction of the population engaged directly in the conflict is only shrinking further, for that matter, as new military policies and practices replace ground troops with (increasingly automated) drones. There are of course the people who under those conditions are rather jingoistic, and in a Bachmann-esque manner call for an apocalyptic war they won’t have to fight.

iranian protest favor of dealAn Iranian family supportive of the deal hold up a sign welcoming the end of sanctions which reads “Hello, World!” From here.

But there are also numerous “moderates” for whom a rejection of the deal is more than not political toxic, at times politically viable and even useful. Much has been made of Senator (D-NY) Chuck Schumer’s planned rejection of the deal. He was joined yesterday by Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Neither of those Senators are particularly known for voting with the more reflexively militaristic Republicans, and yet, they have found themselves on that side of the vote on this. The processes influencing that are multiple and complex, but fundamentally, there is the reality that the US and Iran come to the negotiating table unequally. We have the ability to reject the deal in a way that they do not. We cannot overlook and equate our critics of negotiation with theirs, because we aren’t them and we don’t have a stake in this the way they do.

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