Anniversary Post: START I

START I - Trust, but Verify

On this day in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — START I — was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was the first nuclear treaty that ever actually reduced the number of nuclear weapons that the superpowers had. It is stuff like this that makes what I hear today about the nuclear deal with Iran so frustrating. I recently heard a conservative say, “I just don’t trust the Iranians!” And why didn’t he trust the Iranians? No reason really. I discuss this glib acceptance of propaganda in an article later today. But it comes down to this: the media have told the people in countless ways that the Iranians can’t be trusted, so the people believe it — without any evidence.

But I at least understand that. What I don’t understand is how people can have forgotten that the exact same things were said about the Soviet Union. It was widely believed that the Soviets just couldn’t be trusted. They would supposedly start a nuclear war if they thought they could win. They weren’t rational. They weren’t like the enemies that came before. The fact that the Soviet Union had shown itself to be extremely rational didn’t matter — everyone just “knew” that it wasn’t so.

And so the same thing is said about the Iranians — because the same thing is always said about whomever happens to be our enemy. Like I said: I understand. What is it that most defines an enemy: lack of trust. Of course, when it comes to treaties, it isn’t about trust. If it were, and the Iranians truly couldn’t be trusted, then why did they negotiate? Why didn’t they just agree to everything, given that they intended to not abide by the treaty and there is nothing in the treaty to compel them? Of course, when it is phrased like that, the ridiculousness of the claim becomes clear.

What’s wrong with the average foe of the Iran nuclear deal is that what they really want is war. I know that’s shocking to say. After all, didn’t we just manage to mess up in a big way in Iraq with a war of choice? But I think these people believe that if we just repeated the Iraq War in every other country in the Middle East, everything would be fine. Of course, the opposite is true. And if we were to cause the fall of the current Iranian government, I believe the entire Middle East would be destabilized. There’s no telling what new horrible governments we would facilitate.

But it is nice to think back 24 years ago to the START I. What kind of a messed up world do we live in where George HW Bush looks like a great statesman? And give it another 20 years — we might think back fondly on the seriousness of his son.

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