In an essay at The Atlantic this afternoon, Graham Allison, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, one of the grand old men of American political science with long experience of thinking and writing about arms control, lays out a list of nine reasons to support the deal with Iran to curtail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
He could have quit after the first one:
1) No one has identified a better feasible alternative.
That really ought to be the end of the discussion. As I tell my students when I teach international negotiation, the only way to evaluate an agreement is to stack it up against the alternatives to a settlement, not against the wish-list of things you wanted at the outset.
So while the rest of Allison’s analysis is worth reading (and it’s a nice, short, accessible read) you really could stop right there. But if you are so inclined, by all means read the whole thing. And there here are a couple of additional recommendations.
Friends of mine, like Steve Saideman and Bill Ayres have already written some smart analysis on the Iran deal and the tribal gut reactions that are passing for debate on the issue. Check out their stuff.
And David Lake, another prominent voice from my field, has looked at the agreement negotiated with Iran and come to conclusions that Allison’s piece today echoed. Given the alternatives, this is about as good as it gets.
I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation. Instead, let me urge you to follow the links and read the smart commentary listed above.