April 16, 2015 | Forbes

The Iran Deal: Forget About Stability, Our Strategy Should Be Survival

As you’d expect, the critique of the U.S.-Iran “understanding” by former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz has a lot of wisdom, some of which is aimed at the content of an acceptable nuclear deal, its verification and enforcement, and some of which lays out the likely (very dangerous) consequences if the “understanding” were to be finalized more or less as is.

The attorneys out there would say that it’s all moot, since there is no deal. Any lingering doubts have now been blown up by the Iranian Supreme Leader. All that was agreed at Lausanne was that everyone will keep talking.

Still, I can’t remember a time when two former secretaries of state so strongly condemned a presidential foreign policy initiative, so it behooves us to pay attention.

As befits senior statesmen, they are trying to educate their readers about the fundamentals of international strategy and diplomacy, as they understand them and as they practiced them. They are looking for ways to advance “stability,” a word that appears frequently in their essay. To those who see a U.S.-Iran deal on nukes as a precursor to mutual cooperation in other areas—an objective President Obama has pursued since 2008, they warn: 

“Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability. There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding.” 

Indeed, the opposite is true: Iran’s leaders, whom Kissinger and Shultz accurately call “revolutionaries,” assail us even when we fight alongside one another:

“Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order…” 

In other words, the destruction and/or domination of America is the core mission of the Islamic Republic. They mean it when they chant “Death to America.”

Can we successfully cooperate with our own gravediggers? Don’t forget that Iranian troops and terrorists have killed thousands of Americans, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember, too, that the Iranians were caught red-handed in a scheme to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to America by blowing up a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. These are components of an unstable world, not one in which skilled diplomats can resolve fundamental conflicts by the patient application of the “talking cure.”

Shultz and Kissinger were masters of strategy at an unusual moment in human history, the half century following the end of World War II. Relative peace was enforced by agreements between the two superpowers, and the rest of the world acted accordingly. But our world is quite different (and historically more common). The parameters of stability are gone; the world is in turmoil. Its rules will be defined by the outcome of the conflicts on most every continent.

Forget about the quest for stability. For most nations and most peoples in our world, strategy is aimed at survival. The kind of diplomacy that brings stability—the sort that Kissinger and Shultz want, but that Obama and Kerry have thus far failed to craft—doesn’t occur while the war is on; it comes at the post-war peace conference, where the winners dictate conditions for a new stability to the losers.

President Obama dreams of flying to Tehran to celebrate a new relationship with the Islamic Republic, as Kissinger flew to Beijing to seal the strategic accord with the People’s Republic of China. It’s not going to happen.

Shultz and Kissinger help us understand the administration’s failures to date, but they don’t go quite far enough. The real problems, the ones that must be solved before any stable new relationship can possibly work, await the outcome of conflicts throughout a world that neither the president nor the former secretaries of state have fully described or analyzed.

lran has been waging war against us for 35 years—one they cannot abandon without changing the essence of their regime, whatever any American president may desire. Nor can this fundamental conflict be resolved by traditional statecraft, no matter how brilliantly defined and practiced. There is no easy way out of the conflict; we will either win or lose.

At the moment, American strategy ignores the central facts about our world, and thus neither Obama’s vision of a new partnership nor the Kissinger-Shultz appeal for a more realistic strategy to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear weapons program is in the cards. The best outcome was laid out several years ago by the editors of the Washington Post: If you want to solve the Iranian nuclear program, work for regime change in Tehran.