Despite all these weaknesses, it’s possible Obama’s Iran deal could be worth it. If Iran keeps its word and over time the government changes or moderates, then Obama will have kept the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous regime. He could even be taking advantage of what Council on Foreign Relations president emeritus Leslie Gelb on Tuesday called “the strategic opportunity to begin converting Iran from foe to ‘friend.’ ” But given the Iranian’s aggression during the negotiations when they had so much to lose, that seems unlikely.
Maybe the real benefit, at least from Obama’s perspective, is that the nuclear deal will pave the way for America’s full exit from the Middle East. After more than a decade of war and nation-building, the region is less stable and more dangerous than it was on 9/11. The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, who supports the deal, says what its critics are really doing is “blaming Obama for the fact that the United States is not omnipotent.” Perhaps we have reached the limits of what American leadership can do in that part of the world. But if that’s true, Obama should have the decency to level with us about it. This deal is not an affirmation of American leadership. It’s a recognition of American exhaustion.