Experts vs. Republicans

I’m a big believer in cue-taking.  Even if it seems you spend all your time reading and researching something, you cannot be an expert on that many things.  What I’ve learned to do is figure out who I can rely on for smart, sensible analysis and generally go with it.  And, in any area, I will always prefer the information from dispassionate analysts and experts than those who have a clear political stake in the matter.  On the Iran deal, this could not be more clear.  On one side we’ve got the vast majority of those who study and understand International conflict; on the other, we’ve got Republican politicians.  Bill Ayers nicely sums up this dynamic:

I still think that what I said then was largely true – we’re not having a debate or a discussion about the agreement, we’re simply seeing a lot of tribal flag-waving and fear-mongering by people who, consciously or otherwise, have an identity stake in the game. Dispassionate analysis is hard to come by.

Which is why we should be paying special attention in this case to those people for whom dispassionate analysis is their stock in trade. Some members of Congress may not like it, but there really is scientific work done around issues of international relations and conflict between nations. A lot of very smart people have spent the past several decades building a real base of knowledge about how conflict, power, and arms control work. They have done so, to a large degree, under the rules of science, including falsifiability and replicability of hypotheses and peer review. These are not political hacks, nor are they paid large sums of money for their conclusions.

So what are these people saying? Increasingly, the voices of scholars of international conflict are repeating the same points, to whit: the “Iran nuclear deal” is the best that can be achieved and is better than all of the alternatives. [emphasis mine]David Lake of UCSD has chimed in on this, as has Steve Saideman. Pete Trumbore found and helped broadcast an excellent piece by one of the deans of the field, Graham Allison. A number of prominent scholars have weighed in on Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog.

All of this work, of course, is being dismissed by those who have an ideological, political, or identity reason to reject the deal. Most of it, in fact, isn’t even being read by critics, despite being readily accessible.

Hey, I’m no expert on international conflict, but it doesn’t take one (nor a rocket scientist) to realize who you should be listening to on such matters.  And it’s pretty clear folks like those above not Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, or the gang on Fox News.  Ayers continues by talking about the last time we didn’t listen to the actual experts:

Where have we seen this story before? Shortly after the start of the Iraq war, 850 experts signed an open letter predicting that the war would be a disaster, one of the worst mistakes of American foreign policy in decades. That list included many of the most prominent names in the field, including David Lake, David Laitin, Charles Kupchan, Louis Kriesberg, John Mueller, and many more. Many of these had said the same thing before the war started…

So perhaps, before we rush to a new war with Iran (which is clearly what some of the negotiated agreement’s critics want), we should stop and think for a moment. We’ve seen this tune before. We don’t have to blunder into yet another crisis blindly. There is real expertise we can turn to. I have no expectation that the blowhards on TV and Capitol Hill will do so. But maybe some of us ordinary Americans might.

Or, you can just believe whatever Charles Krauthammer tells you.  He’s got nothing but your best interests at heart.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

11 Responses to Experts vs. Republicans

  1. Jon K says:

    I like Krauthammer, but he is way wrong on this one – as is bibi and Chuck Schumer (at least last i heard) and Bush and Rubio – but they all know that there aren’t enough votes for an override. That means they can use this for political pandering. They gain nothing by applauding the deal. If the Iranian cheat they get to say we told you so. If the deal is not broken it will cease being an issue. So I believe that we will see Congress vote no, Obama vetoes, override fails, deal implemented. This is all for theatre.

  2. rgbact says:

    Bill Ayers? Really? Sorry, I stopped reading after that.

    • Jon K says:

      i am 99.9% sure he is not talking about the guy from the weather underground. if you click the link you will see that is the name of a political science professor…

    • Steve Greene says:

      Oh, come on, I’ve linked to him enough by now that I figured I no longer had to make jokes about the Weather Underground guy. Also, if the Weather Underground guy had said this– and not a PS professor– they would still be good points.

      • rgbact says:

        Ah, I read it. Probably about as good as the WU guy anyway. I guess the premise is that there are no experts on the Republican side. Uh-huh. Its just really bizarre to me the whole attitude of university liberals that says they speak for scientists/experts….and nobody really disagrees with them. I sure hope universities haven’t become such bubbles. I fear so though.

  3. R. Jenrette says:

    If the Republicans had held their fire until the negotiating was done and they had read the agreement, they would have some credibility. What do the conservative foreign policy experts have to say about it, the ones who advised George H. W. Bush? And, no, Dick Cheney is not one of them after the Iraq fiasco.
    As for Schumer, he gave in to his voters. Watch for fireworks if he tries to become Democratic Leader.

    • Jon K says:

      Schumer will be leader… that is already a done deal. he is also jewish, and he isn’t as liberal as others in the senate. the question is will he vote to override the veto? that is what would get him in trouble. the white house is expecting the disapproval to pass congress. they are counting on their veto holding up. Schumer will only get in trouble if he pushes hard to get others to vote against it or participates in a successful veto override that blows up the deal. that is the only thing that could put his leadership position in jeopardy.

  4. Jon K says:

    i agree with drum. the deal is going to be implemented. it is just like i wrote yesterday, all we are seeing now is for pandering purposes and isn’t to be taken seriously. everyone knows this deal is the only deal on the table and the other option is a war. Republicans and democratic friends of israel can’t say they like the deal – they will get their symbolic disapproval when they pass it – but at the end of the day the deal stands. Why else do you think the White House agreed to let congress have their vote? Remember they were going to veto that because this isn’t a treaty. The deal they agreed to allowed for congress to say no, but it is meaningless without a super-majority that is impossible to build given the current demographics of congress. Notice everyone is still on vacation. Obama is still taking his, and congress is long gone. I don’t think the administration would just stand down if they were actually worried the deal is jeopardy. I also don’t think harry reid’s replacement would stab the president in the back like that. This way he gets to have his cake and eat it also.

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