Failure Theater: Foreign Policy guru edition

mystery science

We have covered Failure Theater in a fairly comprehensive way here at RedState. For latecomers, this is the genesis:

Sometimes you find terms that are so perfect that you just can’t let them pass. A good friend acquainted me with the idea of Cargo Cult Economics. Ace at Ace of Spades introduced me to a new one in the aftermath of the House and Senate kowtowing to a lawless action by Obama: Failure Theater.

Failure Theater is the process by which the Establishment deliberately fails to do achieve anything, but wants credit from the Dumb Conservatives they’re playing to for allegedly “trying.”

Each of Boehner’s and McConnell’s “defeats” are in fact planned in advance. They are not trying to advance the conservative agenda; they are attempting to con conservatives into believing they have attempted to implement conservative policy, when in fact they were delivering their political deliverables to their Donor Class paymasters all along.

Uneducated, gullible, and easily led: if we stand for this, we are exactly what the Washington Post slurred us as 30 years ago.


Like so many political games, once the utility is discovered (like off setting actual spending increases today with ephemeral cuts a decade from now, or discovering “state” means “federal”). Now it is being used by the foreign policy establishment to distance themselves from a disastrous negotiation process with Iran over its nuclear weapons.

The Iran nuclear deal is not done. Negotiations continue. The target deadline is June 30.  We know much about the emerging agreement. Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement.

The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It will however reduce that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years. And it will impose a transparency, inspection, and consequences regime with the goal of deterring and dissuading Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon.

The agreement does not purport to be a comprehensive strategy towards Iran. It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah and Hamas), its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen (its “regional hegemony”), its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people. The U.S. administration has prioritized negotiations to deal with the nuclear threat, and hopes that an agreement will positively influence Iranian policy in these other areas.

Even granting this policy approach, we fear that the current negotiations, unless concluded along the lines outlined in this paper and buttressed by a resolute regional strategy, may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a “good” agreement.

We are united in our view that to maximize its potential for deterring and dissuading Iran from building a nuclear weapon, the emerging nuclear agreement must – in addition to its existing provisions – provide the following:

[I won’t bore you with listing all the things that they are asking to be included — things which Obama promised would be included.]


Who signed it? A veritable galaxy of foreign policy stars. Via Omri Ceren of The Israel Project:

Robert Einhorn was the special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control at State until just before the interim deal, and literally wrote the book in 2014 on how the administration’s emerging concessions-laden Iran deal could still count as a good agreement. Gary Samore was the administration’s point man on arms control and WMDs from 2009-2013, and as of a week ago he was still publishing articles defending the impending agreement. [mc_name name=’Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000593′ ] had the Persian Gulf portfolio at State, David Petraeus ran the CIA, and Gen. James Cartwright was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – all positions that had them focusing enormous time on Iran. Even when the former Obama officials didn’t have Iran as part of their portfolio – David Makovsky was part of Kerry’s Middle East peace process push and Norman Eisen was ambassador to the Czech Republic – these are veteran diplomats who were serving in the administration until just very recently.

The rest of the list includes former Democratic Senators and Representatives, some of the city’s top think tankers, a range of former diplomats who served under Republican presidents, and Olli Heinonen, a multi-decade veteran of the IAEA and arguably the world’s single most careful analyst on verification and monitoring issues. These are simply not the kind of people who can be dismissed, let alone credibly attacked.


This is nothing more or less than Failure Theater. There is nothing they are objecting to that has not been in the press for nearly a year. They didn’t raise their objections when that master of Failure Theater, [mc_name name=’Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001071′ ], was shepherding Obama’s agreement through the Senate by standing the Constitution on its ear. No, these worthies wait until the train leaves the station and then make their objections known. This lets them go on record as being against the agreement Obama has negotiated so, a decade hence after an Iranian nuke has detonated somewhere, they can point to this meaningless gesture and say they opposed the agreement that gave Iran nuclear weapons. It also ensures they get invited to the right parties — I don’t know if Petraeus’s probation allows him to attend parties so maybe that isn’t a concern of all of them — and they don’t have to publicly take a stand that might get them blacklisted by the State Department.

C. S. Lewis summed it up best in The Abolition of Man

And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.



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