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The Idea of a Bargain

Kevin Drum rounds up the latest in conservative humor:

Ponnuru: Chicago is out of contention….But I’m sure that Obama will be a lot more persuasive with the Iranians.

Miller: Wow, what an embarrassment for Obama. If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?

Lowry: We Can Take Some Comfort….in this distressing hour that the Iranians, Russians, Chinese et al. are push-overs compared to the International Olympic Committee. Right?

These are lame jokes, yes, but I also think they reveal the profound misunderstanding of how international relations works that exists on the right. The competition to host the 2016 Olympics is just that, a competition. It’s a friendly competition, yes, but it’s still a competition. It’s zero sum. If Rio wins, then Chicago and Sao Paulo and Tokyo lose. But the overall relationship between the United States and Iran is not a zero-sum competition. A world in which Iran accepts verifiable safeguards on its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and a relaxation of American sanctions is a world in which both the United States and Iran wind up better off. A world in which the US and Iran cooperate in Afghanistan is a world is which both the United States and Iran wind up better off. If we fight in Iran, we both wind up worse off.

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That’s the idea, at any rate, and it’s just the same with US-Russia relations and all the rest. The idea isn’t that Obama is going to use his Mighty Death Stare and win concessions. The idea is that there are mutually beneficial deals to be struck.