Peak Narrative: The Iranian Nuke Deal That Wasn’t

Bill Frezza Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, with the cooperation of the mainstream media, are attempting to pull off a coup. No, not against Congress, but against reality. Headlines blare “Iran Agrees to Detailed Nuclear Outline” and “Iran Nuclear Deal Is First Step to Mending Ties.”

Wait a minute. What deal?

Where is the signed piece of paper – any signed piece of paper – upon which all the negotiators have placed their signatures under the same words, English and Farsi translations side by side? You can read dozens of news reports and analyses, but figuring out that such a signed document does not exist is like finding the dog that didn’t bark.

Read the U.S. Statement describing the “framework agreement.” Read the independently issued Iranian Statement. Do they look the same to you?

Apart from declaring victory over another news cycle, is the White House really going to try and convince the American people that it has “sealed a deal” that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful? Based on the celebrations in the streets of Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appear to have convinced the Iranian people that economic sanctions will be lifted while their country’s nuclear development proceeds apace. These two things cannot both be true.

Put aside the actual contents or wisdom of pursuing a treaty with Iran, we’ll leave that to others. The analysis we are not hearing is that this narrative marks a new milestone in international diplomacy – each side hearing what it wants to hear, believing what it wants to believe, and telling its gullible citizens whatever it wants to tell them. If that isn’t the signal accomplishment of a postmodern presidency, what is?

And yet, pundits and the press are busily engaged in a deep debate over the details of the alleged deal. Are the terms in America’s best interests? Does Congress have the power to modify, block, or approve some, none, or all of it? Will this “historic understanding,” as the president calls it, “make our country, our allies, and our world safer?” Can Iranians be trusted to keep their word even as they continue chanting “Death to America?” (Have no fear, CBS informs us, this is merely out of habit, and does not imply evil intent.)

It gets crazier from there. Does this non-agreed to agreement have the force of law? For example, is the President of the United States going to use it as a justification for issuing executive orders? Are we ready, as a country, to suspend reality and participate in a shared illusion? Why hasn’t this Emperor’s-New-Clothes routine been met with derisive laughter instead of engaged debate?

If we the people really decide to suspend reality, this is a far greater threat to our country than Iranian nukes. Because once we are ready to believe that A can equal not A, then anything is possible, nothing can be logically refuted, and all that matters is pure will wrapped in smooth spin. The Republic has survived all manner of political disputes, and many presidents have done their best to shred the Constitution. But this is the first time a president has tried to shred the very foundations of rationality.

What is perhaps more frightening; our Nobel Peace Prize winning president might actually believe the words coming out of his mouth. Surrounded as he is by sycophants, handlers, and his handmaidens in the press, he might not be playing some deep Machiavellian game. He might actually think that the narratives he and his team concoct control reality. That these narratives, in fact, are reality, because, because … it depends what “it” is.

And thus, we have achieved Peak Narrative, a condition that normally obtains only in totalitarian states where propaganda ministries have such complete control over information that entire nations are driven to insane acts. Yet, somehow, we managed to accomplish this with a free press.

The fault, dear citizens, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.