Apparently the 2016 presidential campaign is going to be more about how the candidates express themselves than what they express, manners rather than issues. Now we have to be scandalized, or at least shocked, by ex-Gov. Huckabee's warning that the nuclear treaty with Iran, through its alleged lenience, brings the Jewish people closer to another genocide. Not only President Obama himself but some of Huckabee's rivals for the Republican nomination have deplored the Arkansan's hyperbole, while the former governor has stood his ground, backing it by citing menacing quotations from Iranian leaders and their associates. I'm not as pessimistic as he about the treaty, of course, but you can understand his attitude and that of all those who do not and will not trust Iran. As I noted earlier this month, the Iranians seem to have done nothing during all the negotiations to address the reasons why people mistrust them with nuclear power. Rather, their position during the negotiations has been along the lines of, "Lift the sanctions, bitch!" while Head Theocrat Khamenei has pretty much assured the world that Iran will not change its ways. It will continue to challenge "arrogance," whether on the part of Americans, Zionists or Sunnis. It will continue to indulge in "death to" rhetoric toward its antagonists. If Congress rejects the treaty by overriding Obama's expected veto of negatory legislation, Iran will have itself to blame along with Republican or Islamophobic prejudice. Huckabee may be a little hysterical on this and other issues, but the Iranians are equally hysterical in their fulminations against Zionism, which have as much justification as American bluster about regime change, and if we are to be outraged by Huckabee's fearmongering we ought to be as outraged by persistent Iranian warmongering. We needn't be outraged enough to reject any treaty with them -- nor should we act as if Huckabee has committed some sort of rhetorical atrocity. I don't think anyone is obliged to denounce him for anything beyond being an idiot, any more than Iranian idiocy means we should give up diplomacy as the neocons and Islamophobes wish.
Have I forgotten that the Israelis are jerks, too? Forgive that omission, but among their many injustices toward the Palestinians I hadn't noticed routine explicit threats of annihilation against Iran from the nation's leaders. I don't hear Netanyahu, who is certainly full of idiocies, calling for the return of the Pahlavi dynasty or the "liberation" of Iran. But Israel isn't the problem here; we are. What Americans need to understand is that our past and present rhetoric of regime change, no matter how much we claim it's for the good of subject peoples, is morally equivalent to the routine threats against Israel from Iran's Imperial Wizards and Grand Inquisitors. Both of us claim a right to destroy nations -- and where one failed against a particular nation in the 1980s, the other succeeded in the 21st century. To a certain extent we deserve each other, and both of us need to learn to behave better. The President may think, like Nixon and Mao, that hostile public rhetoric is a domestic political necessity that diplomats needn't take seriously as they build detente. But sabre-rattling self-indulgence isn't so easily ignored in the Middle East, where everyone will need to swallow some pride before they have peace. If the U.S. is to renounce regime change, the regimes themselves need to do some renouncing. They have as much right to destroy Israel, or else Sunnis and Shiites have as much right to subjugate each other, as we have to overthrow dictatorships that displease us. However you calculate those rights, they add up to zero. We ought to have zero tolerance of such claims whenever and wherever we hear them. Huckabee can be as pessimistic as he likes about the treaty, but if his only alternative is something pointing toward regime change, then we can and should be outraged.