Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
2015-08-01 15:57:32 -
World News

Fortunately for the Euro and the long-term stability of the European Union, Angela Merkel pulled Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble back from the brink of forcing a disastrous ‘Grexit’ from the Eurozone by agreeing to another bailout for the tax-challenged Greek nation. But in the process of doing so, Merkel and the EU also refused to acknowledge the necessity of forgiving some portion of Greece’s debt burden, instead claiming that they would only be willing to lower Greece’s interest rates and give it more time to pay its debts.


This kind of “wishful thinking” flies in the face of the conclusions of a recent IMF study, which has been endorsed by the best economic minds in the world, that says the IMF should not participate in any more bailouts because Greece’s current debt load is “unpayable”. According to the IMF and the European Central Bank, Greece’s EU creditors need to agree to ‘haircuts’ of 10-40 per cent on the value of their bonds or a debt repayment moratorium of up to 30 years. So stay tuned, because even though Greece will stay in the Eurozone, we have not heard the last about its debts.


Of course European political leaders are by no means the only politicians who suffer from varying degrees of wishful thinking, which has also been called ‘reality avoidance’ or denial. But no matter what you call it, there is an implicit assumption that these politicians are not actually lying and that they at least half-believe what they are saying. On the other hand, more cynical observers prefer to say that these political leaders are simply lying to voters and telling them what they want to hear so they can get reelected, instead of telling them the honest truth.


A case in point is the recently completed nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. In Israel, Prime Minister ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu and most members of the Knesset on both the left and right continue to wail that the deal is tantamount to a national disaster. One of their favourite lines of attack is to compare the Iran deal to the 1938 Munich agreement that allowed Nazi Germany to annex the predominately German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia on its borders. Their analogy is that America is selling out Israel the same way Britain sold out Czechoslovakia.


Unfortunately for the citizens of Israel, most of the Israeli news media, with the notable exception of Haaretz and i24News, have been complicit in amplifying politicians’ hysterical tirades against the nuclear accord and drowning out the opinions of those who think it is good for Israel. For example, Ariel Levite, one of Israel’s most respected nuclear scientists and the former deputy director general of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, argues that the accord is actually very good for Israel.


Levite points out that the sweeping limitations on nuclear research and development as well as uranium enrichment that Iran has agreed to virtually guarantee that Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon for at least 15 more years. Another respected Israeli nuclear expert, Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, has likewise pointed out that the Iran deal is a good one. But instead of giving equal time to Israel’s nuclear experts, the Israeli news media have allowed politicians explaining how bad the deal is to dominate the airwaves.


Here in the States, all 16 Republican candidates for US President and most Republicans in Congress apparently suffer from the same annoying affliction. Like their Israeli counterparts, all of these Republicans have also suddenly become nuclear ‘experts’ who will likewise tell anyone who cares to listen why this is a bad deal. Their objections are that the accord allows Iran to retain some nuclear development facilities; doesn’t stop Iran from supporting militant groups like Hezbollah; isn’t strict enough; and isn’t strong enough on inspections.


Both Netanyahu and his allies in the Knesset, as well as most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, claim that President Barack Obama made too many concessions to Iran because he was so anxious to strike a deal. In their infinite wisdom, they’d have us believe that they could have forged a much better deal by taking a harder line in negotiations. But if you examine their main objections closely, you will see that these are actually objections to any type of deal with Iran.


Netanyahu and his Republican allies claim that President Obama could have forced Iran to agree to a better deal by applying more pressure in the form of additional sanctions. But this is at best wishful thinking and at worst wilful lying, because they were all aware that the existing sanctions were on the verge of collapsing. The reality was that Russia was anxious to resume selling arms to Iran, and China was also eager to resume buying oil and gas. So to claim that continued or additional sanctions were a viable approach is reality avoidance.


The reality here is that unlike Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel itself, President Obama has for the first time in history forced a country to abandon its nuclear ambitions against its will. But until we stop electing politicians who are masters of wishful thinking instead of facing reality, we have only ourselves to blame for our political leaders’ ineptitude and failures.



Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.

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