Tag Archives: Iran

47 Senators We Need to Send Home

By  now, anyone who regularly reads this blog is aware of the letter sent to Iran by 47 Republican Senators.

Vice-President Biden’s response was–considering the provocation–temperate.

The Constitution vests authority for international relations in the President, as the Supreme Court has confirmed. Until we elected a President named Obama, there was also widespread political consensus that partisan squabbles stopped at the water’s edge.

The appalling conduct of Congressional Republicans–first, thumbing their nose at the President by circumventing protocol and inviting Netanyahu, and now, with an effort to sabotage delicate negotiations with Iran (and in so doing probably plunge the nation into yet another war)–is surely illegal, if not traitorous.

My friend Bill Groth is a lawyer who has researched the Logan Act, 18 U.S.C. § 953. He reports:

It was passed in 1799 and last amended in 1994. Here’s what it says: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

In 1936 the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304, noted that the President is the sole constitutional representative of the U.S. with regard to foreign nations.

Even people who detested and despised George W. Bush, who believed his decisions were taking the country down a dangerous, wrong-headed road, never stooped to this level. And while I never expected to agree with Dick Cheney about anything, here’s what he said about the respective roles of Congress and the Executive when the shoe was on the other foot:

[T]hroughout the Nation’s history, Congress has accepted substantial exercises of Presidential power — in the conduct of diplomacy, the use of force and covert action –[M]uch of what President Reagan did in his actions toward Nicaragua and Iran were constitutionally protected exercises of inherent Presidential powers. … [T]he power of the purse … is not and was never intended to be a license for Congress to usurp Presidential powers and functions.”

Elections are the remedy for Presidential decisions with which we disagree.

When elected lawmakers allow their hatred of a President to outweigh their duty to their country, they are unfit for public office.

We Need a Prime Directive

My husband and I recently watched a re-run of Star Trek: Voyager. The story-line revolved around the application and importance of the “Prime Directive.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek (is that even possible??), the Prime Directive is the guiding rule developed by the future’s Federation of Planets: officers of Starfleet are expressly forbidden from interfering with the internal affairs of other planets and civilizations, no matter how well-meaning that interference or how potentially disastrous the results of non-intervention. The difficulty of complying with the Prime Directive has obvious dramatic possibilities, most of which have been mined extensively by the various Star Trek spin-offs.

On rare occasions, where the provocation was overwhelming, interference with other civilizations worked out, but usually in episodes where the Prime Directive was ignored, things ended badly.

Americans could learn a few things from Star Trek. At this stage of planetary development, we are the “big kahuna’s,” the analogs of the sheriffs in the old westerns, or the Federation forces in Star Trek. We are all too easily seduced by the temptations–and delusions–that come with power.

A Prime Directive might have kept us out of Viet Nam and Iraq. It might have kept us from confusing self-interest with self-defense.

At the very least, the existence of a Prime Directive would require serious public consideration of the  reasons being offered to justify a proposed intervention, the adequacy of those reasons, and the validity and reliability of the facts offered to support such justification.

When I hear Santorum, Gingrich and Romney rattling sabers at Iran and spouting nationalistic bromides in an effort to pander to the least thoughtful elements of the electorate, I can’t help marveling that an old science-fiction series displays more substance, more gravitas, more maturity, than the Republicans who are currently competing for their party’s nomination for President.

I can’t imagine Santorum, for example, a man who feels no compunction telling other people and other nations how (his) God wants them to live, and who promises to impose (his version of) “morality” on the rest of us should he be elected, embracing–or even understanding–a Prime Directive.