Read some of the most prominent critics of the Iran nuclear deal and you’ll notice something: They seem to be preparing their alibis in case Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it proves a catastrophic mistake. Trump, wrote Bret Stephens on Tuesday in The New York Times, “was absolutely right” to leave the agreement, “assuming, that is, serious thought has been given to what comes next.” On Twitter, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), perhaps the most relentlessly anti–Iran deal think tank in Washington, explained that, “I have concerns. It’s a high risk strategy with potentially big rewards if it can be successfully implemented but dangerous consequences if it isn’t.” Last week, near the end of a series of exchanges at The Atlantic with the former Obama administration official Philip Gordon, in which he repeatedly bashed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, Dubowitz’s FDD colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht declared that, “It isn’t that hard to devise a credible post-JCPOA approach to the clerical regime.” But he later added, “I do not know whether Trump is capable of pulling this off.”
This is malpractice. It’s malpractice because whether the Trump administration has given “serious thought” to “what comes next,” and whether its post–Iran deal strategy “can be successfully implemented” are questions Stephens, Dubowitz, and Gerecht have an obligation to factor into their analysis of whether Trump should withdraw at all. You can’t cordon off the practical consequences of leaving the deal from the theoretical virtue of doing so. In theory, I’d like my 10-year-old to cook our family a four-course meal. But unless I have good reason to believe she’s “capable of pulling this off,” it’s irresponsible for me to scrap our current dinner plans.