Why the Release of American Prisoners in Iran Doesn’t Prove Anything

Here is the Associated Press video of President Obama boasting about the liberation of American prisoners held in Iran:

Is this a “good day,” as President Obama avers?

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It is certainly a good day for the released prisoners and their families.

And, all things being equal, I agree that diplomacy is preferable to war.

But the release of the prisoners does not prove that the President’s diplomacy in Iran has been good for America as he seems to want us to believe.

After all, what is “diplomacy”? Basically, diplomacy between two nations is each giving the other what they want in order to get what they want. So Obama gave Iran a nuclear deal and they met our conditions—which may or may not be stringent enough. The deal wasn’t made in exchange for the prisoners (we also released some Iranian prisoners). But it wasn’t until after the deal was made that we were able to get prisoners released. So whether it is a good day for the United States depends on whether that nuclear deal is in the nation’s long-term interests. If that deal is a bad deal, as many are insisting, then the release of prisoners doesn’t make it better—even though we are happy for them and their families.

If it turns out to be a bad deal, however, it will probably not break down until after Obama leaves office. Basically, the President gets to bask in the glory of freed prisoners, but he won’t have to face any consequences for making a bad decision.

So those who think the President’s deal is a good one shouldn’t use the release of American prisoners as the reason why. That simply is not persuasive. It shouldn’t be persuasive. The argument must be based on the details of the nuclear deal itself.

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