As always, speaking for myself and not my employer.
I'll start with an in-depth discussion of competing nuclear strategies for the United States.
Clark Murdoch and his team are valued colleagues (though Sam has gone on to greener pastures). While I disagree with Clark on a good number of issues, I think his approach of using workshops and competing teams gets to the core of what think tanks do best, acting as a home for informed arguments. My expertise does not lie in this area, but my inclinations align with Barry Blechman and Russell Rumbaugh of the Stimson Center. The left can accurately complain that they're generally excluded from such debates in the national security sphere, but frankly I'm often relieved to find an argument at all rather than the low-end Kabuki that the Farley article describes. I'll always be grateful to Clark for stirring the pot from the audience at one of our events some years ago, providing some relief from a panel that was unexpectedly aligned rather than debating.
Robert Farley of the Patterson school makes the controversial case that most of the hawkish and regional players don't care about Iran's nuclear program as much as they claim. I'm not sure I agree with the hard case of this argument, but the soft version seems quite robust to me. Those forces opposing the nuclear deal have revealed that, absent revolutionary changes to the Iranian government, they care more about maintaining an adversarial relationship than they do about minimizing the likelihood of an Iranian breakout. This is a multilateral deal, backed by Europe, Russia, and China. The alternatives opponents suggest would cause the multilateral coalition to fall apart and even military strikes would only delay Iran some small number of years. I think Farley goes too far to say various factions do not care about nuclear weapons; they just are lower on the priority list than advertised.
Over time, we’ve come to see nuclear weapons as Hersey saw them, as the ultimate expression of material and spiritual evil of total war. The bomb has come to represent the ability of our civilization to destroy itself and our nagging fear that our political and social institutions are inadequate to save us from the abyss.
This norm, really this fear, helps explain why nuclear weapons have not been used again in anger in the intervening 70 years. One might point to deterrence, but nor have we used the bomb against states with no nuclear weapons. Even Eisenhower hesitated in response to suggestions nuclear weapons night help relieve French forces trapped by the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu.
I think the President and those directly involved deserve tremendous credit for the Iran deal. Even though the then-Senator Obama's intention to pursue such a deal was the deciding factor for me back during the 2008 primary, at best I'd figured it was a 50-50 thing. But I'll end with Lewis's closing words:
A visit to Hiroshima would be a chance for the president to get it right and to reflect on his legacy. Maybe he would be satisfied that he has done enough — he has done more than many — but Hiroshima is powerful place. Amid the meetings and motorcades, I think the reality of the place may sneak under the cordons and around the bodyguards. It might slip past that famously cool façade and tickle him under the collar. I think the place would ruffle him a bit, more than he likes to admit. And I think like anyone else who visits, he’ll wish he had done more.