Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Violation of Logan Act?

For John, BLUFThe 47 Senators may have been wrong in writing the letter to Iran, but that doesn't mean the President has it right.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The International New York Times we have an article on the 47 Republican Senators who wrote an open letter to the Iranian Leadership, "Politics and Tradition Collide Over Iran Nuclear Talks".  The Reporters are Messsrs Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger and the dateline is 10 March 2015.  I touched on this issue yesterday, here.  That blog post elicited a comment from Craig H, including a reference to the Logan Act.

Here is a key paragraph, showing how positions shift, depending upon who is in office and who isn't.  Note the emphasis here is on executive agreements as opposed to treaties.  Treaties have to go before the US Senate.

In 2008, for instance, Mr. Bush signed an agreement with Iraq permitting American forces to remain there until the end of 2011. At the time, Mr. Obama, then a senator, and other Democrats objected that Congress should get to vote on it. “The notion that President Bush could somehow tie the hands of the next president, I think, is contrary to how our democracy’s supposed to work,” Mr. Obama said then.
Now the shoe is on the other foot.

So, on to the Logan Act and its enforcement.

Other Democrats even suggested it may violate the Logan Act, a law passed under President John Adams making it illegal for any citizen “without authority of the United States” to carry on a correspondence with a foreign government “with intent to influence the measures or conduct” of that government or “to defeat the measures of the United States.”

While lawmakers in both parties have been accused of violating it over the years, it has never been enforced in modern times.  Lawyers and former officials said the Republican letter probably would not cross the legal line because it was styled as an “open letter” and not actually sent to Iran, similar to an op-ed in the newspaper.

I think the reporters may be incorrect in their statement "it has never been enforce in modern times."  I believe there have been no convictions, ever.  But, if we are going to enforce it, to be fair, we need to have a long queue, with the 47 current Senators at the end of a line that would include former President Jimmy Carter and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Frankly, I think it would be a waste of the Taxpayers' money.

For me the more important question is, what is our goal and what are our means to achieve it.  I would argue that our goal is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran.  Are means to achieve that goal are limited.  We can impose sanctions until they start dying.  We can bomb them every once in a while.  We can foment a revolution that brings in leaders who agree with us.  We can negotiate.  The first one would just bring us more grief and would lose support amongst the other nations.  The second would involve loss of life on our side and would have to be repeated time and again, and in the end might only delay their acquisition of nuclear weapons, but leave them more angry than now.  The third we tried in the 1950s and it was not a long term success.  Thus we have negotiations.

About negotiations, there are serious question about the path the President is on.  What is the long term value of a ten year pause in Iran's search for nuclear weapons?  It will look good on President Obama's resume, and SecState John Kerry's, but it may only kick the can down the road.  At the end of ten years it will be Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will have to face the music.  Where will we be?

One thing we can do now is to work on a new nuclear deterrent policy, one that deals more specifically with regional nuclear powers.  Another thing we can do it stop dismantling our nuclear deterrent.  Those who argue that war isn't the answer need to go back and reexamine the question.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One thing we could do is invite Iran to attend our nuclear targeting courses, to learn what nuclear weapons really can (and can't) do.  Another thing, if they acquire nuclear weapons, is help them develop strong safing and arming devices.  Rolling a B-61 off the back of a truck won't cause it to turn into a nuclear mushroom cloud.

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