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Tom Cotton Proves: History is Wasted on the Old


Bob Schieffer could barely contain his outrage at Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) for daring to warn the Iranian leadership that any nuclear deal would have to be ratified by the Senate, under the U.S. Constitution, to be binding. As Cotton explained in his appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Iran is clearly not hearing that from the Obama administration itself, which is desperate to achieve “peace at any price,” rather than using constitutional constraints as leverage to force a better deal.

It turns out that there is a precedent for this particular dispute–and a troubling one.

At the end of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading role in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles and the new League of Nations. But the League of Nations could not pass ratification in the Senate–partly because of Wilson’s arrogant, hectoring style, in which he accused his political rivals of acting, in effect, to help the enemy. The U.S. never joined that world body.

It is unclear whether American participation in the League of Nations could have saved it from its own weakness in the face of the imperial ambitions that fascist Italy and Nazi Germany would soon develop. Yet it beyond doubt that the absence of the U.S. from international affairs in the years after the war–of which its failure to participate in the League of Nations was but one aspect–contributed greatly to the instability that allowed Mussolini and Hitler to march the world again to war.

The League, and the Treaty, might have been strengthened if Congress had been involved or considered from the start. The Obama administration is now on the verge of committing a similar mistake by forcing through an agreement with Iran that arguably makes future war more likely. Cotton et al. are trying to prevent that outcome.

Schieffer is not quite old enough to remember the First World War, but surely he has heard of it. If youth is wasted on the young, history is wasted on the old.


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