What is it about former US Administration officials that makes them tough on Iran while inside – and then go soft once they hit the streets?
This is precisely the question asked recently in a cynical tweet from Mark Hibbs, senior associate in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It caught our eye, and we decided the issue deserves a post.
Let’s take Robert Einhorn as a test case. For five years Einhorn played a senior role in setting administration policy regarding Iran (and before that accumulated years of arms control experience). Now – just two months outside Foggy Bottom and comfortably settled into a Brookings Institute post – Einhorn is already proposing how to “get to yes” with Iran.
Einhorn isn’t alone. Gary Seymour, who served as the White House’s top counterproliferation official until January, recently stated that the administration should offer Tehran a comprehensive nuclear deal.
One small problem, of course: Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani – like Ahmadinejad before him – won’t determine nuclear policy. So in effect, while Einhorn and Seymour are proposing concessions, nothing has actually changed on the ground.
The great thing about the term “ex-official” is that it’s for life. And so all sorts of characters with an agenda can present themselves as “ex-officials” and try to get away with the aura of once being in-the-know. Despite our criticism, we’re actually not talking here about serious people like Einhorn and Seymour. We’re barely referring to Thomas Pickering, who clearly has an agenda – as demonstrated (once again) by his signature on this letter and a recent article in the New York Review of Books.
No, we’re talking the “others” who hide behind them.
At least Dennis Ross, another ex-official, is consistent. Integrity, anyone?