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The lessons we should learn from the Iraq war:

Mike Breen, an Iraq war combat veteran, shares the lessons Congress needs to remember when they consider their vote for the Iran deal.

Today, Mike Breen -- an Iraq war veteran from New Hampshire -- shared his perspective on the lessons we've learned from the Iraq war and why we must remember them when considering the Iran deal. Didn't get the message? Sign up for email updates here. 

This week, critics of the Iran deal -- including Former Vice President Dick Cheney -- are gathering in Washington.

It's a safe bet that they will call for abandoning our diplomatic deal with Iran and the world, and call for a dangerously simplistic vision of American "leadership" based on unilateral action that would ultimately leave us with a choice between accepting a nuclear Iran or using military force.

This is no abstract debate. Those, like me, who have served, understand all too well the sacrifice that is required when diplomacy is abandoned. I have spent much of my adult life attempting to redeem the aftermath of a deeply unnecessary and misguided war in Iraq in the name of non-proliferation. Having served in Iraq myself as an Army officer, and then worked with Iraqi refugee families facing desperate circumstances in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, I believe we must ask a simple question of anyone wishing to be taken seriously on matters of national security today: What have you learned from the Iraq war?

Some, it is clear, have learned disturbingly little. You can see what I mean here.

Some of the same people who supported premature military action in Iraq, based on faulty intelligence, remain eager to reject tough diplomacy now. Remarkably, many of them have made clear that they reject the very idea of negotiating with Iran at all.

We must remember how radical that view truly is.

Presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon to Kennedy, from Reagan to Bush Sr., knew that sometimes, facing our adversaries across the negotiating table is a better way to advance our interests, promote our values, and improve our security than rushing to face them on the battlefield. They understood that tough, principled diplomacy is a hallmark of our strength -- and that exhausting diplomatic options before asking our men and women in uniform to confront the awful face of battle is a basic responsibility of leadership.

Embracing the use of force as a first option, while rejecting the very idea of tough negotiations with dangerous countries, is a departure from our nation's best strategic traditions and most essential moral values. The costs of that departure have been great, and remain with us to this day. We who have spent our lives since 9/11 on the front lines of a dangerous world have learned from our shared experience that America can -- and must -- do better, and be smarter.

Using tough, principled diplomacy, backed by strength, to reduce the threat posed by our enemies is one of America's greatest bipartisan traditions.

You can learn more about how the Iran deal reflects that tradition and how it will work here:

This deal with Iran reflects the painful lessons of our recent past, and represents a higher form of renewed American leadership. America rallied support for sanctions around the world, forced Iran to the table, and delivered a tough deal based on verification -- not trust. If Iran abides by the terms, that leadership will have improved our security and safeguarded our allies without putting American lives at risk. If Iran cheats, or threatens our security in other ways, we will be watching – with every tool of our national power remaining at our disposal, much better intelligence, and the world committed to standing with us in our response.

We must remember our essential goal: To prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This deal accomplishes that goal.

And if Iran does choose conflict, there is nothing in this deal that gives away the power and resolve of our military, or our commitment to defend our nation and our allies. Make no mistake. The men and women I was once privileged to serve alongside will fight and win on any battlefield our elected civilian leaders may choose. That is their responsibility. Ours is to learn from painful experience, and choose with wisdom worthy of their service.

The radical worldview that led to the Iraq war belongs to the past. Our generation has charted a new course for the future. Embracing tough, principled diplomacy as a first resort is the best way forward for our nation and the world.

Thanks for listening,


Mike Breen
Portsmouth, New Hampshire