Kentucky families are more likely to have a personal connection to the U.S. military than most people in the country. In the nearly 12 years since the war in Iraq began, an awful lot of Kentuckians have experienced the costs of war.
With that in mind, it's important to take a sober look at the situation with Iran's nuclear program. Iran and world powers are painstakingly negotiating a final accord that will guard against an Iranian nuclear bomb.
The self-imposed deadline for these negotiations was Monday, but participants agreed to extend negotiations for seven months.
In reality, diplomacy is the only option to ensure true U.S. security.
Indeed, though some politicians and armchair warriors argue for "surgical strikes" to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, national security experts from both parties reject that notion. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director and National Security Agency chief under President George W. Bush, has noted that in the Bush administration, "The consensus was that (attacking Iran) would guarantee ... an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon."
Gen. James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command who would be tasked with any military action, concurred. "The military can buy our diplomats some time, but it cannot solve this problem."
That's why it is encouraging to see that efforts to avoid a war with Iran have made steady progress. Since the negotiations began in January, Iran's nuclear program has been frozen in place and intensely scrutinized.
A final agreement might not be reached, but through the negotiating process, Iran's stockpile of nuclear materials has been sharply reduced, and the frequency and scope of international inspections of its facilities has increased.
The bottom line is that Iran is quite a bit further from being able to make a bomb than it was a year ago.
Fresh off an election where probably every citizen of Kentucky saw more political ads than any of us care to remember, it's also important to recognize where we can all stand together as Americans.
It's a safe bet that one of the things we all agree on is the imperative of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon. It's in America's interest that these negotiations proceed successfully, no matter who is in the White House.
It is also in our interest to work together with our allies, and it's critical to underscore that we have been joined every step of the way in these negotiations by Britain, France and Germany, not to mention China and Russia.
While we don't always see eye to eye with the latter two nations, their participation is absolutely critical to its success and ultimately to a final agreement's enforcement.
With this Congress heading into its final session, let's hope they have the good sense to recognize the progress that's been made and keep domestic politics out of the negotiating process.
In practical terms, this means not attacking the president or the international negotiating team. It means recognizing that our allies oppose another round of sanctions, the Russians and Chinese oppose another round of sanctions, and the Iranians have stated that they will consider further sanctions as a breach of the agreement.
When our negotiators think another round of sanctions is more likely to derail the talks than strengthen them, it's probably a good idea to listen.
We must be willing to stand up for diplomatic solutions that ultimately will prevent the loss of more of Kentucky's military men and women. That will be the most effective way to ensure Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon.