Movies are not real. The characters in movies are not real. John Wayne was not Marion Morrison’s real name.

     So maybe candidates trying to become the leader of the free world should stop implying that America should be more like John Wayne and just whip those Iranian Ayatollahs into submission.

     On July 13, after decades of non-communication, years of punishing sanctions, and months of intense negotiations, Iran and America signed an agreement in which Iran will roll back its nuclear weapons development capability in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

     The agreement is 80 pages long. Each word has been negotiated. It covers complicated requirements and has serious implications for the future of the Middle East, as well as American-Iranian relations. Congress has approximately 60 days to accept or reject it. Both Iran and the U.S. will see internal opposition.

     The sanctions brought Iranian negotiators to the table. They found a willing partner in President Obama, who demonstrated his understanding of the community-organizing trope that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies.

     In 1979, revolutionaries overthrew the Shah of Iran and embarrassed Americans by holding 52 of us hostage in Tehran. President Jimmy Carter looked powerless, especially after a rescue attempt failed with the whole world watching. Crowds took to the streets to burn American flags while chanting that America was The Great Satan.

     In a recent interview, President Carter revealed that America was not entirely powerless. None of the hostages was hurt or killed because he told Ayatollah Khomeini directly that should either of those things happen, Iran would pay the ultimate price.

     That kind of threat can no more elicit compromise in the real world than it could produce the hostages’ release. Military power does not equal long-term foreign policy. Hard bargaining does.

     The Iranian streets may erupt with anti-American demonstrations. Israeli hardliners, understanding how tenuous safety and security are in ways Americans never can, are insisting that Iran be given no quarter. So far, the best way to describe initial reactions from the Republican presidential-candidate horde is, “OMG, OMG, we are all going to die!”

     Sanctions brought Iran to the table. An agreement required accepting that the perfect is not possible. Now, Congress should read the agreement, debate the issues involved seriously, and make a final decision in the real world.

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