Thursday, June 08, 2006


Dishonor and War

Michael Ledeen decries the latest steps toward entering into “fruitful negotiations” with Iran in a piece up at National Review Online.

Ledeen rightfully observes that, in lieu of actually deploying former President Bill Clinton to stage a replay of our Nuclear Negotiating Strategy with North Korea, we’ve opted for running negotiations from Clinton’s playbook.

Ledeen captures the foolishness in a series of easy-to-grasp nutshells:

We have actually set a clever trap for ourselves. The carrots are precisely what negotiations were supposed to be all about, and here we’ve offered them in advance of talks. The Iranians are certainly smart enough to say “well, that’s interesting, and maybe if you make the pot a bit more caloric, we might even agree to suspend enrichment. Let’s talk about it.” The Europeans and our statesmen will declare a diplomatic triumph and they will say to Bush that we do indeed have to talk about it, and then we will have lost even this little gambit. We will have undertaken negotiations, and the Iranians will not have ceased enrichment. We will still not have an Iran policy, we will still have done nothing to support freedom in Iran, and we will still be pretending it is possible to win a regional war by playing defense in Iraq alone.

The political consequences of such foolishness are very hard to calculate, but it is certain that any Iranian contemplating risking his or her life on behalf of a free Iran will be discouraged at the spectacle. It is also certain that this demarche-to use a word much beloved by the diplomats—will reinforce the extremely dangerous conviction in Tehran that they are winning, and we will do nothing to threaten them. This is what makes the latest gambit so self-destructive. It will encourage the mullahs to intensify their attacks—real attacks, not merely verbal ones—on all fronts. They think we are headed out of Iraq, in abject humiliation, as a result of their terror war against us, and they will now redouble those efforts.

Would you not do the same in their position? Of course you would, and you would do it even if you were not a fanatic, you would do it if you were a student of Bismarck and Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.

It’s not a choice between a fight and surrender. As Ledeen observes, it’s a question of when and under what conditions we will fight. On our terms now, or under worse conditions later:

I do not believe we will surrender and give them a free hand, but our current behavior only makes the ultimate confrontation with Iran more difficult and likely more violent than it need be. No matter how unwilling Western leaders may be to respond to their 27-year war against us, we cannot escape it, because they will not permit us to escape. It is a conflict we can either win or lose, but we cannot opt out of it. Eventually we will be compelled to respond.

Ledeen concludes with a warning from Churchill, applied once upon a time in the West, when Hitler and Nazism was the gathering threat, that so many in Europe and the US desired to wish away:

At the moment, most of our leaders are trying desperately to convince themselves that there is a way out, that we can make a grand bargain, that we do not have to confront the mullahs. It is the illogic of appeasement so well described by Churchill after Munich. Chamberlain, he said, had to choose between war and dishonor. Chamberlain chose dishonor, and he got war. This is the risk our leaders are running today.

Scott Ott at Scrappleface uses humor to capture the essence of the illogic. Of course the Iranians would be only to glad to avoid buying and developing their way to a nuclear weapons. But if we would be willing to give them everything they need, why, they will certainly be interested in sitting down and talking about that very thing.

Either way, they get their nukes.

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