Sunday, August 14, 2005

President Gung Ho!

Whada' say, Duke
Let's Give Iran a Nuke

In an interview with the Israeli press, President Bush rattled the saber when speaking of Iran's reopening of its nuclear facilities.

"Asked if he would consider force, he replied: “All options are on the table.” He added: “The use of force is the last option for any president and you know we’ve used force in the recent past to secure our country.”

If memory serves me, this "all options are on the table" is almost the exact phrasing Bush used when speaking of Saddam's Iraq just a few years (and thousands of lives) ago.

The problem Bush has with this kind of bluster is simple. With our entire available military resources deployed, we can not contain the insurgency in Iraq. We can not protect the Iraqi people nor can the richest nation on the planet find ways to provide the people of the country we invaded with clean water or reliable electrical service.

Given that Iraq has drained our resources and credibility, how can Bush take such a belligerent and counter-productive stance towards Iran? Like much of the Bush Bluster, this position runs counter to the best interests of the United States.

Fareed Zakaria in the new edition of Newsweek has some advice for the President.

"Don't make hollow threats.

Two things are very expensive in international politics, the game-theorist Thomas Schelling once observed: threats when they fail and promises when they succeed. President Bush appears to be headed on a path that could teach him this lesson."

The President's bluster sent our only reliable ally, the British, running for cover.

“Our position is clear and has been made very, very clear by the foreign secretary,” a spokesman said. “We do not think there are any circumstances where military action would be justified against Iran. It does not form part of British foreign policy.”

Zakaria has more good advice for President Bush.

"The one man who has had extensive negotiations with the Iranians, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said to me a few months ago that Tehran is seeking a grand bargain: a comprehensive normalization of relations with the West in exchange for concessions on nuclear issues. It will never give up its right to a nuclear program, he argues, but it would allow such a program to be monitored to ensure that it doesn't morph into a weapons project. But the prize they seek, above all, is better relations with the United States. "That is their ultimate goal," he said.

There are lots of reasons to be suspicious of Iran. But the real question is, Do we want to try to stop it from going nuclear? If so, why not explore this path? Washington could authorize the European negotiators to make certain conditional offers, and see how Tehran responds. What's the worst that can happen? It doesn't work, the deal doesn't happen and Tehran resumes its nuclear activities. That's where we are today."

President Bush seems immune to good advice. Considering the people with whom he has surrounded himself, perhaps he wouldn't recogize good advice if it bite him in the ass, but at some point he has to look at the mess his policies in Iraq have created and conclude that there must be another way.