The Corner

Debating Iran Diplomacy

RealClearWorld’s Kevin Sullivan has responded to my post from this morning and makes several excellent points, and takes issue a bit with my perspective here:

We need to negotiate directly with the Iranians, and this is where Mr. Rubin and I likely part ways. But doing so without any immediate consequence for Iran seems to cheapen U.S. diplomacy, in my view. We may soon miss those heady days when simply getting the Americans to the negotiating table was considered to be an Iranian gain in and of itself.

I actually disagree with Mr. Sullivan less than he may realize. As analysts, we have to take what the situation is (in this case, President Obama’s apparent decision to waive the demand that Iran cease suspension) and then recommend the best course forward through the prism of our perception of U.S. interests and so, putting aside the debate about whether Obama’s decision is wise, this is what I worry about:

  1. Obama has failed to define the terms of success and failure. He is entering into a dialogue which is part of no clear plan and no clear strategy. Too often, pundits confuse analysis and advocacy. To consider that diplomacy might fail does not mean a desire that it does fail. And to consider worst-case scenarios does not mean a desire to see them occur. Obama or Secretary Clinton should certainly be able to answer the question: How will they gauge whether the Iranians are sincere (or whether their interlocutors are empowered to make decisions) and what happens if they conclude that, for the Iranians, engagement is just a stalling technique?
  2. There is also a dangerous tendency in U.S. administrations to try to sequence approaches: Let’s try diplomacy, and if that doesn’t work, then we can try economic coercion, and if that fails, well maybe we can focus a bit more on public diplomacy, and military preparations might be a last resort. Strategy should be comprehensive. To borrow the military DIME paradigm: Strategy should have diplomatic, informational, military, and economic components being implemented simultaneously. (Military, of course, does not necessarily mean kinetic, but could mean planning, or preparing for containment and deterrence).

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

Most Popular

Economy & Business

Shopping Superstitions

It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses. This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ... Read More
Economy & Business

Shopping Superstitions

It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses. This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ... Read More
The Capital Note

Palantir’s Eye-Popping Rally

Welcome to the Capital Note, a newsletter about business, finance and economics. On the menu today: Palantir shares skyrocket, a giant of labor economics passes away, Slack in acquisition talks with Salesforce, and Yellen’s plans for Treasury-Fed cooperation. The Palantir Bump: Politics or Product? Palantir, ... Read More
The Capital Note

Palantir’s Eye-Popping Rally

Welcome to the Capital Note, a newsletter about business, finance and economics. On the menu today: Palantir shares skyrocket, a giant of labor economics passes away, Slack in acquisition talks with Salesforce, and Yellen’s plans for Treasury-Fed cooperation. The Palantir Bump: Politics or Product? Palantir, ... Read More
History

The 1620 Project

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower arrived on the eastern coast of North America. She had weathered the slings and arrows of maritime misfortune for almost ten weeks at that point, but the passengers thought the discomfort of crossing a small price to pay for passage to the Promised Land. After all, these were ... Read More
History

The 1620 Project

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower arrived on the eastern coast of North America. She had weathered the slings and arrows of maritime misfortune for almost ten weeks at that point, but the passengers thought the discomfort of crossing a small price to pay for passage to the Promised Land. After all, these were ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
World

A Moveable Feast?

Last week a unique but apposite tribute was paid in Budapest to the late Sir Roger Scruton, the distinguished Tory philosopher who died earlier this year: A café was opened in his name. It goes under the designer label “Scruton—The Place to be” and is situated three blocks from the Hungarian Parliament at ... Read More
World

A Moveable Feast?

Last week a unique but apposite tribute was paid in Budapest to the late Sir Roger Scruton, the distinguished Tory philosopher who died earlier this year: A café was opened in his name. It goes under the designer label “Scruton—The Place to be” and is situated three blocks from the Hungarian Parliament at ... Read More