Friday, February 25, 2005


It's A Day Ending In "Y".

Ergo, Slate's Fred Kaplan has to be shoveling again.

Thursday's column focused on President Bush's comments in Europe concerning nuclear negotiations with Iran. While in Europe, Bush seemed to leave the door open to joining the current UK/France/Germany talks with Iran. Kaplan simultaneously praises this idea, and than pooh-poohs the prospects of a Bush conversion.

Way to show confidence in our President, Freddie.
This is odd. President Bush had to go all the way across the Atlantic to discover that the three major European powers don't want Iran to have an A-bomb? Isn't that obvious, given that they've initiated negotiations to that end? So, of course, we're all "united" and "on the same page" when it comes to "a common goal" (how could we not be "united" on "a common goal"?). But that says nothing about an approach to a solution.
Actually, yes, Bush had to go to Europe to confirm their intentions. When you're dealing with France and Germany-- two nations that have done more than any other Western European power to coddle, and arm, Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Iran-- it's best to check up on them every now and again, to make sure they're talking truth to power.

Kaplan takes the popular position that *of course* negotiations are called for. And negotiations, by definition, call for concessions on the part of the United States.
When it comes to the solution, it appears that what Bush is saying is exactly the opposite of its interpretation. He says that the three allies "represent" the United States in talks with Iran- in other words, that we're not going to show up. But if a U.S. delegate isn't actually at the table, why would the Iranians- or anyone else- believe we're a party to whatever's agreed? To the extent Iran is seeking nuclear weapons to deter an attack on its territory, it's the United States (or possibly Israel) that they fear, not Germany, France, or Britain. And so, if an accord is possible (and it may not be), and if the accord entails security guarantees for Iran, those guarantees must come from the United States.
First off, if Kaplan's right, and the Europeans want exactly what America wants-- a non-nuclear Iran-- who cares if the United States never shows up? Or, is Kaplan assuming there's some magical crossover point, where the Europeans might not be willing to push that hard for a non-nuclear Iran, while the United States would do so? The Europeans either want a non-nuclear Iran, or they don't really care, and one would expect their negotiating strategy to reflect their tolerance, or lack thereof, for the Iranian bomb.

Because in the end, everyone-- including Iran-- knows that the Europeans have only carrots, but no sticks.

The negotiations so far have been allowed to play out like every NYPD Blue episode ever written. The Euros are the "good cops," promising to be buddy-buddy with the Iranians if only they hand over the goods. However, at the same time, they keep alluding to Sipowicz-- in this case, America-- just outside the interrogation room, ready to barge in and beat the perp to within an inch of his life if he doesn't cooperate.

Now, it's entirely possible that the United States should and can take the opposite tack, and assume the negotiations by itself. This has the advantage of skipping the middleman, allowing the diplomatic positions to be made as clear as crystal. Kaplan wants this, and he wants negotiations to include not only sticks but carrots as well.

Frankly, Fred Kaplan is living on the moon if he prefers that route.

Kaplan offers that one possible carrot is a security guarantee that the United States will not attack Iran. This is a non-starter. Never in our history have we ever agreed to such a policy, with any government. Given the prospects of duplicity by the mullahs of Tehran-- who, it must be remembered, are bad guys-- such a policy would be filled with too much risk.

Not to mention diplomatically worthless, as what penalty is there for abrogation of a non-aggression pact? The United States has already made it clear that it will enforce prior international law-- United Nations Security Council resolutions, or for those keeping score at home, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory-- before it goes looking for new legal bindings.

Aside from the scraps of paper, the larger reason why a non-aggression pact is impossible has to deal with Iran's policy of supporting terrorism, both abroad, and in Iraq. We give Iran a security guarantee in return for it not building nuclear weapons, and the only guarantee will be future Iranian sponsorship of terrorism. It's like the old Chris Rock routine-- once a woman knows her man will never raise his hand to her, she knows she can get away with *anything*.

However, the final Jenga block in the case against Kaplan's sanity is this statement from above, bolding mine:

To the extent Iran is seeking nuclear weapons to deter an attack on its territory, it's the United States (or possibly Israel) that they fear, not Germany, France, or Britain.
Gee Freddie, *possibly* Israel? Care to elaborate why Iran may want to deter Israel?

Could it have something-- anything-- to do with Israel's nuclear arsenal?

As long as those bloody bastard Jews have the bomb, Islamic radicals from Pakistani caves to Tehran penthouse suites will never tire in their quest to have a nuclear deterrent of their own.

Then again, "deterrent" is a charitable word when you're dealing with Islamic leaders who've expressed their not-so-secret desire to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

At the end of the day, Israel will never give up its nuclear arsenal. Which means that as long as there are regimes hostile to Israel in the Middle East, those hostile regimes will continue their WMD programs. No American carrots are going to change this fundamental, inescapable reality.

So, we are at an impasse. Where do we go from here?

The only thing left to do is for America to draw the line. To tell the Iranians to end their nuclear program before we-- or the hated Jews-- end it for them.

They do that, the world sleeps easy. America doesn't go to war against nations just for being pricks. If we did, France would have surrendered to us decades ago.

Alas, does anyone really think Iran will change its mind? It's pursued a nuclear program for decades. During those decades, at no time did Israelis lob nuclear missiles of their own at Iran. Despite repeated violent flare-ups, at no time did the United States drop a couple of Minutemen onto Tehran.

We could restrain ourselves, and not just out of the goodness of our hearts. So what possible reason does Fred Kaplan think Iran actually *needs* a nuclear arsenal, or could justify negotiation anything aside from lovely parting gifts out of America and the West?

The reality is, Iran wants nuclear weapons for the same reason that Louis CIV engraved his cannons-- to showcase they possessed the instruments necessary to wage "the final argument of kings."

We can't let Iran acquire the means to ever make that argument.
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