THE BONEHEAD CONTAINMENT THEORY.

Eric Martin has some comments on yesterday's Robert Kagan column, in which Kagan risked the ire of Michael Ledeen by suggesting that the NIE's conclusions indicate that the U.S. should talk to Iran.

While I am pleased that one of the co-authors of one of the seminal works of late-era neoconservatism has put his pundiferous influence behind the idea that good diplomacy involves more than insisting that our enemies do exactly what we want right away and then maybe we'll talk, I have to admit that I got off the bus here:

A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is gone.

Neither, however, will the administration make further progress in winning international support for tighter sanctions on Iran. Fear of American military action was always the primary reason Europeans pressured Tehran. Fear of an imminent Iranian bomb was secondary. Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible.

In other words, in Kagan's view, the Europeans were inclined to put pressure on Iran primarily because of fear that George W. Bush was going to start another war with another country that he probably couldn't find on a map and plunge the Middle East even deeper into chaos. Leaving aside whether Kagan is right, is this really an acceptable way for a liberal democracy to conduct itself in the world? Is fear of unilateral American boneheadedness appropriately regarded as just another "policy tool"? And do we really want to unite other countries around the goal of containing us?

--Matthew Duss

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