Richardson May Have Right Idea on Iran

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Foreign Policy, Iran

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spar over who gets more of Hollywood’s money, Bill Richardson is writing thoughtful editorials on real issues. Richardson, former ambassador to the UN, current governor of New Mexico and presidential hopeful, lays out how he would approach Iran’s nuclear program:

No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don’t. This feat will take more than threats and insults. It will take skillful American diplomatic leadership.

… I have always believed in and worked to achieve tough, credible and direct negotiations with adversaries. To be tough, you need strong alliances and a strong military. And to be credible, you need a record of meaning what you say. By alienating our allies, overextending our military, making idle threats and antagonizing just about everyone, the Bush administration has undermined our diplomatic leverage.

Unquestionably, the Iraq War has put us in a difficult position in regards to Iran. We have neither the force of will at home nor the credibility abroad to meaningfully rattle our sabers. Yes, we could engage in air strikes but any greater military action would be politically impossible. And given our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, a ground war might be strategically impossible as well – at least under current conditions.

What that leaves us with is diplomacy. Many neo-cons believe that engaging in diplomatic relations with thug regimes gives those regimes undue legitimacy. In some regards, the neo-con philosophy is correct. We certainly don’t want to be hosting the leaders of The Sudan or Myanmar at White House dinners. But there’s a difference between small, strategically unimportant autocracies and regionally significant powers.

Like it or not, Iran is now a major player in the Middle East. We just eliminated their biggest foe in Saddam Hussein and now it behooves us to engage the beast we helped empower. As distasteful as it may be, we need a much more robust relationship with the Iranian government. That’s our best hope to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Yes, military action must always remain on the table, but we simply can’t play cute with our diplomatic actions. Pretending as if Iran is unworthy of bilateral talks is not only unhelpful but a bit ridiculous. The world has changed quite dramatically over the last six years. It’s time to move away from the philosophy the neo-cons enacted when Bush invited them into power. It’s time to try it another way.

Richardson’s ideas seem a good place to start.


This entry was posted on Saturday, February 24th, 2007 and is filed under Foreign Policy, Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “Richardson May Have Right Idea on Iran”

  1. d'Brit Says:

    Richardson doesn’t have the right idea on Iran because his premises are faulty.

    He believes that you can negotiate with an alligator.

    He is right however when he says that, “We have neither the force of will at home nor the credibility abroad to meaningfully rattle our sabers.” That is largely the result of liberal agenda driven ‘journalism’, ‘enabling’ nations who out of short term interest deflect and derail any meaningful sanctions against rogue nations and, efforts by secular-relativist liberal orthodoxy which sees the Bush administration and its core base as a greater threat than terrorism…for the most part the American public hasn’t a clue as to what is really going on. They are too busy following sporting events, ‘reality’ TV and American Idol.

    So, Iran will acquire nukes and in time Al-Quida will have them as well…

    But not to worry; Give-peace-a-chance, can’t we all just get along, negotiation and diplomacy is the answer, liberals… Jack Bauer will save us just in the nick of time.

  2. probligo Says:

    d’Brit,

    Following your idea – “military scorched earth first, democracy later” – why are you not arguing the same thing for North Korea? Something to do with a real potential enemy perhaps? Like not getting too far offside with China?

  3. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    d’Brit … are you proposing an immediate military strike or just keeping the threat of one on the table should Iran actually come close to developing the bomb? If the latter, then I’ll say that diplomacy can coexist with military might … that whole talking softly, big stick thing. We can still develop a military solution even as we work towards a diplomatic one.

    The problem is, if we do not address Iran’s nuclear program in a serious diplomatic way, then war is the only way we’ll stop them. But will we have the will and ability to wage such a war? By rejecting diplomacy as an acceptable course, aren’t you putting all our chips on our military might? That seems unwise to me … just as it would have been unwise during the Cold War to refuse to speak with the Soviets.

  4. Aufklaerung Says:

    D’Brit: We have tried the gunboat diplomacy before and look where are today. Only if you think Iraq is a success story, you could even think about starting another war in Middle East.

  5. d'Brit Says:

    All,

    I am not suggesting a military solution. We are past that, as Richardson made clear.

    We don’t attack N. Korea because once nukes enter the equation, its all or nothing. No conventional force can be brought to bear against a nuclear armed foe.

    Diplomacy and negotiation simply won’t work. I wish it were otherwise no less than anyone else. They won’t work because sheep can’t negotiate with wolves. Wolves eat sheep, its WHAT they DO. You can’t ‘negotiate with a serial killer, nor a Stalin or a Hitler. Chamberlain tried that and the results were as predictable to Churchill before the war as our circumstances are now. The mullah’s will have it no other way.

    Those who disagree with the premise that the mullahs and terrorists are ‘wolves’, ‘alligators’ and serial killers will disagree with my conclusions. Time will tell which of us is correct. I sincerely hope I am wrong but we shall most assuredly find out because at this point circumstance does not allow for a continuation of the status quo. Whether a democrat is in the White House in 08 or not, Iran will have their nuclear capability and we all will reap the harvest.

    After we’ve lost a few American cities to Islamic terrorism, then the will to strike back will be there but against whom shall we strike? Nuclear bombs don’t leave clues as to their origin, not even for CSI teams.

  6. The Gun Toting Liberal â„¢ » Blog Archive » Gov. Bill Richardson Defining Nuclear Diplomacy for Iraq, Iran and ? Says:

    [...] See Also: at-Largely (The Raw Story’s Larisa Alexandrovna’s excellent personal blog); Donklephant; The Democratic Daily; Liberal Values [...]

  7. bob in fl Says:

    Let us look at the track record so far. No democratic nation have ever been formed through the use of foreign military action except Germany, Italy, & Japan after WW II. Since then, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, & North Korea have all developed nuclear weapons – all “alligators”. Military threats didn’t stop any of them from development. No A-bombs have ever been used since the US did, except as a bargaining chip for negotiation or deterrent against attack. Nuclear war has been prevented during this period only through negotiation. No nation with nuclear capability has ever disarmed, except the former Republics of the Soviet Union who didn’t want them in the first place..

    Richardson is right on all counts. We not only do not have the will as a country, we also do not have the troops to carry out any further invasion of any country. Sure, we can bomb the hell out of them, but air attacks have never, or will ever will, win a war without destroying most of the population. And no nation has that capability without dooming themselves as well. Thank God.

    Walk softly, but carry a big stick. That comment concerned bringing enemies to the negotiating table with the potential use of force, not the actual use of it.

  8. Jim S Says:

    I think d’Brit is right. The major mistake I constantly see people who speak of how we can negotiate with Iran making is that they insist that Iran is like any other country. They completely ignore both the theological basis of the Iranian government and its fragmentation between the extremely radical Islamists, the radical Islamists, and the somewhat radical Islamists. Those are the only factions in Iran with any power and influence right now. The people are impotent in the face of the government they put in place in reaction to the Shah that the U.S. put in place.

    Some people just insist that this makes no real difference in what expectations we should have. They are no different than any other government in how they will react to things. Their motivations are the same as any other government in these people’s opinions. I have no clue as to how they can be so clueless.

  9. SUN: Bulbs, ideas and a big payoff · Dave Burdick Says:

    [...] They’re talking about Bill Richardson over at Donklephant, saying he may be the guy who knows where to start making progress in the Middle East: Like it or not, Iran is now a major player in the Middle East. We just eliminated their biggest foe in Saddam Hussein and now it behooves us to engage the beast we helped empower. As distasteful as it may be, we need a much more robust relationship with the Iranian government. That’s our best hope to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb. [...]

  10. d'Brit Says:

    “No democratic nation have ever been formed through the use of foreign military action except Germany, Italy, & Japan after WW II.” That is true but Germany was ruled by the Nazi’s, Italy by Mussolini and Japan by a military-political junta, is not a bad track record.

    “Since then, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, & North Korea have all developed nuclear weapons – all “alligatorsâ€Â?. Russia stole the bomb and we found out about it when they detonated a ‘test’. India and Israel are hardly alligators, both nations wish to be left alone and have no extraterritorial designs. Russia stood guard over China when they were developing their bomb as the Chinese in turn did when N. Korea was developing theirs. Finally, most of these nations developed their nuclear capability prior to implementation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

    “Nuclear war has been prevented during this period only through negotiation.” I would argue that it is the deterrence of CERTAIN retaliation that has prevented nuclear war. Exactly how do you propose to deter a terrorist network?

    “Walk softly, but carry a big stick. That comment concerned bringing enemies to the negotiating table with the potential use of force, not the actual use of it.” Roosevelt was NOT bluffing about his willingness to use the ‘stick’ if circumstance called for it.
    Empty threats fool no one.

  11. Marc Says:

    Richardson SPECIALIZES in negotiating with despots and thugs. If anyone can do it, he can. Sadaam, Kim Jong Il, the Sudanese. He goes in and gets things done. VERY well respected worldwide.

    Iran is a democratically elected country. Yes, the ayatollahs have the final say, but I believe they will be reasonable if treated like adults. They don’t want war. They don’t want to be cut off from the world. Their people are hugely envious of Americans and want to trade with us. We have lots of carrots, in the form of trade, and lots of sticks, in the form of military might on both sides of their country, that negotiation might work.

  12. Jim S Says:

    The ayatollahs do not simply have the final say. They filter the candidates. They shut down any media outlet they wish. They’ve cut candidates the people prefer off at the knees before. The people may be envious of us but their leaders despise our culture and would be perfectly happy if they were cut off from it. So where is this evidence that the current Iranian government will negotiate honestly with anyone? Not a belief, some proof to back that belief up.

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