War with Iran would be ugly. An airstrike would undoubtedly cause Iran to unleash Hezbollah, Hamas and other extremist groups, causing no end of trouble in the Middle East. It could close the Persian Gulf to shipping, producing an oil shock. It could foment serious trouble in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing region, which has a significant Shiite population.
Rather than enhance Ahmadinejad's standing in his own country, rather than put Iran up against a wall and dare it to back down, rather than make Iran the hero of anti-American Islamists everywhere, why not attempt to engage in direct talks and treat the country not as a pariah -- one-third of the ludicrous and illogical "axis of evil" -- but as a fellow state? Why not, as it were, treat Iran as we once did the Soviet Union or we now do China? We talked to the former; we talk to the latter.
The meat of Cohen's arguement is that such talk only props up Ahmadinejad among his own people, war with Iran would be messy, and so what we really need to do is talk to them. All veterans of my work will know that this is a similar arguement to one made by Joe Conason. Just like Conason, Cohen is long on rhetoric and very short on evidence and facts to back up his rhetoric. For instance, he claims that Rudy's incendiary and confrontational tone props up Ahmadinejad among his own people. I find it highly unlikely that the words of any single Presidential candidate does much to change the opinion of the Iranian people toward Ahmadinejad one way or another, but more importantly, according to polling, the Iranian people put the blame for this confrontation where it belongs, at the hands of their own leaders. Here are some results from a poll done this summer
Iranians want nuclear power more than nuclear weapons. Suffering under gasoline rationing and falling energy exports, three-quarters said that developing nuclear power, without weapons, was “very important.” By contrast, only 37 percent said developing nuclear weapons was a similar priority. Since the Iranian regime says that it wants nuclear power, not nuclear weapons, its stated position accords with its people’s views. (The government, of course, is lying and wants to get a bomb.)
Iranians would gladly agree to “full inspections and a guarantee that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons” if other nations would increase overall trade and investment (80 percent), increase investment in the energy sector (79 percent), give humanitarian assistance (80 percent) or assist in helping Iran develop peaceful nuclear energy (80 percent).
* Only 33 percent said supporting terrorist proxies Hezbollah or Hamas was a priority, and 55 percent are ready to endorse full recognition of Israel and of a Palestinian state if they could get “normal trade and full recognition” from the United States. Almost two-thirds - 64 percent - said that they are willing to end Iranian assistance to armed groups in Iraq and 51 percent would forgo nuclear weaponry and accept full international controls and inspections in return for normal relations with the United States.
The polling says they see their own government as the aggressor and merely want normalized relations with our government. It seems to be a stretch to say that they will then back Ahmadinejad if their own government's aggression leads to confrontation.
Cohen says to other important things. First, he proclaims that war with Iran would be messy. Well, I agree war with Iran would be messy, but not nearly as messy as allowing them to get the bomb. He also proclaims that we should sit down with Iran the way in which we sat down with Russia and China. There is a difference between Iran and those other regimes. Those regimes practiced the rule of self preservation. In other words, there was some reason to them because ultimately they wanted to avoid their own annihilation. Iran would gladly get annihilated if that is in pursuit of destroying the infidels.
Now, I am not against sitting down with Iran per se, but certainly not the way Cohen sees it. He seems to think that sitting down with them would solve all our problems. The Iranian regime is a collection of sociopaths. They only respond to threats that they take seriously. The only negotiations that would work are those in conjunction with an action that lets them know that the alternative is their own destruction, and even then negotiations may very well not work.
Thus, unless the real and clear threat of all out war is on the table, negotiations are not only fruitless, but frankly counter productive. I, myself, have devised a three point plan for bringing the regime down peacefully. My plan and any plan that has any hope of success must be done in conjunction with the real and unmistakeable threat that if all else fails, we will go to war with Iran before we allow them to get nukes.
Rudy is not war mongering as Cohen is suggesting, but rather making it clear to the regime that if they push him, he will destroy them. Like all sociopaths they will only respond nicely to force they know they can't match.