“U.S. Accepts Offer From Tehran for Broad Talks” Glenn Kessler

2RCAHZ9TDICABFKRR6CAQXF9YDCA43J5QRCAJWBEKBCA40DFN2CAGSI4WICASK46ASCA0QXYWECAGJB49WCAF14JC0CA48D1GPCAKQPSK4CA290AZ9CAFKX60QCA254FZTCAPR3AO3CAWV152PCARJ4VTL "The United States has decided to ignore Iran's refusal to discuss its nuclear program and instead accept a vague Iranian plan for talks on security issues as the opening gambit to draw Tehran into real negotiation.

The effort to "test" Iran's intentions, announced on Friday, came after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said his country is skeptical of the need for new sanctions on Iran, giving the Americans little choice but to treat seriously Iran's latest offer.

Iran this week ruled out talks on its program, instead offering a five-page plan that it said would lay the groundwork for peace and stability in the region. The document, first posted Thursday on the Web site of ProPublica news service, made no reference to international demands that Iran suspend its efforts to enrich uranium, but did mention ending proliferation in nuclear weapons as well as a broad offer of dialogue." Kessler


I see that Mottaki, the foreign minister of Iran has modifed the tone of Ahmadinajad's belligerent insistence on the sanctity of the Iranian nuclear program.  Mottaki says that it may become possible in the course of these discussions to talk about all that, maybe.  My guess would be that the program will be discussed.  At the same time, Vahidi, the defense minister is saying that they do not want to build a nuclear weapon and never did.

The Israelis, of course, are determined to convince the US that the Iranians are not telling the truth.  Perhaps they are right.  This may be the way to find out.

If the Iranians are as smart as they think they are, they will find a way to make it impossible for a State Department spokesman to say that they are "unresponsive."

Strike up the band! 


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32 Responses to “U.S. Accepts Offer From Tehran for Broad Talks” Glenn Kessler

  1. Bill Wade, NH says:

    Might be a good time to stop harassing the Russians, they seem to have our USA best interests at heart, at least moreso than Israel.
    Good news indeed!!!

  2. JohnH says:

    It’s remarkable. I see this as the US agreeing to talk about the other side’s concerns first. When was the last time that that happened, if ever?
    Most recently, the US attitude has been that the other side must first agree to everything the US demands. Then negotiations can take place about the terms of surrender. At that point what’s the point of talking about the other side’s concerns? Of course, this hasn’t worked out so well for the US side lately.
    We may be witnessing a tidal shift in how the US deals with others. Or it could just be another show.

  3. Jose says:

    I know nothing of nuclear weapons, but someone told me that Iran just wants to develop the technology base which is equivalent to having nuclear weapons.
    This person told me that Japan and Germany could have a nuclear weapons within weeks if they so desired.
    Amazingly, Brazil and Argentina could also have one within months if they so desired.
    I hope your “concert” has a chance, but I’m beginning to think that Israel needs to divert attention from the settlements real soon.
    Onama’s refusal to stand up to Bibi is not a good sign…
    It’s a shame we if rush into another needless war of choice (this time the choice is not even ours) with all the problems we currently have.

  4. Mark Stuart says:

    “the document […] made no reference to international demands that Iran suspend its efforts to enrich uranium, but did mention ending proliferation in nuclear weapons…”
    My guess is that Iran will want to bring the Israeli nuclear program to the table under the broader regional non-proliferation agenda, before any talk about their own program. But it’s only a guess.
    Wether they will succeed or not, this will definitely resonate in the streets of Islamabad, Beyrouth, Cairo or Jerusalem.
    Anyone heard about A.Q. Khan’s latest interview in Karachi regarding his contribution to the Iranian nuclear program? Interesting timing for this bold and unusual intervention. Not sure what to make of it?

  5. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is also a rumor of the ongoing transfer of 20 Boeing airplanes built in 2008 and 2009 to Iran via Venezuela as part of a legal settlement of the Iran-US Claims Tribunal http://www.iusct.org/).

  6. par4 says:

    I hope they send some open-minded experts there. No Israeli double agents.

  7. Pirouz says:

    Babak, that rumor has been denied by the head of Iranian Civilian Organization:
    It would have been great news if true.

  8. graywolf says:

    The Iranians don’t have to be smart.
    They are dealing with a weak pacifist administration and the usual State Department weasels who have made careers of selling out their own country.

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    gray wolf:
    That is patently silly.
    Navy men, FBI men, CIA mem have sold their country’s secrets (but not their country).
    Actually, all weak states have to have smart leaders in order to survive.
    It is the strong states with hydrogen bombs that can afford to be dumb, fat, and happy – or at least so they think.

  10. Tyler says:

    Somewhat relevant, due to diplomacy.
    With the recent events at the embassy in Kabul with the contractors, this is now on USAJobs.
    Security Protective Specialist
    Any thoughts on what this means? Notice the appointment period (13 months…Then up to 5 year increments), and the requirements. It seems like they’re trying to find someone to fix the muscle gap between your average foreign service officer and the Diplomatic Security Officers.

  11. otiwa ogede says:

    I fail to see what is “belligerent” about Iranian insistence on its right to lawful nuclear enrichment. My reading of the matter is simply that the IAEA has no proof that current enrichment is being diverted towards illegal ends, and it has questions about past alleged Iranian behavior. Allegations made and sustained by nations Iran considers hostile. After past allegations made about Iraq, and Saddam’s “belligerent” refusal to declare, and destroy his WMD, well…enough said there.
    What the politicians and commentators in the “developed West” fail to understand these days is the mindset of the “undeveloped South”, people who have a history of being subjects of imperialist and colonial games. Look at Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Eritrea, even Iraq. The point is violence, and the threat of violence are not the useful tools they were when deployed by the West half a century ago.
    The new Southerner would rather die than compromise his independence. It’s a matter of history, and honour. We reserve the right to make good,or bad decisions without our “betters” breathing down our necks, threatening us with military and economic violence. I don’t seek to condone Iranian behavior, but as a “Southerner” living in the West I sure can understand it.

  12. Mark Stuart says:

    Babak Makkinejad:
    That is patently silly.Navy men, FBI men, CIA mem have sold their country’s secrets (but not their country)
    Is it really? Does this apply to Israel-Firsters too?

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Mark Stuart:
    I do not understand your questions.

  14. N. M. Salamon says:


  15. toto says:

    Look at Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Eritrea, even Iraq.
    And yet, most of these governments make highly effective use of violence against their own populations. Hell, today’s Iraq is probably one of the lesser offenders in this regard!

  16. David Habakkuk says:

    otiwa ogede,

    I think what you say takes us to the heart of some of the inadequately appreciated problems with Western non-proliferation policy. Essentially, the U.S. (and British) position is that nuclear weapons were a security panacea for us in the Cold War — and the possession of these, and right to use them first, continues to be indispensable to our security in the post-Cold War world.

    An irony here is that nuclear weapons were seen in the West as a security panacea, in large measure because it was judged to be impossible — or at least prohibitively expensive — to match Soviet conventional power on its own terms. Given the clear preponderance the U.S. today enjoys in conventional power, precisely such arguments provide perfectly ‘rational’ considerations suggesting that the acquisition of nuclear weapons may be a security panacea to its actual or potential enemies — prominent among whom, of course, is Iran.

    But what makes the confrontation between the United States and Iran so dangerous is that ‘rational’ considerations are not all that are at issue.

    If the ‘developed West’ is to try to legitimise the nuclear ‘double standard’ to the ‘undeveloped South’ — as distinct from simply imposing it by force — it has to argue either that its intentions are self-evidently benevolent, or that, because it is superior in ‘rationality’, it is more deserving of being trusted with nuclear weapons.

    Even if such claims were objectively justified — and recent U.S. and British policy has hardly matched our flattering self-images — they are liable to be unpersuasive, if not indeed counter-productive. In crucial instances, they are liable to make people believe that to accept that they should not acquire nuclear weapons is tantamount to accepting the validity of an image of themselves as malevolent or irrational — something which they will be deeply resistant to doing.

  17. Mark Stuart says:

    Iranians are dealing with […] the usual State Department weasels who have made careers of selling out their own country.
    Babak Makkinejad:
    That is patently silly. Navy men, FBI men, CIA mem have sold their country’s secrets (but not their country).
    is it so silly to think that people in the US would sale their country’s secrets but not their country?
    are Israel-Firsters also included in the lot of those who would sale secrets but not their country?
    My apologies for the confusion.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Mark Stuart:
    I was attempting to be precise.
    There are historical examples of leaders who sold their country – Koreans at the turn of last century comes to mind.
    I do not think espionage rises to that level.

  19. optimax says:

    is tantamount to accepting the validity of an image of themselves as malevolent or irrational — something which they will be deeply resistant to doing.
    Quite an understatement, I think that whould p*ss off anyone.
    What about the fact that the U.S. has never invaded a country that has nuclear arms? That, and their fear we could under the right circumstances invade their country, seem like a more rational argument for Iran developing nuclear weapons than our fear that Iran would use such weapons against us or Israel.

  20. Mark Stuart says:

    Babak Makkinejad:
    I do not think espionage rises to that level.
    In one case the payment is made by installments, in the other it’s up front. But in both cases it’s a sale’s transaction. In both cases the buyer is taking control (ownership) of the “good” (the other country).
    It must be a language thing i guess.

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Mark Stuart:
    I disagree.
    In case of Korea, her leaders sold her sovereignty – she ceased to be an independent state.
    I stand by what I said.

  22. David Habakkuk says:


    ‘Quite an understatement, I think that whould p*ss off anyone.’

    I would not disagree with you — I was indeed indulging in a bit of British understatement.

    For what it is worth, incidentally, I am deeply sceptical about the ability of any of us to handle the kind of security dilemmas created by the existence of nuclear weapons very satisfactorily.

    The recollections which Daniel Ellsberg has just posted of U.S. nuclear war planning in the Fifties are I think accurate. What they are bring out is how people of great intelligence and goodwill — Eisenhower being a case in point — ended up creating a machinery of destruction which could very easily have gone off without anyone intending it to.

    It is very easy to say that something had gone terribly wrong — much more difficult to say what one would have done oneself, facing the constraints the planners faced.

    (See http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/20090910_a_hundred_holocausts_an_insiders_window_into_us_nuclear_policy/.)

  23. parvati_roma says:

    To DH – great posts! Especially this: “to accept that they should not acquire nuclear weapons is tantamount to accepting the validity of an image of themselves as malevolent or irrational — something which they will be deeply resistant to doing.” In Iran’s case the bar is being held even lower: not about actually making efforts to “acquire weapons” but about claiming its right under the NPT to run a civilian-use nuclear power programme, on the grounds that it could “potentially” enable Iran to become a nuke-power – specifically-stated reason for opposing the exercise of this right being … the “malevolence and irrationality” of Iran-and-Iranians. About time someone drew attention to this!

  24. optimax says:

    David Habakkuk,
    I figured it was intentional. You are very clear and concise in your writing, and I respect your analysis. I realized after I posted that I’d gone a bit rhetorical and was later sorry. A bad habit I acquired in college and haven’t completely broken.
    You say “much more difficult to say what one would have done oneself.” I agree. We usually don’t extend empathy to those we have no sympathy for.
    Also wonder what most people would have done if they had been sitting in the hot seat as Truman was when he decided to drop the two big ones on Japan. The world, after witnessing the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons, has never used them again. To say that is a positive result is unpopular, I know. But I don’t put much faith in people’s ability to accurately predict the consequences of their actions.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    The Russian military doctrine, as far as I heard, is predicated on usage of tactical nuclear weapons.
    I would like to pose to you the hypothetical situation in which Argentina would use tactical nuclear weapons against the British fleet amassed around Falkland Islands during that war.
    What was the British nuclear doctrine at that time and how would UK possibly respond to the Argentina using tactical nuclear weapons against British naval military targets?

  26. Cieran says:

    David Habakkuk:
    Thanks for your always-interesting comments. I agree completely with your skepticism re: planning for nuclear warfare.
    My $0.02 worth on this topic is this: most, if not all, of those who are doing such planning simply do not understand the ramifications of the use of nuclear weapons.
    Politicians (and some military leaders) tend to view these weapons as just bigger-and-better versions of conventional weapons, hence the notion of nuclear WMD as “the bomb”.
    Defense contractors view nuclear WMD as a great profit-making venture, since these weapons are remarkably cost-effective when it comes to killing off large groups of people.
    But nuclear weapons are a whole different story than what the human race is used to. Their proliferation puts at risk such cherished ideas as “national security” and even “civilization”.
    And the broad proliferation of thermonuclear weapons is…, well, that outcome is essentially incomprehensible, as given that possibility, it’s hard to imagine the continued existence of human society in any currently-recognizable form.
    The use of nuclear weapons as anything more than a deterrent represents only the beginning of the trail of destruction, because these have the potential to leave large swaths of real estate in an uninhabitable state. So post-war notions such as “armistice” and “reconstruction” may fail to make much sense in a post-nuclear-use world.
    Some groups of citizen experts (e.g., physicians) have seen the bigger picture of nuclear warfare quite clearly. But in general, those who demonstrate such good sense are not involved in the planning operations you describe.
    Hence the dilemma…

  27. optimax says:

    Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” should be required reading for all world leaders. That doesn’t mean you’d have to limit it in the U.S. to compulsory courses at Harvard and Yale.

  28. David Habakkuk says:

    Babak Makkinejad, optimax, Cieran:

    The caravan is I think moving on, and there will doubtless be plenty of opportunities to revisit these issues in subsequent threads. But the hypothetical question about the Falklands does prompt some comments.

    I follow Michael MccGwire, the most significant intellectual presence in post-war British intelligence, who believes 1. that the ‘independent deterrent’ is essentially irrelevant to any likely security problems that Britain is likely to face, and should be scrapped; 2. that the common view that nuclear weapons kept the peace during the Cold War is deeply questionable, while the risks of inadvertent lurch into full-scale nuclear conflict were much greater much greater than is generally appreciated; 3. that the efforts of the nuclear ‘haves’ to sustain the nuclear double-standard will in the longer-term almost certainly fail, and the likely alternative to a nuclear-free world will be fairly widespread proliferation; and 4. that given the risks of inadvertent war, the practically inevitable result will be nuclear weapons being used in anger.

    As to your Falklands scenario, it frankly seems to me rather unlikely. Even had the Argentinians possessed nuclear weapons, I very much doubt whether they would have used them. The possibility of the actual use of these weapons — as distinct from bluster about their possible use, such as one hears from time to time from figures in the British security establishment — is generally so fraught with problems that it only becomes real when ‘existential’ threats are at issue. In the Falklands conflict, this was not so, for either side.

    As to Russian strategy, it is important to be clear about the history. In the late Eighties, it was crystal clear to anyone who bothered to make some relatively cursory enquiries that the transformations in military technology resulting from developments in information technology were in the process of giving the United States an uncontestable superiority in conventional military power.

    One might perhaps have thought that a really Machiavellian U.S. President would have thought: here are the Russians offering to get rid of the only military capabilities that give them any hope of countering U.S. power — let us take them up on it before they have second thoughts. Instead, the U.S. and Britain went around lecturing people on the virtues of nuclear ‘deterrence’, when it was becoming patently obvious that all the arguments that Western theorists had used to justify reliance on first-use were now likely to be attractive to actual or potential enemies of the United States.

    In my view, one of the main reasons this happened was that neither the American nor the British governments had the first understanding of the background to the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’. The corruption of the American intelligence process which produced this situation — largely the work of William Casey and Robert Gates — is well described in an article just published by the former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman:

    ‘In the 1980s, long after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signaled reduced growth in Soviet defense spending, the CIA produced a series of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) titled ”Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Conflict,” which concluded that the Soviet Union sought “superior capabilities to fight and win a nuclear war with the United States, and have been working to improve their chances of prevailing in such a conflict.”’

    (See http://consortiumnews.com/2009/091509b.html.)

    In the article, Goodman links to a newly-published study done for the Pentagon in 1995 by BDM Corporation, based upon extensive interviews with key former Soviet military figures, which demonstrates conclusively that these NIEs were simply wrong. From an interview with the former Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Mahmut Akhmetovich Gareev (note the names:)

    ‘The Soviet Armed Forces did not plan to use nuclear weapons first and were forbidden to exercise initiation of nuclear use. All exercises, tactical to operational-strategic, passed through my hands from 1974 to 1988. Before that I was assigned to high-level staff and command positions in various Western military districts, and I would certainly have known if such a scenario were used.’

    (See http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb285/index.htm.)

    Moreover, compelling evidence that that the Soviet planning was geared to keeping any conflict conventional had arrived in the U.S. as early as 1981, supplied by Colonel Ghulam Dagastir Wardak, an Afghan officer who had clandestinely transcribed all lecture and other documentary materials presented in the Soviet General Staff Academy’s two-year course of study in 1973-5, and had then joined the mujahedin.

    Introducing the first volume of the lectures, published in 1989, the distinguished American scholar-diplomat Raymond Garthoff noted the lectures ‘make abundantly clear that use of nuclear weapons at various levels would occur only in a situation of initial use by the other side.’ The conclusion that the Soviets had abandoned nuclear preemption had already been reached by MccGwire, then like Garthoff at Brookings, in 1983 — and confirmed when Garthoff found a reference in the confidential journal Military Thought to a decision to that effect by the Central Committee in 1974.

    In Britain, the corruption of intelligence was less dramatic, but perhaps more insidious. The classic account of it is unfortunately buried in an undramatic short chapter entitled ‘Problems of defence intelligence’ in what is the best British treatment of intelligence theory and practice, the 1996 study Intelligence Power in Peace and War by the long-serving GCHQ, Cabinet Office and Defence Intelligence Staff analyst Michael Herman. This is largely based upon MccGwire’s work.

    If one reads the materials in the BMD study, a conclusion becomes inescapable which is, for an old Cold War liberal like me, galling: that whatever their faults, Soviet military and civilian planners did not suffer from the kind of failure of imagination about the implications of using nuclear weapons Cieran describes.

    In looking at the current reliance of Russian strategy on threats to use tactical nuclear weapons first, one has to grasp that people like Gareev were more or less dragged kicking and screaming into an acceptance of ‘deterrence’ strategies about which they had deep doubts. From a 1995 paper by the current head of the Foreign Military Studies Office of the U.S. Army, Dr Jakob Kipp:

    ‘Gareev strongly disagrees with the new Russian military doctrine’s open proclamation of possible first-use of nuclear weapons and points out the serious political dangers associated with such a declaratory policy. Dismissing the need for such actions against a wide range of states and noting the terrible risks associated in the use of such weapons against another nuclear power, Gareev concludes that a defensive military doctrine and first use of nuclear weapons amount to a dangerous contradiction. It can lead to confusion in times of crisis that could result in dangerous miscalculations.’

    (See http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/agency/rusrma.htm.)

    Subsequent developments have caused Gareev to embrace strategies of ‘deterrence’ — but if one looks carefully at what he said to a report of a conference at the Academy of Military Sciences in January 1997, it is clear his misgivings are still present:

    ‘The keynote speaker, General (ret.) Mahmoud Gareev, offered a somewhat different perspective on future threats. He predicted that ”in the next 10-15 years, ecological and the energy factors will become the main cause of political and military conflicts.” Apparently referring to the U.S. presence in Iraq, he stated that some states will seek to control energy resources, while others will have little choice except to perish or resist. In Gareev’s assessment, competition for energy sources will pit Russia first and foremost against the United States and other developed countries, but will also spur nuclear proliferation, as other energy-rich countries seek nuclear
    weapons to defend their resources from the United States. This could lead to a ”war of everyone against everyone.”

    ‘Given these conditions, Gareev asserted that nuclear weapons will remain the ”central, most reliable means for the strategic deterrence of external aggression.” He predicted that although future wars will primarily be conventional, the threat of nuclear use will always be present. Thus, Russia needs to rely on its nuclear arsenal given the unfavorable balance of conventional forces in all theaters. The role of nuclear weapons will be all the more important, Gareev asserted, because the nuclear armaments of almost all other nuclear weapons states are aimed at Russia; therefore, he concluded, Russia must maintain a credible and robust strategic nuclear deterrent. He noted, however, that due to the deterioration of Russia’s space-based observation capabilities, ground-based early warning systems, and offensive weapons, Russia’s ”ability to launch a strike on warning, much less a second strike is becoming problematic.”

    (See http://www.wmdinsights.com/I13/I13_R2_RussianAcademy.htm.)

    As optimax rightly says, ‘we usually don’t extend empathy to those we have no sympathy for.’ In MccGwire’s case there is an irony. As Herman brings out in a discussion of his career in the 1998 symposium Statecraft and Security, the starting point of MccGwire’s work was the kind of empathy which a good military intelligence officer needs — the ability to get into the head of an adversary so better to frustrate him.

    But this brings up a fundamental problem with Western ‘deterrence’ strategies. Central to these, as they evolved in the post-war West, was the notion of using military power to send messages, and so effect an adversary’s behaviour. But if you want to understand the effect of your actions on an adversary’s behaviour, it is necessary to understand how your messages are interpreted. How the adversary should interpret one’s messages is not the essence of the matter, but how he does.

    Given this fact, the emphasis on the possibility of miscalculation in Gareev’s thinking seems particularly well-justified — and it becomes rather easy to ’empathise’ with the underlying sense of apocalyptic despair they convey. And if this is so, then a question arises as to whether not simply self-interested Machiavellian calculations, but also a rational sense of the pitfalls of ‘deterrence’ strategies, should have made American and British policymakers more responsive to the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’.

    In fact, both leading U.S. strategic experts — see the Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, Nunn articles — and also Obama have taken up the agenda for nuclear abolition. But they have done so after two decades in which American and British policies have quite gratuitously created the impression in the minds of figures like Gareev that Russia is under ‘existential threat’. And I would think it virtually certain that the same goes for Iran.

    What has been gained by this — in terms of any concrete advantage to people in the United States or Britain?

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    You arfe side stepping my question.
    US, UK, France, Russia, and China have real force structure to project power around the world. [Consider air-craft carriers] and India is on her way to do likewise.
    How can a poorer, weaker state counter these capabilities?
    My question still stands.

  30. David Habakkuk says:

    Babak Makkinejad,

    I think it is not quite apposite to say that I was side stepping your question.

    It seemed to me that the thrust of your question concerned Iran, but you framed it in terms of questions about Russia, Argentina, and Britain. Such an indirect approach seems to me perfectly reasonable — but by the same token it did not seem to me unreasonable for me to use a parallel indirection in responding.

    An additional difficulty, obviously, is that I would hardly expect suggestions from a representative of Perfidious Albion about how Iranians should best protect themselves to be taken entirely at face value.

    What I do however think is that if Iranians accept the snake-oil of Western academic theorising about ‘deterrence’, they do so at their own risk.

    And what I would also say is that we are entering a profoundly dangerous period. What makes it so dangerous is readily apparent from Netanyahu’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly in March. This quoted Netanyahu and his advisers as saying that the ‘first-stage Iranian goal’ was ‘to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country.’ The idea, according to Moshe Ya’alon, was ‘to make a place which is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive to them.’

    (See http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200903u/netanyahu.)

    That Israel’s ‘most talented citizens’ are leaving the country is simple fact. Read what Jay Michaelson has to say, in his article ‘How I’m Losing My Love for Israel’, in the ‘Forward’:

    ‘The second reason for my waning love of Israel is that the Israel I love is increasingly disappearing. It started in Jerusalem, with the exodus of the secular left and the slow, agonizing demise of the culture they created. Now, many of my sabra friends are leaving the country entirely, desperately looking for tech jobs in California or academic postings in Indiana. However worn out I may be by the matzav my friends who have lived in it are far worse. For now, Tel Aviv’s liberal, secular, life-celebrating culture continues to thrive and is even developing a spiritual aspect — but like many Israelis, I feel like I’m reading the writing on the wall.’

    (See http://www.forward.com/articles/114180/.)

    When people face a choice between a rock and a hard place, or the devil and the deep blue sea, they frequently eschew the least option, and head in directions which end up cutting off all more hopeful possibilities. The direction in which Netanyahu has headed — which incidentally closely parallels that taken by the authors of the key April 1950 NSC 68 strategy paper in analysing the implications of the Soviet acquisition of atomic weapons — is threat inflation. If you conclude that an accurate presentation of the threat will not be sufficient to persuade people to do what you think is necessary to meet the threat, you dramatise — as Netanyahu patently does in the Atlantic article.

    An ironic consequence, in the case of Israel, is that unless somehow Netanyahu and his U.S. supporters can succeed in the strategy of getting the U.S. to sort out their Iranian problem for them, they have produced compelling reasons for their countrymen to bolt. At the same time — as propagandists often do – they are liable to end up believing their own rhetoric.

    The outcome, however, is that they will stop at nothing to try to inveigle the Obama Administration into attacking Iran.

  31. From Chaim Kauffman’s piece on threat inflation anent Iraq War [International Security 29.1 (2004) 5-48]:
    “Mature democracies such as the United States are generally believed to be better at making foreign policy than other regime types. Especially, the strong civic institutions and robust marketplaces of ideas in mature democracies are thought to substantially protect them from severe threat inflation and “myths of empire” that could promote excessively risky foreign policy adventures and wars. The marketplace of ideas helps to weed out unfounded, mendacious, or self-serving foreign policy arguments because their proponents cannot avoid wide-ranging debate in which their reasoning and evidence are subject to public scrutiny.1
    The marketplace of ideas, however, failed to fulfill this function in the 2002-03 U.S. foreign policy debate over going to war with Iraq. By now there isbroad agreement among U.S. foreign policy experts, as well as much of the American public and the international community, that the threat assessments that President George W. Bush and his administration used to justify the waragainst Iraq were greatly exaggerated, and on some dimensions wholly baseless. ….
    How Common Are Threat Inflation and Failures of the Marketplace?
    No depth of investigation of the Iraq case alone can provide confident predictions about future risks. That will require systematic testing across cases that vary on the key factors suggested both by the marketplace of ideas theory and by my explanation of this case. Three categories of cases must be examined: previous instances of successful (or unsuccessful) threat inflation in the United States or other democracies with strong executives; instances in democracies with weaker executives, such as Britain in the Iraq case, and assessments such as that in 1955-56 of the threat posed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt; and nondemocratic cases.163 Across all cases, scholars should seek to [End Page 47] evaluate the robustness of the institutions making up the marketplace of ideas, the power of the executive to manipulate issues and control information, the methods used to bypass or suppress the functioning of the marketplace, and the apparent reasons why the marketplace succeeded or failed as far as it did in each case.
    A Start at Reforms
    Even in advance of more systematic study, what we know about the Iraq case already suggests one institutional reform, namely reducing top executives’ ability to intervene in intelligence analysis. Several methods are possible, such as lowering the number of political appointees in intelligence agencies, along the lines of the British permanent undersecretary system, and increasing the terms of service of the heads of the CIA and possibly other intelligence agencies closer to the ten years of the director of the FBI. Such measures would address only one dimension of the problem, but could be a useful start. The Bush administration, however, has proposed to move in the opposite direction by creating a new post of director of national intelligence to coordinate the work of all of the intelligence agencies, which could have the effect of increasing responsiveness to political direction.164 Judging from the Iraq case, this could reduce the quality of foreign policy decisionmaking.”

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    You are wrong – this is not about Iran per se, only
    Australia cannot be defended against an invasion by hordes of Indians or Indonesians [or the Japanese.]
    And if you think there is no such concern in Australia I should think you be mistaken.
    How else but with tactical nuclear weapons against the invading fleet?
    Yes, I understand that Australia and NZ are currently reliant on US for their defense. That may go the way of the British protection in WWII sometime in the future.
    I understand that the historical experience of Western people has consisted of either being Judophile or Judophobe; never neutral; i.e. leaving the Jews alone to practice their religion and live their lives in tranquility. Once you enter the East (Near East, the Sub-Continent, or the Far East) this no longer obtains.
    The fact of emigration is not new – even in 1980s the Israelis own statistics had indicated that % 20 of their citizens live abroad. And as a small country with limited economic opportunities, that is not surprising – you can see a similar pattern in Uruguay, Lebanon, Armenia and other such places.
    And again, what is so grand about all the Jews of the world to be in Israel; many of the Israel citizens have valid claims to ancestral properties in a number of Arab countries. Under a generalized peace many may wish to reclaim their property and even decide to live in the Arab countries again. Sort of like the way Armenians now live all over the Middle East and Russia with frequent trips of the Independent Armenia.
    That the current situation is dangerous is an understatement – how else can small states defend themselves against the depredations of more powerful states which, at times, are pursuing fantasy projects in this or that corner of the world- because they can?
    Now that the Peace of Yalta is over, are the Great Powers willing to accept the parameters of the Peace of Westphalia? Or must have any state wishing to be defend herself and her interest to have an “independent deterrence capability”?
    Once again I ask: “What is the military doctrine of the United Kingdom when & if her expeditionary naval and land forces are attacked by nuclear weapons?”

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