February 28, 2005

Why Not Try?

The Weekly Standard takes on the Iran issue, effectively saying, "It seems unlikely negotiations will work, so why bother even trying?" The silliness here should be apparent. Look, I've seen lots of conservatives argue that negotiations will probably fail—and they might be onto something—but no one has yet made a convincing case for why we shouldn't try. Hawks in the White House seems to have two arguments for not trying. One, that it would somehow "legitimate" the Iranian regime. This baffles me. Is there anyone on earth that holds both that the Iranian regime is illegitimate and that it would somehow magically become more legitimate if the U.S. negotiated with it? Are the protestors and demonstrators going to somehow give up all hope of reform if the U.S. enters talks with Tehran? Maybe in the short term, but as we've seen with Egypt, it's a lot easier for the U.S. to give support to the opposition in allied regimes than it is to give support to protestors in enemy regimes. An Iran that agreed to a "grand bargain" with the U.S.—if such a bargain happened—would be far more likely to undertake political reform down the road.

The other rationale, apparently, is that negotiating with Tehran—offering incentives for the regime to disarm—would somehow "reward" the mullahs for bad behavior. Really, of course, it would be rewarding the mullahs for good behavior that preceded bad behavior. But that's hardly unheard of. Prior to 1979, Egypt was more or less committed to the destruction of Israel. After the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the U.S. started sending Cairo various forms of aid, in part as a reward, and in part to ensure that the treaty lasted. In a sense, yes, we were rewarding Egypt for its original bad behavior, i.e. committing to the destruction of Israel in the first place, but that doesn't seem like a terribly big deal.

UPDATE: Ah, it appears that now the White House will try after all... partial kudos to them! But they're still not willing to enter talks directly. Why?
-- Brad Plumer 1:36 AM || ||