If you know your opponent’s bluffing, why try to scare him away from the table? If he bets big into you, why would you raise and make him suspicious? Or even worse, why would you fold and walk away from the table?
Is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad enough of a madman? When the chips are down, would he really attack Israel with a nuclear weapon? If there’s an explicit (or implicit), “You use a nuke, and we destroy your whole country,” threat from the US, the answer is no.
That’s called the stick.
However, unlike what some neocons may think, stick diplomacy isn’t very useful. You also need some carrots.
Play along with Iran’s game. You want peaceful nuclear energy? Fine. Face it, according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we gotta let Iran do what it says it’s proposing. So, we will.
The best way to make sure Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons is to keep a close eye on their nuclear program. It’s that old adage: keep your friends close, and Keep your enemy closer. I like that article very much. We’ll let Iran develop their peaceful nuclear energy program, which actually will help the people of Iran. I think if we do it right, we can make it even harder for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
Of course, it’s a dangerous game, letting them enrich uranium. However, we must face the reality of the situation. No amount of carrots will deter Iran from pursuing this program. Using a stick at this stage in the game is just overkill. It makes no sense for the US to attack now, and China and Russia certainly will veto anything in the UN.
Now, let me unite the diverse strands of these strings of musings. We let Iran develop peaceful nuclear energy. We must because of international law, and there seems to be no way to deter them. However, as they do this, we must keep a very watchful eye. We give Iran carrots, economic incentives, in order to get them to agree to certain safeguards. Moreoever, what we do in Iran can provide valuable experience for future nuclear non-proliferation efforts. It may also give valuable skills which may transfer to the commercial sector in the future.
Ever looming throughout this process is the stick. Since we’re involved in the process, we can figure out if Iran is doing anything wrong. If it is, then maybe we can get the UN involved. China and Russia aren’t really in a great political situation at that point if there’s proof to the rest of the international community of misconduct on Iran’s part. (Notice that at this point in the game, Iran isn’t really doing anything illegal.)
Even if the UN doesn’t jump on the boat, there’s still the safeguard of the US military. An attack now would stretch the all-volunteer US army to its breaking point. Later on? Later on, we might have viable democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our boys will have come home. This approach gives US forces time to recuperate.
One side note, the US military could take out Iran right now, even as we are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. We defeated Germany and Japan at the same time. We occupied both countries at the same time. However, it would require a draft. The all-volunteer army could not do it. Whether or not we could politically get that done is another question all-together and beyond the scope of this entry.
After that side note, there’s not much else left to mention, except the BIG stick. That says even if Iran manages to get a nuke, if they use it, they are assured of destruction, while only hurting Israel, not outright destroying it.
At this point in the game, Iran holds nothing. We can extract much more value from the game by calling, especially politically, instead of trying to outmuscle or appease them. In the meantime, we put ourselves in a situation where we get to peak at their cards. Not a bad arrangement, as long as we remember to use both carrots and sticks as we continue to deal with Iran.