Cliff May
Recommend this article

The dictionary defines diplomacy as the “art and practice of conducting negotiations,” but one incisive wag said diplomacy is really “the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ till you can find a rock.” So who has the stones required to stop Iran’s rulers from acquiring the nuclear weapons they need, not for deterrence as their apologists claim, but to escalate their war against Israel, America and the West?

The United States does but President Obama is not eager to utilize them. That’s understandable: Americans are war-weary. But if Iran’s rulers do acquire nuclear weapons on Obama’s watch, and if that leads to a 21st century that becomes bloodier than was the 20th, history will not judge him kindly.

It is possible that Israelis will do the job others don’t want to do. Obama, in his AIPAC remarks, at least recognized the legitimacy of their concerns, acknowledging that “no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.”

Israelis would like nothing better than to resolve this conflict diplomatically. But Iran’s rulers refuse even to talk with the leaders of the tiny Jewish state. Their intransigence is seldom noted, much less criticized, by those most enthusiastic about the possibility of a diplomatic solution.

Between diplomacy and warfare lie economic sanctions. Israeli leaders have long been strongly supportive of the increasingly tough measures produced by the U.S. Congress on a bipartisan basis and signed by Obama. Europeans, too, have imposed stiff sanctions.

But sanctions -- and diplomacy and warfare, too, actually – are means, not ends. No one with a lick of sense backs sanctions because they are confident sanctions will work – with “work” defined as causing Iran’s rulers to decide to forgo the most effective weapon ever invented (by infidels, of course) to project power.

So what’s the point? For one, sanctions, and the continuing debate they provoke, serve to remind the “international community” of the threat Iran’s theocrats pose. Second, it’s always useful to weaken one’s enemies and sanctions – in particular the new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and expelling Iran from the Swift international electronic banking system -- have been enfeebling Iran’s oil-based economy. Finally, should more kinetic measures be used to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it will be vital for sanctions to be in place – and remain in place – during whatever diplomatic palaver may follow.

Recommend this article

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.