Jonah Goldberg

One might ask: What else does Iran have to do to demonstrate the diminishing returns of reasonableness? It's been killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama's own Treasury Department announced in July that Iran has formed a strategic partnership with al-Qaeda. It murdered its own citizens when they organized to demand democracy -- precisely the sort of despotic behavior Obama says justified regime change in Libya. It's the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, and it has exported terror all around the globe.

Again, I'm not arguing for dropping a bomb on the Quds' headquarters, though I can't say I'd mind it if we did. But I see nothing wrong with the Iranians thinking we might.

And that's this administration's problem: It has an obsession with the appearance of reasonableness.

It doesn't fully appreciate that the threat of force is what encourages reasonableness in many quarters of the globe. Ronald Reagan was happy to negotiate with the Soviets, but he also kept them wondering if he might bomb before breakfast. Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly because he carried a big stick.

Just look at Israel's problems these days. The White House signaled that it would pursue what amounted to a new policy of even-handedness between the Israelis and Palestinians. In ways large and small, it put slack in the bond between the U.S. and Israel.

What happened next? Turkey began demonizing Israel and saber-rattling in her direction. Palestinians opted to end-run the "peace process" and go straight to the U.N. for statehood. The junta ruling Egypt has played footsie with anti-Israel mobs.

North Korea hasn't refrained from invading South Korea because it's against the law, nor has China left Taiwan alone out of a passion for reasonableness.

In short, the fear that the U.S. will do what it takes to defend its national interests, allies and ideals is what makes it possible to hash out our disagreements in swank European conference rooms. Lose the fear, lose the incentive for reasonableness.

Iran won't even consider being reasonable until it's afraid of us. And immediately ruling out anything but talk after every insult isn't very scary.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.