Should we bomb
Should Iran be worried that we might?
And yet, within hours of the
White House spokesman
By the time the president addressed the plot on Thursday, it came as no surprise when he said his administration's first priority would be the criminal prosecution of the alleged perpetrator and then a lot more paper-pushing and talk.
I think the explanation is more philosophical and psychological than tactical or strategic. It's hardly controversial to say that the Obama administration prefers legalistic, multilateral and diplomatic solutions to abiding problems rather than military ones.
A far more controversial claim is that Republican administrations, not to mention conservative hawks, prefer legal, multilateral and diplomatic solutions to problems, too. But it also happens to be true.
The philosophical divide between mainstream hawks and mainstream doves is hardly absolute. President Obama ordered the bombing of
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. Mr. Obama's own
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.
Just look at
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.