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It seems that debate over Iran is more robust in Israel than in the US.
I have voted for Iranian sanctions in the hope of preventing war and allowing for diplomacy. The sanctions have not been fully implemented but they do appear to have brought Iran back to the negotiating table.
I did, however, hold up further sanctions unless Sen. [Harry] Reid allows a vote on my amendment that states, “Nothing in this bill is to be interpreted as a declaration of war or a use of authorization of force.” The debate over war is the most important debate that occurs in our country and should not be glossed over.
I am persuaded, though, that for sanctions to change Iran’s behavior we must have the commitment of Iran’s major trading partners, especially China, Russia, Japan, and India.
Understandably no one wants to imagine what happens if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. But if we don’t have at least some of that discussion now, then the danger exists that war is the only remedy.
No one, myself included, wants to see a nuclear Iran. Iran does need to know that all options are on the table. But we should not pre-emptively announce that diplomacy or containment will never be an option.
In a recent Senate resolution, the bipartisan consensus stated that we will never contain Iran should they get a nuclear weapon. In the debate, I made the point that while I think it unwise to declare that we will contain a nuclear Iran, I think it equally unwise to say we will never contain a nuclear Iran. War should never be our only option.
Let me be clear: I don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons but I also don’t want to decide with certainty that war is the only option.
Containment, though, should be discussed as an option with regard to the more generalized threat from radical Islam. radical Islam, like communism, is an ideology with far reach and will require a firm and patient opposition.
In George Kennan’s biography, John Gaddis describes President Clinton asking Strobe Talbot “why don’t we have a concept as succinct as ‘containment.’” Talbot’s response [was]“that ‘containment’ had been a misleading oversimplification; strategy could not be made to fit a bumper sticker. The president laughed. . . “that’s why Kennan’s a great diplomat and scholar and not a politician.”
Kennan chafed that his opponents drew conclusions from it that were disagreeable to him but the fact of the matter is that the concept of containment succinctly described a strategy or, as Gaddis put it, “a path between the appeasement that had failed to prevent WWII and the alternative of a third world war.”
What the United States needs now is a policy that finds a middle path. A policy that is not rash or reckless. A foreign policy that is reluctant, restrained by Constitutional checks and balances but does not appease. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of radical Islam but also the inherent weaknesses of radical Islam. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of bombing countries on what they might someday do. A foreign policy that requires, as Kennan put it, “a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of . . . expansive tendencies." A policy that understands the “distinction between vital and peripheral interests.”
No one believes that Kennan was an isolationist but Kennan did advise that non-interference in the internal affairs of another country was, after all, a long-standing principle of American diplomacy that should be excepted only when: A) “ there is a sufficiently powerful national interest” and B) when “we have the means to conduct such intervention successfully and can afford the cost.”
In Kennan’s famous X article he argues that containment meant the “application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and manoeuvres of Soviet policy.” He later clarified, though, that did not necessarily mean that the application of counter-force had to mean a military response. He argued that containment was not a strategy to counter “entirely by military means.” “But containment was not diplomacy [alone] either.”
Like communism, radical Islam is an ideology with worldwide reach. Containing radical Islam requires a worldwide strategy like containment. It requires counterforce at a series of constantly shifting worldwide points. But counterforce does not necessarily mean large-scale land wars with hundreds of thousands of troops nor does it always mean a military action at all.