David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, demonstrates that he's a heavyweight political pundit by warning the president that he darn well better do what he's already been doing with regard to Iran:
[John] Kennedy's genius was to reject the Cuba options proposed by his advisers, hawk and dove alike, and choose his own peculiar outside-the-box strategy. He issued a deadline but privately delayed it; he answered a first, flexible message from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev but not a second unyielding one; he said he would never take U.S. missiles out of Turkey, as the Soviets were demanding, and then secretly did precisely that. Disaster was avoided because Khrushchev believed Kennedy was willing to risk war -- but wanted to avoid it.
The Bush administration needs to be engaged in a similar exercise in creative thinking. The military planners will keep looking for targets (as they must, in a confrontation this serious). But Bush's advisers -- and most of all, the president himself -- must keep searching for ways to escape the inexorable logic that is propelling America and Iran toward war. I take heart from the fact that the counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, is an expert on the Cuban missile crisis who co-authored the second edition of Allison's "Essence of Decision."
[Zbigniew] Brzezinski urges President Bush to slow down and think carefully about his options -- rather than rushing to stop Iran's nuclear program, which by most estimates is five to 10 years away from building a bomb, even after yesterday's announcement. "Time is on our side," says Brzezinski. "The mullahs aren't the future of Iran, they're the past." As the United States carefully weighs its options, there is every likelihood that the strategic picture will improve.
The Bush administration has demonstrated, in too many ways, that it's better at starting fights than finishing them. It shouldn't make that same mistake again. Threats of war will be more convincing if they come slowly and reluctantly, when it has become clear that truly there is no other choice.
Now what does Ignatius mean by that last sentence? When has the president said anything about going to war with Iran? The only people talking publically about war are bloggers like me and pundits like Ignatius and Seymour Hersh. Bush has tried to do the opposite, in fact, by playing down the war talk that the media has been stoking. The media gets all aflutter about war and then they admonish the president, who hasn't said a word about it, to calm down and take it easy. Nice.
It's also odd that Ignatius turns to a Carter national security advisor for advice on Iran. The man who helped preside over the fall of the Shah, the ascendency of the Ayatollahs, the kidnapping and incarceration of American embassy personel, and the belated and failed attempt to rescue them just doesn't strike us as the most qualified person to be giving the current White House suggestions on how to handle the Iranians.
Nor is it reassuring that Ignatius points to JFK's relinquishment of U.S. missiles in Turkey as a sign of genius. Is he suggesting that it would be a brilliant move if the U.S. should give up some strategic asset in its dickering with Iran? What if the Iranians demand that we get out of the Middle East in return for halting their nuclear weapons production? Would it be a brilliant move, worthy of the sainted JFK himself, to say no, but to quietly do it anyway? More to the point, what do people like Ignatius say the U.S. should do if the Iranians refuse to yield at all?
No matter. Bush must stop the saber-rattling, slow down, take a deep breath and do better. Uh huh. Very constructive advice. We wonder how much the Washington Post pays for this sort of thing.