A reader writes:

I must confess that I simply do not have the foggiest idea as to what you think should be done about Iran. You say things like "the threat is real" and "we have to fight and not accomodate" and "negotiating with fascists is a mug's game"...

When has the policy of refusing to negotiate, or even talk, to someone you strongly disagree with ever actually worked? Cuba? North Korea?

Do you really think that Osama and Ahmadinejad are playing the same game? Osama is the real deal, and has attacked us, and should be tracked down and destroyed.  There is no disagreement anywhere with that (just the strange lack of action on the part of the Bush administration).

But Iran has a street address. It's a real place with real power players and real people that want to hold on to what they have. Of course, Ahmadinejad runs at the mouth. He's playing his game at home and in the region. I really don't see his talk as that much different from "axis of evil" and "Islamo-fascism" talk from our leaders (also playing to the home folks). Why are you so convinced that Ahmadinejad wants to commit suicide?

And if you were in charge of Iran, wouldn't you want nuclear weapons? Pakistan is next door ... Israel is down the street ... the Bush people clearly want to get rid of you. And you have two clear examples ... Iraq and North Korea. Which approach do you follow? And why should you give up your key negotiating position (no nukes) before starting to talk?

I don't buy the idea that everyone is so different from each other, at least not in basic motives. Comfort, power, meaning, respect ... these are things everyone cherishes the world over. Why assume that these are not key to Iran's leaders as well.

What do you want to do? Go bomb Iran? That doesn't seem like it will play out very well, now does it? Attack it with troops? Please. Put sanctions in place?  They are already there almost as much as they will be, and China and Russia just aren't going to play along.

The ONLY thing to do is to shut up and start the hard and very complicated set of negotiations with these people. It would have been a lot easier before all the noise making, but we are where we are, so you do what you can.

I take the reader's point. Our Iraq policy was, I thought, the best Iran policy. But the Iraq policy has become a fiasco. A military attack on Iran in the near future strikes me as extremely risky and potentially devastating. But negotiation with Savonarolas is equally insane. Maybe aggressive containment is all we have left for now. Practically speaking, I'd pour many more troops into Iraq, especially Baghdad, ratchet up the diplomatic isolation of Iran, encourage the domestic unrest in that country, and wait till we have a functioning executive branch in Washington. What other sane options do we have?