A reader writes:
This is a very interesting nugget. Let me venture that nobody I know believes that negotiations with the Iranians alone will achieve the desired objective. But NPod's dismissive attitude about negotiations (which echoes much of what I read in a certain corner of the press) misunderstands why such steps are important. If we look at Augustine's notion of just war and carry it forward, the view has always been that a party who wages a just war must have exhausted the possibility of a peaceful resolution of his grievance first. This requires raising your grievance, presenting it firmly and convincingly, and giving clear warning that you view the grievance as a matter of the utmost gravity which will push you to arms if unsatisfied. Doing this puts you in a position to defend your war-making on moral grounds - which is very important. It also puts you in a position to build an alliance. It's not remotely a laughing matter.
The Bush Doctrine seems to be to downplay diplomacy and to play up the threat of attack as a justification for pre-emptive strike. But the problem is that when you invoke this doctrine falsely once, people will disbelieve you the second time. They will come to brand you as an aggressor and hate you. So policies that NPod and Dubya feel are virile are in fact dullwitted and make us much less safe.
On this as on so many things Machiavelli is much smarter than them.
In the Prince, he explains that a smart prince doesn't crave being loved by his people; indeed, it's fine if he's feared. But he must at all costs avoid being hated, because then he's a target and both he and his people are put seriously at risk. Being in the right and being viewed by the world community as being in the right are extremely valuable things; people may not love you, but they will understand what you're doing and they're unlikely to hate you. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan all understood this very well. Dubya and NPod don't get it. And that's a good part of our current dilemma.