November 25, 2008

Insanity: Doing the Same Thing and Expecting a New Result

At NIAC’s policy conference last Tuesday, Ambassador James Dobbins noted that the current debate over Iran is not about the fundamental shift towards diplomacy that is needed to create a more effective Iran policy, but rather a discussion on how to properly implement America’s policy of preemption.
“It’s important to recognize that the debate we’ve conducted is not between one group who believes that we should launch a preemptive military strike against Iran, and the other group who said we shouldn’t. Rather it was a debate between one group who said we should talk to them first, and another group who said, no, we don’t even have to talk to them first.” So the only thing both sides agree on is that preemptive strikes are on the table. As for dialogue, the jury is still out.
Dobbins noted, “Insanity has been occasionally defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.” For nearly thirty years, the U.S. has had a policy of regime change with regards to Iran. What has it gotten us? The Iranian government is still there. They have more centrifuges and more fissile material. Iran’s human rights record continues to shock and disgust the world.  So how do we break this pattern of insanity?
We must make up our minds. Is dialogue an opportunity for us to tell Iran what to do or else? Or is it an opportunity to learn more about Iran and exert leverage on issues important to Americans? Are we willing to go to war with Iran if they don’t agree to our demands, or are demands useless without sustained dialogue and negotiations? We have tried regime change for almost 30 years. Maybe it’s time to give sanity a chance. As Ambassador Dobbins put it, “I do believe that while dialogue only sometimes produces agreement, it always produces information.”
Without dialogue, our options are simple. Either we will go to war with Iran to get our way, or we will sit back and moan as Iran continues to behave in ways that are unacceptable.
Former Chief of Staff for the Israeli Defense Forces, Moshe Dayan said it best. “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” America has to decide whether we want peace or hostility. Whether we want to exert influence on Iran or whether we want regime change. We cannot have it both ways.

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