Arthur Herman has a must-read piece on Iranian nukes: "The Islamic revolutionary regime in Tehran is poised to hand the United States its worst foreign-policy setback since the fall of South Vietnam."
The usual excuse for Western foreign-policy failures — that the democratic electoral process and changes of government mean policies are constantly being revised and reversed, while dictatorships are able to maintain a steady course until they reach their goal — won’t wash here. The Bush and Obama policies toward Iran, at least since 2005, have been remarkably consistent — and largely an extension of the Clinton policy of carrot and stick. Play ball with us and the international community, successive secretaries of state have told the Iranians, and don’t build any nukes, and we’ll extend the carrots of diplomatic recognition and expanded trade. Don’t play ball, and expect the stick of sanctions — or even possibly military action.
The terms of this approach have been the problem all along. Military action — whether it was bombing Iran’s nuclear sites or blockading the Hormuz Straits at one extreme, or providing arms and cover aid to the country’s many anti-regime groups at the other — has been treated as the last option, or the ultimate stick, instead of the U.S.’s first and most important diplomatic asset. Both Bush and Obama saw military action as an alternative to diplomacy, and vice versa. This is a severe miscalculation, one that has consistently hobbled American foreign policy from Vietnam to North Korea, and now Iraq [sic].
The alternative is to see force and diplomacy as mutually supportive aspects of the same exercise of power in defense of our national interest.
Sometime during the Bush administration's second term, the powers that be in Iran decided America's threat that "all options are on the table" to stop the mullahs from obtaining nukes was no longer credible. In the years since, America has given Khamenei and Ahmadinejad no reason to change their minds. Which is why the globe is moving steadily toward an international crisis of terrible proportions.