Coercive ‘Diplomacy’ – Prelude to War

The conventional wisdom is that the US government is taking a new tack when it comes to confronting the Iranians. As a recent piece on – and dutifully posted by Matt Drudge – put it:

"The Bush administration is changing course on Iran in its final months. The hope is that engagement can jolt a stagnant effort to resolve concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program where war drums could not."

This is flat out wrong. The war drums are still belting out a martial ditty, albeit accompanied by a "diplomatic" chorus. To get closer to the truth about what is really happening on the front lines of our latest Middle Eastern crusade, take a look at this Washington Post report on the same "diplomatic" dog-and-pony show:

"With negotiations now a real possibility, the Bush administration, which had largely subcontracted the nuclear diplomacy with Iran to its European partners, also appears intent on making sure that Iran hears its voice directly, rather than having it filtered by other interlocutors. … U.S. officials wanted to ensure that the preliminary talks did not veer off course and lose sight of the suspension demand."

The Europeans, who tend to resent Washington’s unbridled arrogance, don’t want a war that would wreck the world economy. They can’t be trusted to deliver our intended message to Tehran: surrender or die. This is just foreplay – if such a thing can be said of an intended rape – and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino didn’t try very hard to put a good face on it:

“The substance remains the same, but this is a new tactic. What this does show is how serious we are when we say that we want to try to solve this diplomatically.”

The Bush administration is interested only in appearing to be serious about resolving this peacefully, when in actuality this diplomatic "surge" is merely a new tactic aimed at their real goal, which is regime-change in Iran.

Hardline neocon John Bolton was quick to denounce the administration for what he characterized as "a complete capitulation," but Philip Zelikow, formerly with the State Department, got it right when he told the Post:

“For some time, we and our allies have been reflecting on ways to reinforce that basic approach while taking away some of the more superficial complaints about it. This move does that. But the substantive position remains unchanged.”

What we are seeing is a variation on the same prelude, almost note for note, that we heard in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. A surrogate "dissident" group funnels phony intelligence about "weapons of mass destruction" to its masters in Washington, a full-court propaganda campaign is launched, sanctions are imposed, allies are pressured to get on board, and the whole performance takes place complete with a soundtrack of constant threats.

Nothing ever changes with this administration, in spite of the best efforts of the moderate "realists," because the War Party is still in the saddle – and because both political parties uphold the principle of American hegemonism. Their differences are merely over strategy and tactics, and over matters of style and tone, but when it comes to the goal – American domination of every region and continent – "politics stops at the water’s edge," as the old foreign policy adage goes.

For example, look at the "debate" that’s going on between John McCain and Barack Obama: the former wants to stay in Iraq for a hundred years while remaining relatively indifferent to what’s going on in Afghanistan, while the latter says we should get out of Iraq so we can focus all our military resources on trying to do what the Soviets (and the Brits) could never do, and that is subdue the Afghan people.

While the partisan Punch & Judy show takes center stage, and Democratic politico and Obama surrogate Rahm Emmanuel taunts McCain and Bush that they’re following the mulatto messiah’s lead on Iran, the wheels and gears of the American regime-change machine are whirring and spinning, getting ready to move when the time comes. And this is where the Iranian war scenario is scripted a little differently than the Iraqi version: the timeframe is considerably telescoped, condensed into the months remaining before the end of Bush’s term.

As the sand spirals down in the hourglass, the War Party knows its window of opportunity will soon close. While Obama is loath to challenge them on this issue, and has done more than his share of kowtowing to the Israel lobby – the principal proponent of military action against Tehran – he’s not likely to guarantee they’ll be in Tehran by the summer of ’09, and they don’t want to take any unnecessary chances. Yet this hardly means Obama’s election will save us from the prospect of committing yet more war crimes in that part of the globe. Just as the Democratic candidate is using the Afghanistan issue to define himself as a "national security Democrat" tough enough to be Commander-in-chief, so he isn’t above using the Iranians to prove the same point.

"Coercive diplomacy" is a pat phrase Obama has used more than once to describe his preferred course of action, and, when it comes to Iran, I would emphasize the coercive side of the equation over the diplomatic. The American elites are unanimous in their verdict that the US must establish and maintain an American enclave in the Middle East: the only "debate" is over where the main forward base is to be located. McCain says Iraq, and Obama prefers Afghanistan.

Obama’s rise is based on a promise he isn’t prepared to deliver – and never made. Whether the voters wake up to that before election day doesn’t really matter, because the alternative is at least just as bad, and probably worse.

What is needed isn’t just a new President – we sorely require a new foreign policy. Or, rather, a return to the old one, a policy derived from the traditional stance of the Founders of this country, who warned against foreign adventurism, disdained entangling alliances, and realized, above all, that the acquisition of an overseas empire would amount to taking a poison pill that would kill off our republican form of government for good.

The American people yearn for real change, especially when it comes to our dangerously crazed foreign policy, but it is unlikely their hopes will be fulfilled this time around.

Remember: our own intelligence apparatus is telling us [.pdf] that the Iranians abandoned efforts to weaponize their nascent nuclear technology years ago. Yet both McCain and Obama deem Iran a "threat" to the US – the latter even characterized Tehran as “the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation.” The only "change" I see is in the names of our overseas victims, whom we target, demonize, and destroy.

By the way, under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – which, unlike the Israelis, the Iranians are signatories to – Tehran is perfectly entitled to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses. Given the long lines for gas in Iran, that is no doubt what they’re doing. Like us, they realize that the world’s oil supply is limited, and – also like us – they want to achieve illusory "energy independence," whatever that may mean. This, however, is one illusion we’re not willing to share with just anyone, and certainly not with the Iranians.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].