Blog before Reading in Tehran

Unfortunately, articles don't allow authors to say everything they believe relevant on a given topic. In this case, U.S. policy toward Iran.

[amazon 0815703414 full]In his October 20 blog posting, my friend Paul Pillar takes me to task for several points he believes were missing—but sorely needed—in my new article, “Pariahs in Tehran.” He principally bemoans my omission of any explanation of the real (rather than imagined) threat from a nuclear Iran, my unwillingness to call on the U.S. administration to lay out more fully the positive benefits of a reconciliation with the United States (the carrot half of the “carrot-and-stick”), and my unwillingness to confront (and accept) the feasibility of living with a nuclear Iran.

I could not agree more with Paul about the importance of all of these points. In fact, in a variety of other writings (and verbal presentations) over the past seven years I have regularly made exactly these arguments. I have explained at length both the dangers and the limits on those dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, I have called for the United States to amplify and clarify the benefits Iran would receive from a rapprochement with the United States, and I have also made the case that while it might be hard to live with a nuclear Iran, there is no reason to assume that it will be impossible and it would be preferable to all-out war with Iran if that is our only alternative.

In a journal article of 6,000 words, I chose to use my limited space to illustrate why I think the current administration’s approach is inadequate and what needs to change, rather than reciting points I have made repeatedly elsewhere.

For those interested, I provided what I believe to be the fullest treatment of these topics in my book, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (Random House, 2004). In it I discuss the real threat from a nuclear Iran on pages 376–382, the importance of employing carrots as well as sticks on pages 405–412 and the case for living with a nuclear Iran on pages 416–422.

Last year, I was the lead author of a book that looked at all of America’s options toward Iran called Which Path to Persia: Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran (Brookings, 2009). This covers the actual threat from a nuclear Iran on pages 13–16, providing greater positive incentives to Iran to make a deal on its nuclear program on pages 35–42, and the case for accepting a nuclear Iran if everything other than war fails on pages 179–200. In between and since, I have written numerous other pieces which have addressed all of these points in a variety of other formats and contexts.

It is unfortunate that journal articles don’t allow an author to say everything that he or she may believe relevant to a given topic, let alone everything that the author may believe a reader should know about that topic. For that an author still needs to write books, and the interested reader still needs to be willing to read them. Preferably, before he blogs about them.

For a further Pillar response see “More on Coercing Iran.”