On Tuesday the United States' agreed to join in talks with Iran and Syria on Iraq's future. The following are excerpts from The Grammercy Round, titled "Revisiting Iran?", in the forthcoming March/April issue of The National Interest:
U.S. policy needs to be much more deft and able to operate on a two-track approach, rather than defining different alternatives as "either/ors." There is no reason not to censure Iran-while at the same time holding out the possibility of Tehran's rehabilitation as a full member of the international community. Negotiations can occur alongside sanctions for past and current indiscretions. We need to show Iran that its nuclear program can make it more of a pariah state-but we also have to allow a viable "way out."
Containment . . . deserves more respect than it gets, since it has been quite good over the years at managing risks at acceptable costs. The danger Iran poses may be real, but it is far less than the dangers that were posed by, say, the Soviet Union or Mao's China-and in both of those cases the United States managed to outwit, outlast and outplay its rival. It did so by, among other things, keeping its head, rejecting suggestions to strike first and relying on time to reveal its own system's strengths and its opponents' weaknesses.
The reason so many in Washington have forgotten this is not because Iran is uniquely terrifying, but because the United States is uniquely powerful. Only now that it is a global hegemon can it calmly consider an unprovoked strike against a substantial regional power, simply because it worries about what that power might do with the weapons it might eventually acquire. The whole discussion is a sobering reminder that America's foreign policy faces two separate challenges: managing the world and managing itself.
Richard K. Betts
We not only managed to live with Mao's finger on the nuclear button, but Nixon turned the Chinese threat into an asset through the diplomatic coup that aligned Washington and Beijing against Moscow. Rapprochement may not be in the cards today, but the underlying potential for it in Iran's domestic politics is more promising than it seemed in China in the 1960s, at least if we do not inflame Iranian opinion by attacking.
Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International and host of the public-television show. Gideon Rose is managing editor of Foreign Affairs. Richard K. Betts is director of Columbia University's Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.