While perusing the blogosphere and news updates for items to highlight, I came across an interesting little nugget at The Atlantic entitled “Weapons-Grade Confusion: The Danger of Misreading Our Nuclear Adversaries”. The title intrigued me, so I dug further. Patrick Disney (no relation, I don’t think), an M.A. candidate at Yale, authored the piece which draws a corollary between the dangers of U.S.-Soviet nuclear-armed miscommunications and those between the U.S. and Tehran. While I think the comparison between the two relationships is somewhat flawed, Disney makes an interesting case. (As an aside, I got to know Patrick a bit while he was still in DC working for the National Iranian American Council. He was interested in nukes, for obvious reasons, and I was convening a nuke discussion group.)
So, in the Atlantic piece, Patrick basically says that the U.S. needs to be careful about generalizing too much about what Tehran is actually doing and doing too much sabre-rattling. He presses for a bit more engagement between the two adversaries. He uses one of the later examples of mistrust and miscommunication between the U.S. and the Soviets to drive his point home. Apparently, in the early 1980s, we almost came to a nuclear-tipped war with Russia due to some major paranoia on the part of the Soviets, which, in their zeal to collect information about planned U.S. aggression, took a NATO exercise as the real thing. Oy vey. Luckily, in the end, cooler heads prevailed and the Soviets pulled back.
While Patrick’s treatise leans a bit too forward in the Iranian camp for my comfort, I do think he makes a good point about engagement versus the saber-rattling course. While an improvement over the last Administration in the diplomatic sphere, I do think the Clinton-led State Department can do a bit better on this front. After all, isn’t the very definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results? The whole U.S.-Iran thing smacks of this, so much so, that I am developing a serious case of ennui regarding things Iranian.
As an aside, I would commend readers to Patrick’s blog, written from his roost in New Haven. Its a slightly alternative take on Iran without all the baggage, complete with ample reference to Primitive Radio Gods, The Offspring and early No Doubt (before Gwen went totally glam, started pretending to be a Rasta and married the British guy.)
P.S. Whilst we are on things Tehranian, the Council on Foreign Relations has just put out a piece on how the Obama Administration has been “handling” the whole Iran conundrum.