If Iran is determined, no one can stop it becoming a nuclear power, alongside Israel, Pakistan and India. The crazed dictator of North Korea shows the way: nuclear weapons make nations unassailable. Why on earth would Iran not want them too? ... Fantasy diplomacy is ready to fight all the way to stop the mullahs getting the bomb. Reality suggests there is a difficult choice: if you cannot win, give up at once to minimise the damage. Get off the high horse and start to negotiate terms on which Iran can be allowed to enrich uranium. It amounts to turning a blind eye to their weapons potential while striking a deal that saves their face, affords them some dignity and entices them economically into becoming a more stable force.
Your hear it all the time: let's stop fighting; let's negotiate. Of course, the key problem being why anyone should be willing to negotiate with a party which is willing to surrender at the drop of a hat. As every MBA (but presumably not Polly Toynbee) knows, the unspoken alternative to negotiation is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA.
BATNA is a term coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 bestseller, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In. ... In the simplest terms, if the proposed agreement is better than your BATNA, then you should accept it. If the agreement is not better than your BATNA, then you should reopen negotiations. If you cannot improve the agreement, then you should at least consider withdrawing from the negotiations and pursuing your alternative (though the costs of doing that must be considered as well).
My teachers put it this way: BATNA is the penalty you pay when you walk away from the negotiating table. Since Polly Toynbee argues that Teheran should face no penalty for walking away from the negotiating table then there is no reason it cannot continue to do whatever it wants. Indeed the question is why it should negotiate at all since nothing is to be gained by negotiations. Iran is free to advance in whatever direction it wishes without opposition. Of what use are negotiations? To provide a forum to make further concessions of course. What else should the West concede? Oh wait, I had forgotten that it is not only important to surrender, but to surrender cravenly. During the Clinton Administration, it was sophisticated policy to pre-emptively hand over the keys to the fortress even before you were asked to. In that distant era the European Union was viewed as as inevitable Wave of the Future, the successor Superpower. Not, as it turned out, the footman in chief to the imams.
... Kupchan, who was Director of European Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council in the first Clinton Administration, the United States will soon be on the way down as a world power while Europe is on the way up, to be followed closely by Asia. "America's unipolar moment and the global stability that comes with it will not last," he contends. ... Kupchan's prescription is to retreat: "The United States cannot and should not resist the end of the American era. To do so would only risk alienating and provoking conflict with a rising Europe and an ascendant Asia."
While the prediction didn't quite work out for the European Union there's no reason why an updated version of this impeccable logic shouldn't work for Iran or any variable you may wish to substitute in it's place. The key idea is the same: dishonor before death, with the one used to gain a reprieve before the other. 'The United States cannot and should not resist the end of the American era. To do so would only risk alienating and provoking conflict with a rising X and an ascendant Y.' Thanks to the Internet Time Machine we can savor the full flavor of the Imperative to Decline. To Kupchan it wasn't happening fast enough, even under Clinton.
Salon: Still, you're basing a lot of your argument on what you've seen in the last year, aren't you? The idea that American intervention and multilateralism is on the wane ... that has a lot to do with what happened in the last year. And that's just one year.
Kupchan: Interestingly enough, I wrote the first draft of the book before Bush was elected. The core themes were all there. What I'm quite shocked by is the speed with which all of this has happened. I thought that my general analysis would take a good decade to play out. Once Bush came to office it seemed like someone stepped on the gas. I had to rewrite the book and I put much more emphasis on America's turning inward and its ambivalence about running the world. After Sept. 11, the unilateralists' angry lashing-out side came back. The emphasis in the book on that was written after Bush came to office, and after Sept. 11.
Salon: So you think this trend might slow down with Democrats -- if they're ever in power again -- but not halt.
Kupchan:Yes, and that's partly because when I was in the Clinton administration in the early 1990s -- only a few years after the end of the Cold War -- I already saw trends that were seeds for the book. Congress was beginning to check out. The media was stopping its coverage of foreign affairs. Even Clinton, who was a liberal internationalist by inclination, wasn't so wild about the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court and all this other stuff that the Bush people said no to. When it all comes down to it, I see the arrows all pointing in one direction, but the emphasis and the speed changes from party to party.
History is cruel in that way. We can read Kupchan's remarks today not as serious scholarship but as dated comedy. The European what? The Kyoto whosis? Small things loom large in tiny minds. But the impulse is still there. Just ask Polly Toynbee: "if you cannot win, give up at once to minimise the damage.". Wrong premise, wrong conclusion.