Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to President Bush, and it presents a somewhat perplexing question. Let me frame it by quoting from the Washington Post story about it. First:
“This letter isn’t it,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Associated Press. “This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort. It isn’t addressing the issues that we’re dealing with in a concrete way. . . . It is most assuredly not a proposal.”
[John R.] Bolton [the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] dismissed the prospects of U.S. negotiations with Iran, saying a slew of diplomatic initiatives by other countries aimed at stalling Iran’s nuclear advances over the past three years had failed to bear fruit.
Now, I’ve read the letter, and Condi is basically correct in that the letter does not offer any specific bargaining terms or even starting points for dialogue. It meanders from point to point, mainly accusing the U.S. of being bad and/or evil, and extolling the virtues of Islam as a way of guiding one’s life.
At the same time, I don’t see any justification for Bolton’s defeatist attitude about diplomacy. So what if other countries haven’t been able to solve the problem? We’re the United States, and we should be able to apply our unique strengths and ingenuity to find a good solution.
So Ahmadinejad’s letter isn’t the starting point. Let’s make one. I am assuming everyone understands that a war with Iran is a very, very bad idea. There are lots of ways to approach the question that do not include war. Let’s debate those ideas.
My jaded side can’t help but acknowledge that Bush must see the opportunity to raise his approval by starting a war. We ought not let that happen. Why should American troops die for his political needs?