War should never be “off the table”, even if it’s off the table

Bush hints at using force against Iran

Despite the headline to the AP/MSNBC.com article I link to above, the President didn’t “hint at using force”. He very clearly said that force was “on the table” and reminded us that the US had used force recently.

Here’s part of the article:

In a stern warning to Iran, President Bush said “all options are on the table” if the Iranians refuse to comply with international demands to halt their nuclear program, pointedly noting he has already used force to protect U.S. security.

Bush’s statement during an interview on Israeli TV late Friday was unusually harsh. He previously said diplomacy should be used to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear program and if that failed then the U.N. Security Council should impose sanctions. [emphasis mine]

It shouldn’t take an AP editor to realize that reminding an opponent that force hadn’t been taken off the table is part of diplomacy.

I’m not advocating the use of force against Iran, though as the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq goes on I’m wondering if Iran might not be a more serious threat to things than the Saudis.

Despite what the anti-war and anti-Bush crowd is going to make of this statement, it was the right thing to say. Even if we have no intention of actually using force against Iran. In fact, especially if we have no intention of using force against Iran. To publicly declare that the use of force is an option that has been taken off the table is advertising that you are not serious. (Unless, of course, you are intentionally lying in an attempt to mislead your opponent. That’s a strategy that’s very dangerous and, though I’m not necessarily opposed to using it, I don’t think we’ve reached that bridge yet.)


  1. Good thing we still have those ‘good ‘ole’ Peacekeeper missles lying around… Not saying we need to, or should use them… Just saying that stockpile could be enough to make them not want to piss us off more than they have already done.

  2. Yeah – of course, missiles only work as a deterrent if they know you’re willing to use them under the right circumstances. That was why I didn’t understand the kafuffle over that guy (perhaps inadvisably) saying that he wouldn’t rule out nuking ‘terrorist cities’ in response to a nuclear attack by them. Isn’t that the kind of rhetoric which kept us all ‘safe’ through the Cold War? Granted, he said it in the wrong way, and at the wrong forum, but like I said, you can’t deter with something they don’t think you’re willing to use (whether you are or not is irrelevant). So you don’t have to say it, but it’s best to make them worry about it… I notice the same thing with crime. A lot of people with criminal tendencies will only commit crimes if they don’t think there will be any serious repercussions… I guess that’s one of the arguments for legalising fire-arms… you’re less likely to do something bad to someone if they might have the means of reprisal.