Noah Millman sees too few people on both left and right actively advocating for diplomacy with Iran:
Moreover, both antiwar factions have difficulty advocating for diplomatic engagement for another reason. The antiwar left has fundamental doubts about the integrity of American power. But diplomatic engagement requires a comfort with that power, and understanding of its uses and its limits. The antiwar right, meanwhile, has fundamental doubts about the legitimacy of limits on national sovereignty and freedom of action. But diplomatic engagement, again, requires comfort with the architecture of international relations, which is buttressed all over with liberal internationalist structures of one sort or another.
As a consequence, it’s very difficult for the antiwar constituencies in the two parties (and outside of either) to work together for a foreign policy that is more restrained in its use of force. Which means that right now, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives are pushing legislation that pretty much everyone involved in the diplomatic process understands is designed to make a diplomatic solution much less likely.
Many of Millman’s observations seem right to me, but things may not be quite so bleak. It is possible to survey the Iran debate and find far too few people advocating on behalf of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue, but I find it more remarkable that any serious diplomatic engagement with Iran has happened at all. To some extent, there are not that many people advocating for diplomacy because it is what the government is already doing. It’s true that protest movements don’t readily turn into advocacy groups, but it would be wrong to say that virtually all opponents of recent foreign wars are not supportive of diplomacy with Iran. It’s also worth recalling that antiwar activists and writers have long advocated in favor of diplomatic resolutions to disputes. Antiwar conservatives and libertarians here and elsewhere have been promoting the merits of diplomatic engagement for at least a decade, and in some cases longer than that. If that was not always true, it has become much more so in the last decade.
Despite the large numbers of members of Congress that seem intent on undermining negotiations, we have recently seen some significant opposition to the push for a new sanctions bill. Meanwhile, the supporters of the bill have had to misrepresent their position as one of trying to aid the U.S. in the negotiations. Those claims are already being thoroughly debunked and ridiculed, but it is notable that even those dead-set against reaching a compromise with Iran feel compelled to pretend that they want diplomacy to succeed.
Even in Congress, there are some that have been emphasizing the importance of diplomacy. Rand Paul recently spoke at the Center for the National Interest and said this:
This may be no great insight to a group of diplomats and foreign-policy experts, but to me it is the beginning of understanding problem resolution and to me it is the first principle of diplomacy: understanding that diplomacy only is successful when both parties feel that they have won. In order for both parties to perceive victory, I think both parties must save face, or at the very least not lose face. Saving face is even more important if one party to the transaction is a superpower and the other party is a second- or third-tier country.
Diplomatic engagement has more advocates than we might suspect, and it has more supporters in the public and in our foreign policy debates than I can remember at any time over the last fifteen years.