Noah Millman cautions against hyperbole from supporters of diplomacy with Iran:
If the possibility of a nuclear Iran is not worth launching a war over (and it isn’t), then by the same token we need not be so desperate for a deal that every mistake or setback raises the prospect of total failure and “inevitable” armed conflict. Instead of panicking at the possibility that a particular round of talks might fail, advocates of diplomacy should stress the clear rational interest for both parties in a diplomatic solution, and therefore express confidence that, ultimately, a diplomatic solution will be forthcoming – and that the real question is how long it will take and what price will be paid by both sides.
Millman is right to warn against alarmism, and proponents of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue should avoid it as much as possible, but worrying about the increased likelihood of conflict should negotiations falter is not at all the same as promoting nonsensical ideas about an Iranian “martyr-state” and other unfounded scenarios of doom. Opportunities for a diplomatic solution are often available only for a limited time, especially when there is a concerted effort by hard-liners in both countries to prevent such a solution. If those opportunities are squandered on the assumption that another opportunity will present itself later on, the chances of reaching an agreement in the future decrease. It isn’t panic to alert people to the possible consequences of a breakdown in negotiations. It’s not apocalypticism to warn that an Iran debate already heavily slanted in favor of military action could easily move back in that direction whenever negotiations hit a snag.
Supporters of a diplomatic solution would probably be more certain of the ultimate success of negotiations if the U.S. were not already committed to a policy of “prevention.” If there were a broad consensus that “preventive” war against Iran wasn’t worth fighting, there would be much less to worry about, but the fact is that there is a consensus in both parties that “prevention” is imperative even if it means military action. I think that consensus is extremely foolish, but it would hardly be the first time that there was a bipartisan consensus in favor of an aggressive policy that made no sense. After all, the practical alternative to steady progress in negotiations with Iran is not the substitution of a policy of rapprochement and reduced sanctions, but will probably be one of increasing tensions, possibly piling on more sanctions, and moving closer to direct confrontation. Conflict with Iran isn’t inevitable, and I wouldn’t want to suggest that it is, but it seems reasonable to warn that efforts to derail negotiations might succeed and thereby make conflict more likely. Supporters of a diplomatic solution are naturally going to be concerned about anything that makes war with Iran more likely, since avoiding a new and unnecessary war is one of the main reasons why they support diplomacy. I don’t see how that can possibly aid Iran hawks, since they benefit most from obscuring the fact that their preferred policies would make another war much more likely.