Alan Isenberg rips the Europeans for their fecklessness and the US for its lack of direction in dealing with the man he calls "radical new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." Tough language from a Newsweek International writer. He notes that "Tehran has masterfully exploited the limits of the U.S. and European approaches, pressing ahead with elements of its nuclear program, seeking strategic allies whom it can tempt with its vast oil and gas resources and further suppressing democracy at home."
His suggestions on a course of action seem fairly sound, although he places more trust in Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, than I would.
Meanwhile, Mark Steyn warns against viewing Ahmadinejad as merely a bombastic clown:
"Diplomatic" language is one of the last holdovers of the pre-democratic age. It belongs to a time when international relations were conducted exclusively between a handful of eminent representatives of European dynasties. Today it's all out in the open -- President Ahmaddasanatta [read: I'm mad as a (h)atter] proposed his not-quite-final solution for Israel on TV. [Bush press sec'y Scott] McLellan and [State Dept. spokesman Adam] Ereli likewise gave their response on TV. So the language of international relations is no longer merely the private code of diplomats but part of the public discourse -- and, if the government of the United States learns anything from the last four years, it surely ought to be that there's a price to be paid for not waging the war as effectively in the psychological arenas as in the military one. What does it mean when one party can talk repeatedly about the liquidation of an entire nation and the other party responds that this further "underscores our concerns," as if he'd been listening to an EU trade representative propose increasing some tariff by half a percent?
Well, it emboldens the bully. It gives him an advantage, like the punk who swears and sprawls over half the seats in the subway car while the other riders try not to catch his eye. The political thugs certainly understand the power of psychological intimidation. Look at Saddam Hussein in court, so confident in his sneering dismissal of judge and witnesses that he's generating big pro-Baathist demonstrations in Tikrit . . . It requires enormous strength of will on the part of free societies to bring blustering cocksure thugs down to size, even after we've overthrown them and kicked them out of the presidential palace. In Iran, President Ahmaddamytree figures that half the world likes his Jew proposals and the rest isn't prepared to do more than offer a few objections phrased in the usual thin diplo-pabulum.
We assume, as Neville Chamberlain, Lord Halifax and other civilized men did 70 years ago, that these chaps may be a little excitable, but come on, old boy, they can't possibly mean it, can they? Wrong. They mean it but they can't quite do it yet. Like Hitler, when they can do it, they will -- or at the very least the weedy diplo-speak tells them they can force the world into big concessions on the fear that they can.