Think About the Term “Provocations”

Steven Weisman reports: “Speaking in Israel at the beginning of his visit to the Middle East, Mr. Bush took a hard line on Iran over its nuclear program and said that ‘all options are on the table’ to guard against more military provocations like the Iranian threats to American ships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday.”

Good lord. Just think about the term “provocations.” Ponder it for a minute. Does it seem likely that musing about how all options are on the table is likely to deter a provocation? Does a provocation really seem like the kind of thing you can deter? Obviously, if push comes to shove, a US Navy vessel is going to have to defend itself but the way you dissuade an adversary from staging provocations is by indicating that you’re not going to give him what he wants. There’s an effort under way to goad the United States into doing something that will rally the Iranian people behind its leadership. Unfortunately, from time to time there seems to be a parallel effort inside the US government, rather than a counter-effort to maintain international consensus on Iranian nuclear activities while avoiding any big blowups.