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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A R C H 2 0 1 2
Give Peace a Chance
At the end of a year that saw rapidly
escalating concern over Iran, and in
particular the prospect that Tehran
may develop a nuclear weapon, two re-
tired ambassadors issued salutary ap-
peals to policymakers and the public to
reject the drumbeat for military action
in favor of diplomacy.
In November, retired ambassadors
WilliamH. Luers and Thomas R. Pick-
ering spoke out about a House of Rep-
resentatives bill that would outlaw any
American contact with an Iranian offi-
cial. “Besides raising serious constitu-
tional issues over the separation of
powers, this preposterous law would
make it illegal for the U.S. to know its
enemy,” they argued.
“Successive U.S. administrations
have put off learning about Iran and
having direct contacts with its officials
for more than 30 years. The Iranian
leadership has been complicit in this
dangerous game of avoiding contact”
The veteran diplomats returned to
the fray with a Dec. 30 Washington
Post op-ed, “Military Action Isn’t the
Only Solution to Iran”
). A
fter noting that
“The American people hear from gov-
ernment officials and presidential can-
didates nearly every day about military
action against Iran,” Luers and Picker-
ing ask: “Have we forgotten what Iraq
and the United States have been
through since 2002? Were it not for
that ill-begotten war, thousands of
Americans (and Iraqis) might still be
living. America would be a trillion dol-
lars richer and still be the proud, re-
spected and economically healthy
nation the world had known.”
They continue: “Military action is
becoming the seemingly fail-safe solu-
tion for the United States to deal with
real and imagined security problems.
The uncertain and intellectually de-
manding ways of diplomacy are seen as
‘unmanly’ and tedious — likely to in-
volve compromise or even ‘appease-
ment.’” Yet “history teaches that
engagement and diplomacy pay divi-
dends that military threats do not. De-
ployment of military force can bring
the immediate illusion of ‘success,’ but
always results in unforeseen conse-
quences and collateral damage that
complicate further the achievement of
America’s main objectives.”
Pickering and Luers conclude with
this recommendation: “Multiple, cre-
ative efforts to engage Iran’s leaders
and provide a dignified exit from the
corner in which the world community
has placed them could achieve more
durable solutions at a far lower cost. It
is a lesson that those urging military ac-
tion against Iran have failed to learn.”
But fortunately, it is not too late to try
William Luers served as U.S. am-
bassador to Czechoslovakia from 1983
to 1986 and was president of the
United Nations Association from 1999
to 2009. Thomas Pickering, under sec-
retary of State for political affairs dur-
ing the first Clinton administration,
also served as U.S. ambassador to Jor-
dan, Nigeria, India, El Salvador, the
United Nations and the Russian Fed-
The two men are members of the
alter Pincus’ excellent piece on the president’s daily national
security session [“Daily Intelligence Briefings Yield Clues to a
President’s Approach on Foreign Policy,” The Fed Page, Jan. 17] pointed
out that “there is no one in each morning’s 30-to-45-minute session
who has spent a career living and breathing foreign affairs.” This
absence introduces an obvious weakness in the policy process.
In the State Department, traditionally the lead formulator of foreign
policy, the Foreign Service is loaded with senior officers who have spent
their careers “living and breathing foreign affairs.” Why not designate,
say, State’s under secretary for political affairs (normally a Foreign Service
officer) to attend the president’s daily sessions?
— Letter from retired FSO George McFarland, in the Jan. 22 Washington Post