In its typically heavy-handed way, the Bush administration announced today that if Iran suspends its suspicious uranium activities, then the United States will engage in multilateral diplomacy to persuade Iran to do so. This is consistent with the kind of multilateral charade that the United States earlier performed regarding North Korea, with its neighbors, and Iraq, with the United Nations. We hope they mean it this time, though the record is not encouraging.
The continuing confrontation over Iran's emerging nuclear weapons program has been called a "Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion" by Harvard's Graham Allison, recalling what historians still term "the most dangerous thirteen days in the history of mankind."
Applying that description to the Iranian situation is a useful reminder, but not an exact analogy. Of the two, the Cuban Missile Crisis posed a far more imminent threat to our survival. In October 1962, we discovered that a series of nuclear weapons sites, less than two weeks away from completion, were being installed suddenly and secretly just 90 miles from our shores by a nuclear superpower that had long threatened to "bury" us in the "Cold War" global struggle for military and ideological supremacy. Today, an infant weapons program still years away from completion is being established relatively openly and gradually more than 7,000 miles away by a developing country that has nothing to gain and everything to lose by attacking the United States. A quick American response to Iran, much less a violent one, is neither required nor wise.
But if we accept the analogy, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's May letter to President Bush can be compared to Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev's letter to President Kennedy on October 26, 1962, both sent at moments of high tension in the respective confrontations. Upon release, the Iranian letter was described by the American media as "long" and "rambling." The Bush administration was dismissive. "It looks like it did not answer the main question that the world is asking, and that is, 'When will you get rid of your nuclear program?'" said President Bush. Said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "It isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way. There's nothing in here that would suggest that we're on any different course than we were before we got the letter." State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We've seen it. I think there really isn't anything new in it."
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