What do the New York Times op-ed page and The Who have in common?

Steve Walt effectively vivisects Adam Lawther’s op-ed yesterday on the alleged positive externalities that an Iranian nuclear bomb would have on the Middle East and American foreign policy.  Rather than dogpile on, I’m going to go meta again.  I’m intrigued by what op-ed editor David Shipley is trying to do on the Iran debate.  Lawther’s ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Steve Walt effectively vivisects Adam Lawther's op-ed yesterday on the alleged positive externalities that an Iranian nuclear bomb would have on the Middle East and American foreign policy.  Rather than dogpile on, I'm going to go meta again. 

I'm intrigued by what op-ed editor David Shipley is trying to do on the Iran debate.  Lawther's op-ed is hardly the first strange op-ed on Iran to appear in the past few months.  We've also had Alan Kuperman's analysis for why bombing Iran is such a good idea, and the Leverett's pay-no-attention-to-the-protestors-behind-the-curtain argument for enhanced engagement with the current Iranian leadership. 

As the links above suggest, I'm not a fan of any of these arguments.  That said, I am a fan of having these arguments inserted into the public discussion over Iran.  Ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a common lament has been that was no public debate about the wisdom of different policy options.  Both foreign policy mooseheads and scholars have highlighted this pre-invasion consensus.  These analyses might be somewhat exaggerated, but I think it would be difficult to deny that in the opinion pages of the major newspapers, the deck was somewhat stacked in favor of military action. 

Steve Walt effectively vivisects Adam Lawther’s op-ed yesterday on the alleged positive externalities that an Iranian nuclear bomb would have on the Middle East and American foreign policy.  Rather than dogpile on, I’m going to go meta again. 

I’m intrigued by what op-ed editor David Shipley is trying to do on the Iran debate.  Lawther’s op-ed is hardly the first strange op-ed on Iran to appear in the past few months.  We’ve also had Alan Kuperman’s analysis for why bombing Iran is such a good idea, and the Leverett’s pay-no-attention-to-the-protestors-behind-the-curtain argument for enhanced engagement with the current Iranian leadership. 

As the links above suggest, I’m not a fan of any of these arguments.  That said, I am a fan of having these arguments inserted into the public discussion over Iran.  Ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a common lament has been that was no public debate about the wisdom of different policy options.  Both foreign policy mooseheads and scholars have highlighted this pre-invasion consensus.  These analyses might be somewhat exaggerated, but I think it would be difficult to deny that in the opinion pages of the major newspapers, the deck was somewhat stacked in favor of military action. 

My hunch is that Shipley is thinking:  "Won’t Get Fooled Again"  He wants as heterogeneous an array of views as possible as the Iran situation develops. 

There is something laudable about this if it’s true — it’s exactly what the Times op-ed page should be doing as a foreign policy crisis unfolds.  My only concern is the caliber of reasoning in these op-eds.  They are, as Walt put it, "silly arguments."  On the other hand, if these ideas are vetted and then shot down, maybe the foreign policy community actually knows what it’s talking about this time around. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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