Classical diplomacy warns leaders to be neither obsequious and appeasing abroad, nor gratuitously boastful and hard-headed.
The usual advice is don’t-tread-on-me resoluteness, or what Teddy Roosevelt characterized as “speak softly and carry a big stick.” The alternatives – whether “speak loudly and carry a twig,” “speak softly and carry a twig,” or “speak loudly and carry a big stick”- are far worse.
Our current diplomats have unfortunately forgotten that golden mean of guarded language backed with credible warnings of overwhelming force. And the result is a verbal mess, backed by impending attacks called off, confusion, and harsh rhetoric rather than quiet retribution.
Biden and his team give us endless variations on the same loud threat to Iran along the following lines: “If outside actors are considering widening the war, DON’T!” They accompany this by reacting only four times to 83 documented acts of Iranian aggression directed at U.S. forces, by greenlighting a $6 billion ransom to Iran and by lifting sanctions, resulting in a $50 billion Iranian oil windfall.
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