Lesson #1 in learning about diplomacy: governments choose their words very carefully, so that messages are sent in the headlines, and the quotes.
In 1990 George H W Bush made the statement, as the Iraqi forces were still rolling in to Kuwait, that “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”
I heard these words on the radio as I was starting my leave from the USAF to go camping at Cass Lake in MN. I told my mother in law at the time that we were going to war. Why? These words were clear, and unequivocal. The implication: Leave–or we will make you leave.
So that takes me to where we are now, with Iran. It wasn’t Obama who made the statement, but close. In discussing the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, declared: “I think they need to know that — that if they take that step — that they’re going to get stopped.”
The link contains a more detailed review of the testimony, and it should be said their was much more nuance to the testimony that the declarative statement and the sabre-rattling headlines. But (and this is an important but) the SecDef has made it clear–here is the line in the sand.
Once politicians–and Governments–have drawn that line, it is nigh-impossible to back down without losing faith.
Things are going to get worse. I feel it.