January 13, 2016

Cooler Heads Prevail: Iran And America Escape Escalation, Avoid A Catastrophic War Over A Minor Incident

 "Let us talk now, so that we do not become mad animals!" - Joost A. M. Meerloo.
"Of course, nothing in diplomacy is certain. Positions and policies can change for the worse. We still must be on the lookout for false flags, areas of miscommunication, and events taking on a life of their own.

History is full of wars where neither side was geared to go but had no choice because issues of honour and pride got in the way of rational calculations. Wars can start even after successful diplomatic deals. Once preparations and threats are made, the battles usually follow. That is why talk of red lines is so dangerous." - "Will Washington Ultimately Be Forced To Side With Saudi Arabia Over Iran In A War?"

"The use of threats and escalation is a high-risk strategy. The parties may keep on escalating in the hope that the other side will give in. At the same time, they may find themselves unable to escape escalation. As a consequence, they are likely to end up in a "competitive irrationality" in terms of possible outcomes, such as war." - Karin Aggestam, "Prolonged Peace Negotiations: The Spoiler's Game" pg. 325, from the book, "Unfinished Business: Why International Negotiations Fail" edited by Guy Olivier Faure, 2012, University of Georgia Press. 
For twenty-four hours the dogs of war were salivating. The leash was becoming loose, and the media was kicking up a storm. But, thankfully, the more mature and rational leaders in Washington and Tehran came out on top this time. Maybe next time the two countries won't be so fortunate and a war breaks out accidentally. It has happened before in history.

Repeating history's mistakes is something that only fools do. So this is yet another encouraging sign that past mistakes won't be repeated, and that a huge catastrophic war between America and Iran will be put off the table.

When America and Iran act responsibly and rationally like this they raise hope and confidence in the region and make local conflicts a little easier to resolve. Their big and small diplomatic victories should be embraced and emulated by others in the region, whether Syrians, Turks and Kurds, Palestinians and Israelis, or Saudis and Yemenis.

The chances of it happening are less than zero. In every culture peacemakers are not as celebrated as much as war heroes. But it's still good to hope that diplomacy will triumph over war in all of these conflicts.