We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.Compare that with the appeasement talk we're getting today about diplomacy taking time, and a shift seems undeniable. With Iraq, we had the often repeated construction, "Diplomacy first, but we will disarm Saddam one way or the other." That "but we will" hasn't been tacked on to the statements I've heard concerning Iran. Surely, "no options have been taken off the table," but simply mentioning that in response to questioning is a very different mode of rhetoric. When Bush was talking about disarming Iraq, you could see the glimmer of intention in his eyes. When he added that "but..." you could see his excitement, and it was like looking into the future.
So how to describe the shift? What is at play here is the death of a sole reliance on military strength to defeat our enemies and achieve our objectives. The strength and intimidation paradigm leaves no room for other tactics, and the war with Iraq has thoroughly tied our hands on the military front. No enemy of America is afraid of our power because they know we are currently a paper tiger - wisely unwilling to use our one remaining strategic advantage, the nuclear arsenal. The coercive force doctrine was headlined by the Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative think tank that seems to have determined much of our foreign policy before Bush was elected. The philosophy arose both from the reality of our hegemonic power crossed with a distrust of that positively Clintonian touchy-feely-stuff, otherwise known as diplomacy. "Clinton had negotiated with the North Koreans, after all, and they had cheated on the agreement, playing the United States for chumps," or so goes the neoconservative narrative. In reality, of course, Clinton's agreement effectively halted the North Korean's military nuclear program, stopping plutonium enrichment entirely. During the time under Clinton's Agreed Framework, not a single weapon's worth of enriched fissile material was created by the North Koreans.
So, even though Clinton's Agreed Framework achieved the preeminent goal of stopping the North's nuclear development, it is viewed as a failure. Talking to "these people" is therefore counterproductive to the neoconservative - leaving the various levers of force. And what are you left with when the implementation of your theories leave America with no credibly coercive military force? Nothing, that's what, and the floundering we're seeing is a direct consequence.