SPEAKING SOFTLY….Admiral William Fallon thinks that the war party needs to ratchet down its Iran rhetoric, and today David Ignatius reports that Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, agrees:

Now that he’s out in the sunlight, the 72-year-old retired spy chief has some surprisingly contrarian things to say about Iran and Syria. The gist of his message is that rather than constantly ratcheting up the rhetoric of confrontation, the United States and Israel should be looking for ways to establish a creative dialogue with these adversaries.

….Halevy suggests that Israel should stop its jeremiads that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. The rhetoric is wrong, he contends, and it gets in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.

This is, though hardly a majority view in Israel, not an uncommon one either. There are plenty of people, both there and in the U.S., who understand that bellicose rhetoric is a display of weakness, not strength, a fact that that we recognize easily enough when other people engage in it but not so easily when we do it ourselves.

Ratcheting down the “war of civilizations” talk isn’t some magic bullet that will suddenly make the Iranian regime feel secure enough to give up their nuclear program. But it’s one step in that direction, and smart foreign policy is all about putting together lots of little steps and pushing on lots of little levers to get what you want. Obviously this isn’t George Bush’s style — or Dick Cheney’s — but they won’t be in office forever. The question is: what are they going to do in the time they have left?