Sunday, January 21, 2007

When Leaders Follow Diplomats Who Want to Talk at any Price

To continue with my last post on American diplomacy, there are a group of news stories that deal with the troubles that stem from using the diplomacy-ueber-alles policy with every international problem. Yahoo News had a story a few days ago about the Democrats seeking to block any military action against Iran unless Bush gives Iran advance notice and time to prepare by first going to the Democrat Congress for approval. Usually this would be worth a long post about how the Democrats are only reinforcing Iran’s opinion that we won’t do anything to stop them so they can push as far as they like. However, barring any major attacks by Iran (apparently killing American soldiers in Iraq isn’t major enough) it doesn’t seem likely Bush will actively move to stop Iran in his last 2 years. It would be a very tough decision even in the best case, but since the American people clearly don’t want anything done that would risk raising gas prices even a penny and voted in the left to run Congress this is not the best of cases. Ultimately, it is up to Bush but since the American people would either rather deal with Iran at much greater expense later or live in a world in which a nuclear Iran dictates oil prices and extorts tribute from America to keep terrorism to a lower level then I would expect Bush to go along (though I hope I’m wrong). Of course the people will blame Bush when the bill comes due for their current demands. I’ll instead focus on another issue this story brings up, the seeming inability for members of modern leftists and diplomats to understand that negotiating with dictators and terrorists for the sake of negotiating, or worse giving them concessions for the privilege, is not to our advantage and only makes the problem worse when we do decide to deal with it.

What grabbed my interest in the Yahoo story was the comments at the end by Lee Hamilton. He was the Democrat co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, which definitely makes him prime fodder like his co-chair James Baker (whom I covered over his plan to deal with Iran to stabilize Iraq and his plan to sell out Israel to stabilize Iraq). Mr. Hamilton, along with the ISG, believes the solution to the Iran and Iraq issues is… dialogue. What a surprise. He tries to flip the issue in a way so that if you criticize talks then you’re criticizing US diplomats by saying,
“Do we have so little confidence in the diplomats of the United States that we're not willing to let them talk with somebody we disagree with?" The problem is not so much American diplomats but the “somebody we disagree with”. American diplomats are fine professionals who are capable of advancing America’s interests in the world when they don’t fall for the left-wing-no-bad-peace-we’re-so-smart-we-can-solve-any-problem-null-think. The problem is they usually do and this gives the advantage to the “somebody we disagree with.” This kind of muddled thinking can be seen in Hamilton’s statement, Iran is a country that has on many occasions killed Americans, violates diplomatic norms whenever they want, is currently doing everything they can to see to it that Iraq is as bloody as possible, and is starting a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and possibly beyond (for those who would blame Israel, she’s had nukes for some 30 years, Arab countries are only now talking about starting nuclear programs). This is not a country with which we merely “disagree”. It doesn’t take much rational thinking about the world to realize that.

We can see what happens when diplomats win and attempt to reason with the unreasonable in other recent news. Mario Loyola over at the National Review has a recap of recent news regarding talks with North Korea. In short it’s the same as it’s always been. Talk, talk, talk, nothing happens except North Korea continues advancing their nuclear and missile programs. Given that the Iranians are visiting, they are also likely sharing their knowledge. Or if we do give in and give them goodies to behave, as Clinton did, they simply take the goodies and continue as before. Either way talk alone accomplishes nothing and only allows the situation to degrade. In Columbia, President Uribe offered talks with Marxist rebels last month. Uribe has generally done a great job fighting the Marxists so at least he is entering talks from a position of strength. Nevertheless, his offer of talks was still met with bombing in the capital city. The Marxist rebels are also demanding the military offensive against them be called off in exchange for talks. Can’t imagine why they’d want that (hint to lefties, it’s because they’re losing). Can't mention failed talks without mentioning the endless round of Israeli concession followed by Palestinian (or other Arab) backtracking that has been the 50 year Arab-Israeli "Peace Process". Nothing particularly new here though, Hezbollah is quietly and quickly rebuilding after last Summer's fighting despite UN "mandates" to the contrary. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert at least hasn't been foolish enough yet to enter into talks with Hezbollah, but we'll see.

Lastly, and most relevantly (hence its own paragraph), from Spain comes news that the far left Prime Minister Zapatero is under pressure because his 9 month long peace talks with the Basque ETA terrorist group resulted in a car bombing at the Madrid airport. One of the surprising things is the shock that the Prime Minister displays about the bombing, “It (ETA) made the worst decision — a criminal, mistaken and useless one. It chose the path of terror." Fancy that, a criminal terror group choosing the criminal path of terror. Unlike Zapatero and other lefties, that decision doesn’t throw my entire perception of reality out the window. As for mistaken and useless, ETA got the peace talks despite its bombings, Al-Qaeda made Spain retreat from Iraq with bombings, so whether it in facts turns out to be a mistake there is certainly reason for ETA to not see it as one. The Prime Minister then makes a Chamberlain-esque mea culpa, “I want to recognize the clear mistake I made before all Spanish citizens.” What I don’t understand is why does all of become so clear of a mistake to the left afterwards? The right and non-diplomats seem to be capable of understanding it beforehand. I know the left hates hearing the words Hitler, Chamberlain, and Munich together, but that was simply the most well known and egregious example of the error of their policies regarding dictators, terrorists, and other assorted thugs (I know, that’s why they hate to hear it).

Bush would be wise to note what has happened to Zapatero’s fortunes since the bombing. Zapatero was elected following a major terror attack promising to talk. He has been popular and followed through with his talks even though it should have been expected to do nothing but give the terrorists breathing room. Now his poll numbers have collapsed and Spaniards say things such as, "What is your word worth after all this? You have been fooled by a pack of murderers." Sadly, it doesn’t work with voters, as Zapatero tried, to point out that you were merely doing what they wanted at the time, “I did what most Spaniards wanted, try to use the truce to end the violence.” Now he is discredited, ETA is as strong as ever, several Spaniards died, and the electorate is up in arms. Sometimes being a leader means leading where others need to go, but don’t want to. I hope Bush is watching and learning.


  1. I just hope it doesn't have to come to a point where we need another major terrorist attack in America to wake people back up. We probably won't be lucky enough to have a Republican president then so all we'll get are meaningless mea culpas, teary speeches, and tough talk followed by little action like with Clinton and that Zapatero guy.

  2. I agree completely Phil. It's surprising and disappointing how quickly the people went back to sleep. Almost zero attention has been paid to terrorism or foreign policy in general by the Republican 08 presidential contenders and even less by the Democrat ones. I've mentioned before on the blog that everyone blames the democracies for not responding to the rise of the dictators but they were in the midst of a major depression, feared a repeat of a war that killed 2 million+ of their soldiers and drained their treasuries completely, and were facing 3 great powers. We by comparison are backing off because economic growth was only 2.5% and not 3.5%, because of a war that has seen 3,000+ killed and cost pocket change in budget terms, and we're facing a group of pipsqueak powers, it's pathetic.

  3. It really does come down to the carrot and the stick. If you are always willing to use the stick then you shouldn't be shocked or surprised when someone uses their own stick against you.

  4. I think the United States should just stay out of the Middle East, its just not doing them any good.

  5. Not doing a great deal of good for the Middle East either Orhan.

  6. Sorry for the delay in responding, its midterms week. I'm not surprised that others use the stick against us. I've never criticized any country for using every element of their power to advance their interests. My issue is with us letting them do it, well making it painless is more accurate, when it's against our interests. Whether we use the stick or not has little relation to whether it's used against us. We haven't tested anti-sat weapons yet China did and put our satellites at risk in the process. We don't arm the Chechens or Moldovans yet Russia arms Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and anyone else with an anti-America policy. We haven't seized the assets of Venezuelan state owned companies in the US but Venezuela is seizing our companies’ assets. It's a stick or be sticked world, if we don't stick then we'll just be sticked (to play on stick a little too much).

    If I understand you correctly Orhan, I would agree with you. It sounds like what I've heard in the news from Turk and Iranians and from every Turk, Persian, and Jew I've chatted: it's never worth it to try to help the Arabs, they'll just drag you down with them, it's ok to knock off or punish a leader but nothing more. I agreed we should give the Arabs a chance to help themselves, but they are clearly not taking it. Since we can only help and can't make anyone do anything and since we've completed our main mission of getting rid of Saddam it's getting about time to find a son of a bitch who's our son of a bitch to run Iraq (to use FDR's old policy). With the exception of Lebanon, the Arabs have for a millennium been able to defy attempts by Turks, Persians, Britons, and Frenchies to improve themselves, not too surprising it's no different today with us. Still worth a try though.

    Thanks for the comments.