Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Amen, Brother Greenwald

A very good corallary to Old Fogey's roundup of quotes on North Korea's nuclear test and BushCo's unwillingness to negotiate from Glenn Greenwald, who asks "What is left once diplomacy is eliminated?"
This toxic notion that hostile countries can't be negotiated with -- or that attempts to negotiate with them are thinly disguised gestures of weakness, appeasement and surrender -- seems to be grounded in the belief, one could almost say the neurosis, that every country is Nazi Germany and every leader is Hitler and therefore are beyond reason. But none of the countries whom we are told can't be negotiated with has displayed that type of irrationality or self-destruction. To the contrary, Kim Jong Il -- like Saddam Hussein -- seems obsessed with self-preservation and with perpetuating the power of his regime. The same could be said for Syria's Bashar Assad, just like his father before him. And whatever else one wants to say about them, the Iranian mullahs seem to be among the most rational and calculating actors on the world stage.

They may be oppressive and tyrannical and even evil. But that doesn't mean they are irrational or beyond the realm of reason. What seems irrational is the refusal to negotiate with them, because we then have no good options. We can't wage endless war. In fact, we can't even successfully wage the current wars we are fighting given our limited resources. And even if we could, doing so doesn't seem to enable us to achieve our objectives (see e.g., Iraq and, more and more, Afghanistan).

Diplomacy and negotiations -- including with irrational and oppressive regimes -- have been the key to maintaining stability and peace since the end of World War I, at least. Ronald Reagan fought against the same anti-diplomacy factions now in order to negotiate with the Soviet Union precisely because it was the only real option. Once you decide that negotiations are a worthless instrument, you're left with only two options -- endless war-making, or standing by and doing nothing in the face of growing dangers.


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