Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dancing with wolves, negotiating with devils

Today's Saipan Tribune has excerpts of an excellent Op-Ed piece by Leslie H. Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing for the Washington Post: "In the end, every President talks to the bad guys."

These verities of international relations, or any successful engagement of an opposing power, not only highlight the superiority of Barack Obama as the next President of the U.S., but also reveal lessons for us right here on the tiny islands of the Commonwealth.

"I have been charged by the president with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it." -- Vice President Dick Cheney, December 2003

Lil_hammerhead has hosted a lively discussion of just how stupid the 43rd POTUS is. Leslie Gelb tells us more. Posing the question of how do you deal with someone you believe to be evil, Gelb tells us simply: "You just can; it's done all the time." After citing examples from history's greatest (and less great) leaders, Gelb continues:

"Only President Bush messed up this simple, effective two-step approach to diplomacy. In 2002, he famously blasted Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "an axis of evil." (They were evil, though certainly not an axis.) But unlike Reagan, Bush virtually blocked his own future diplomatic path by making regime change his goal toward these evildoers, thereby slashing incentives for the devils to negotiate with him. Why should they negotiate if Bush's aim was to overthrow them? The policy made no sense, and sure enough, it didn't work. Bush did indeed go to war against Iraq, but he entered into direct negotiations with Pyongyang and eventually wound up holding ambassadorial-level talks with Iran about the present situation in Iraq. Those reversals made Bush, rather than the bad guys, look hypocritical."

Here's the nitty-gritty:

"The real issue is not whether to talk to the bad guys but how -- under which conditions, with which mix of pressure and conciliation, and with what degree of expectation that the bad guys will keep their word. When figuring out how to go about negotiating with devils, the questions [are] very basic."

Unfortunately, too many people miss this simple principle. The Cheney-Bush mentality, lodged in a very different part of the political spectrum, also exists right here in the CNMI and in the thought processes of overseas allies, thwarting progress toward goals and engendering missed opportunity.


lil_hammerhead said...

It is important to confront evil, on a discussion level.. to a point. The devil is in the details of how that is handled. And these "details" are more often than not, extraordinarily important.

dekada lawyer said...

Absolutely, Lil. And when you have experts, veterans in the arena, you pay attention to them and trust in their judgments. You don't undercut your generals and scatter the troops.

dekada lawyer said...

Or open unnecessary fronts ....

dekada lawyer said...

Let's be even more clear:

... useless, unnecessary fronts ....