Thursday, August 10, 2006


Failures of Diplomacy

I am frankly surprised and disappointed with some commentary appearing today over at The Corner, courtesy of Andrew Stuttaford.

Stuttaford expresses alarm over the current impasse in Lebanon, describes Belgravia Dispatch as “currently a must read.” If you view Diplomacy as a zero-sum net good and the current Administration’s Counter-terrorism foreign policy a disaster, then yes, BG’s a must read.

If you think the failed policies of the past led us precisely to where we are with Islamic Fascism, its rogue state sponsors, and “moderate Middle East state” Vichy Governments, then you might have a different perspective.

I think it most significant that the deadly, avowed enemies of Israel and the US are the ones screaming most loudly for an unconditional ceasefire, and negotiations for an International Peacekeeping Force to separate Hezbollah from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind such a ceasefire, such an eventually, under any conceivable scenario, timetable, architect or participants, is a perfect return to the status quo in terms of Hezbollah capabilities for terror – and an even degraded potential for the Lebanese to defang or prevent Hezbollah from resuming their proxy terror war.

Those who suggest this is a disaster for US relations in the region are naïve, ignorant, or stupid, or feigning one or more of the above.

Remember 1979 in Iran? Remember the 1983 attempt against the doomed World Trade Center? Remember 9/11? I think that’s pretty indicative of (at least a virulent strain) of foaming at the mouth Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.

Anyone who is at all familiar with the constant and unwavering stream of hate spewing from Madrassas and even “moderate” Islamic scholars for the past 30 years knows how ridiculous it would be to suggest that anything we’ve done in the past 5 years could possibly have worsened our standing in the world. Every time the Muslim world gets offended, that’s one more in an orderly succession of justifications and “causes” of one brutality or crime against humanity after another.

It’s sick, immoral, and pathological in the extreme. It’s the basis of the “blame the victim” mentality that our enemies want so very much for our ruling elites to adopt. After all, such a first step is essential to our eventual submission to Islam as dhimmi.

I don’t know if Stuttaford admires “the most talented foreign policy practitioner currently active in the Democratic party,” Richard Holbrooke, but Gregory Djerejian certainly does.

In today’s Washington Post, Holbrooke conflates Lebanon and Iraq into “a single emergency,” the resultant chaos of which only benefits “Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr.”

I don’t doubt for a minute that the current war between civilization and Islamic fascism provides opportunities which Iran, Al Qaeda and their proxies can exploit. That in no way necessarily implies that we are wrong to continue to push the attack, in Iraq, Lebanon, or less directly in Syria, Iran or the rest of the Middle East.

The implication from “diplomatic realists” like Holbrooke is that, had Israel conducted more of a “Clintonesque” gesture of response against Hezbollah provocations (definable acts of war in any previous century), achieved some phony negotiated settlement while pragmatic-minded and self-interested “moderate Middle Eastern states” were still angry at Hezbollah and Iran and unwilling to criticize Israel, then all would be well.

That’s the bizarro world of International Diplomacy, always ready to create pretend peace at someone else’s expense. (And if at the expense of Jews, all the better.)

Holbrooke bases his argument on an incongruous historical comparison to JFK and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis:

This combination of combustible elements poses the greatest threat to global stability since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, history's only nuclear superpower confrontation. The Cuba crisis, although immensely dangerous, was comparatively simple: It came down to two leaders and no war. In 13 days of brilliant diplomacy, John F. Kennedy induced Nikita Khrushchev to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba.

How in keeping with the new DNC talking points, being flown aloft this month in the wake of Israel’s latest war for survival: only Liberal Democrats can keep us safe.

Just to mention some problems of historical accuracy: contemporary analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis suggest the outcome had a lot more to do with Cuban and Soviet conflicts, mistrust, power plays and pure dumb luck than “brilliant diplomacy.”

Holbrooke places deep significance in the influence upon JFK of Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August,” and quotes this centerpiece:

"The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit."

Based on his premise, Holbrooke offers this assessment:

Preventing just such a trap must be the highest priority of American policy. Unfortunately, there is little public sign that the president and his top advisers recognize how close we are to a chain reaction, or that they have any larger strategy beyond tactical actions.

World War One can surely be described as a complex nesting of convoluted alliances and defensive treaties, and involving grand schemes of empire building and competition. Tuchman makes a valid assessment about the tragedy that was The Great War, and recall too that much of the world agreed that this needed to be the war to end all wars, and the last of the “world wars.”

Too bad Holbrooke didn’t reflect on the equally tragic good intentions gone foul in the aftermath of WWI, and how the most destructive seeds to germinate in the aftermath that led to the unthinkable WWII, spawned most of all through naïve and ill-considered diplomacy. Instructive too, would be the pre-WWII attempts at compromise, appeasement, and an assumed equivalence of both morality and legitimacy, even in the face of naked aggression, brutality, and oppression.

Such counter-examples are of no use to the realists. What we need most is more diplomacy, according to Holbrooke, despite the almost total absence of successes against this particular enemy and threat:

But the United States must also understand, and deal with, the wider consequences of its own actions and public statements, which have caused an unprecedented decline in America's position in much of the world and are provoking dangerous new anti-American coalitions and encouraging a new generation of terrorists. American disengagement from active Middle East diplomacy since 2001 has led to greater violence and a decline in U.S. influence. Others have been eager to fill the vacuum. (Note the sudden emergence of France as a key player in the current burst of diplomacy.)

American policy has had the unintended, but entirely predictable, effect of pushing our enemies closer together. Throughout the region, Sunnis and Shiites have put aside their hatred of each other just long enough to join in shaking their fists -- or doing worse -- at the United States and Israel.

So what else is new? It’s hard to imagine a more brutal and catastrophic “consequence” of anti-American sentiment than 9/11, which need not require the reminder, happened before we invaded Iraq. Flashback to any point in time since Islamic radicals began spewing their hate-filled venom since the rise and fall of that earlier, European inspired Fascism.

Holbrooke seems to know what’s best for the Israelis than the Israelis themselves:

Every secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright negotiated with Syria, including those Republican icons George Shultz and James Baker. Why won't this administration follow suit, in full consultation with Israel at every step? This would clearly be in Israel's interest.

With precious little to show for it, I’d argue. Just because you ignore a cancer and allow it to metastasize, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And would Hobrooke seriously argue that the Bush Administration isn’t coordinating our responses and actions with the Israeli Government? If so, he’d be the first critic to suggest it. What makes him think that’s not already happening? If Israel wanted us to negotiate with Syria, I am quite certain we’d be pursuing that avenue.

There is a kind of perverse, reflexive logic in most Clinton era appointee pronouncements on the global war on terror, a logic that is immune to reason. “This wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for George Bush,” the thinking goes, “we would have remained engaged diplomatically and avoided unilateral action.”

The problem is, this kind of thinking, this approach, the presumption of good intentions that lies at the heart of realist diplomacy, is absurd against an enemy that uses our civility against us. We saw it with North Korean duplicity on nuclear agreements, we saw it in the UN-facilitated fraud known as Oil for Food in Iraq. We are living through it again with Iran.

Once we start down the diplomatic primrose path with openly violent and avowed terrorists like Hezbollah, then surely we have fallen into the trap of our enemies making.

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