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September 17, 2008

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OT: Am I the only one still having problems with the RSS feeds here? I've tried RSS 2.0 and Atom, and both fail to load (Firefox 3.0) since Tuesday. Everything was fine on Monday...

Amen and hallelujah. Been wondering when someone would get around to recognizing that the world is already in mid-shift to Obama's foreign policy views. Good on you for detailing it.

Hey, a shoutout to my hometown heroes! If Wayne Coyne were advising one of the presidential campaigns I'm sure that the pink robot threat would no longer be ignored by the pro-robotic destruction mainstream media.

Tgirsch, I think it's caused by the bad characters in the block quote in the "Priorities" post. Looks like they were supposed to be em dashes, but they're invalid characters of some sort instead. One of the blog owners should be able to replace them -- three of them in the second paragraph of the block quote.

My gosh, Henry Kissinger was willing to talk with an oppressive and dictatorial regime? It truly is an age of miracles and wonders.

Touche Mr. Schilling.

Still, he's part of the consensus.

It's a sad day for America when "Former senior diplomats attest to diplomacy's value" is a noteworthy and even controversial story.

"Relevancy of diplomacy in international relations receives bipartisan support!"

McCain's a joke.

Nice Flaming Lips reference.

Flaming Lips!!1! ZOMG!!

evil will prevail. it usually does.

Eric – stretching dude. Old SecDefs? Kissinger?

As far as Obama's foreign policy bona fides, recent history and recent events have served to bolster his claim to sound judgment

Dude – that is pure Kool-Aid, not analysis… I’m voting for the dude, but jeeze…

that is pure Kool-Aid, not analysis

doesn't the fact that people, even his political enemies, keep adopting policies he's already recommended mean something like "recent history and recent events have served to bolster his claim to sound judgment" ?

cleek: …doesn't the fact that people, even his political enemies, keep adopting policies he's already recommended…

That assumes that you believe he actually did recommend them, strongly, and first out of the gate. He certainly claims that…

That assumes that you believe he actually did recommend them, strongly, and first out of the gate.

huh? even if he wasn't the first with those positions (and i don't know if he wasn't or not), surely advocating them is a sign of good judgment. no ?

My gosh, Henry Kissinger was willing to talk with an oppressive and dictatorial regime? It truly is an age of miracles and wonders.

Lol, but actually I shudder a little when Kissinger is suddenly the voice of reason - shouldn't he be locked up in The Hague?

Lol, but actually I shudder a little when Kissinger is suddenly the voice of reason - shouldn't he be locked up in The Hague?

I figure he's looking for business opportunities representing Iranian interests.

And how is Bush the voice of reason now, over Pakistan? Obama's wrong on that one.

1) It appears that the position of Kissinger et al -- unlike Obama -- is that "the U.S." should meet with Iran without preconditions, not that the President of the U.S. should do so. Rather different things.

2) The notion of "without preconditions" is more amorphous than it sounds. For one thing, there are always going to be some conditions, for example security-related conditions providing for an advance team and discussions between security people, so we know the diplomat (or much more so, the President) will not be attacked, and our security people will also be carrying a certain level of weaponry which must be agreed to.

And while the Iranians would likely reject a meeting if we demanded that we only or primarily discussed the ending of their nuclear programs, we would likely reject a meeting if Ahmadinejad demanded that we only or primarily discussed ending sanctions, or the return of the 12th Imam.

The meeting would also not be productive if each President simply tried to talk about what he wanted and refused to talk about what the other side wanted. So there would probably have to be an understanding that both side's favored discussions should get a significant portion of the time.

Generally, even with countries on much better terms than the U.S. and Iran (ones which have not seized and held diplomats for example), even allied nations, there is always a pretty good idea of what will be discussed at a meeting between heads of state, and usually any agreements they discuss will have been largely hashed out ahead of time. Wasting our President's time, and legitimizing a foreign President whose government imprisons and murders its political opposition, by having our President make a visit which achieves nothing, especially if it's to hear some insane Ahmadinejad harangue, all shown on Iranian TV, is not in the interest of the U.S.

In short, we probably should have U.S. diplomats speaking with Iranian diplomats directly. If they find common ground for a useful higher-level discussion, then it may make sense for a meeting of Presidents. Otherwise, not so much.

That assumes that you believe he actually did recommend them, strongly, and first out of the gate. He certainly claims that

Why?

I think you might be confusing terms here.

I didn't claim that Obama was the most original foreign policy thinker. I didn't claim that Obama invented the blackberry diplomacy 101. I didn't claim that Obama had, ex nihilo, created an entirely new foreign policy doctrine that nobody had ever thought of before.

I said he has good judgment.

Good judgment, to me, means repeatedly picking the right course from the panopoly of choices. Even if some or all of those choices were voiced by someone else first. What's the harm in that? Wise leaders are almost always taking the advice of wise and trusted counselers. The wise leader is wise because she/he can weigh the advice and choose the right course.

Obama has done that. Thus, he has good judgment. McCain has not done that - consistently. Like George Bush.

That's all.

Wasting our President's time, and legitimizing a foreign President whose government imprisons and murders its political opposition, by having our President make a visit which achieves nothing, especially if it's to hear some insane Ahmadinejad harangue, all shown on Iranian TV, is not in the interest of the U.S.

Whaaah?

We do this all the time. Bush is constantly meeting with heads of regimes that "murder its political opposition." I mean, are you really suggesting that Mubarak doesn't do that? The Saudi regime? The Uzbeks? Putin? Chinese leaders?

And that's just recent history during the Bush administration. If I could go back a few decades, I could fill this comment with a who's who of some of the most brutal, vicious regime leaders in modern history - all who were either granted White House meetings or presidential visits.

You have to explain to me why Iran is so much worse than those other states. Otherwise, this is a standard that is selectively applied - thus revealing an ulterior agenda.

And how is Bush the voice of reason now, over Pakistan? Obama's wrong on that one.

I actually agree with that. My point was just that Obama's supposedly naive and irresponsible foreign policy proposals are quite mainstream.

Eric Martin: "You have to explain to me why Iran is so much worse than those other states (Egypt, Saudi, Uzbek, Russia, China). Otherwise, this is a standard that is selectively applied - thus revealing an ulterior agenda."

While its murder of political dissidents is sufficient to define a regime as illegitimate , you are right that it is not the only consideration when it comes to diplomatically recognizing a state. Considerations of power and necessity were of course at the heart of, say, Nixon's going to China. But there are other differences as well, none of them improper.

Perhaps Iran's kidnapping our diplomats (something even Nazi Germany and Japan refrained from in WWII) and never apologizing for same, warring against us recently (and perhaps to this date) in Iraq, arming Hezbollah, attempting to build nuclear weapons, and openly threatening to destroy another state, which happens to be allied with us, are evidence of an ulterior U.S. agenda in bizzaro world.

Perhaps Iran's kidnapping our diplomats (something even Nazi Germany and Japan refrained from in WWII) and never apologizing for same, warring against us recently (and perhaps to this date) in Iraq, arming Hezbollah, attempting to build nuclear weapons, and openly threatening to destroy another state, which happens to be allied with us, are evidence of an ulterior U.S. agenda in bizzaro world.

Um, you are aware that we held negotiations with the USSR right? By your standards of making war, they fit the criteria. Ditto the whole "attempting to build nukes" part - though that is an interesting criteria with which to rule out negotiations. I mean, we meet with the Indians right? The Pakistanis? The Israelis? They all not only "attempted" to build nukes, they actually built them. We've recently had some limited success with North Korea despite their success as well.

Further, you make some factually inaccurate statements. The Iranians did not openly threaten to destroy Israel, though, again, we have met with states that have made such threats to Israel and other nations in the past (hint: Saudi Arabia has said worse).

As for the kidnapping of diplomats, you are aware that the US orchestrated the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected leader and installed the brutal regime of the Shah which ruled Iran with the help of CIA/US Govt largesse for decades, right?

In so doing, we built up considerable animosity in the Iranian population which erupted in the seizure of the embassy and detention of diplomats and CIA officers.

That's kind of an important detail to leave out.

Have we apologized for that? Do you think they might be waiting for a little quid pro quo? Would they be wrong?

"Perhaps Iran's kidnapping our diplomats (something even Nazi Germany"

I think I missed our apology to Iran for overthrowing their democratically elected government, or, for that matter, most of our apologies for our multitude of invasions and interventions around the world.

Are they "sufficient to define [our] regime as illegitimate"? If not, why not?

"arming Hezbollah,"

How many groups, including brutal regimes that suppress the human rights of their own people, and including terrorist groups, has the U.S. armed around the world?

"attempting to build nuclear weapons"

Gee, I think we did that, too.

"and openly threatening to destroy another state"

Do I even need to put something here?

And Israel has no formal treaty of alliance with the US to my knowledge.

Gary, Eric:

1) I have long thought that the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh was worse than a crime, a blunder. But I said that "murder of political dissidents is sufficient to define a regime as illegitimate." I did not say that when a country overthrows a second country's government that defines the first country's government as illegitimate.

2) Even countries at war, which have tried to invade and destroy each others' governments, have very rarely imprisoned each others' diplomats. Your point, that we have effectively warred against Iran as well, does not answer this point.

3) No doubt we have talked and worked with unsavory characters, but my objection to meeting with Iran because it is warring against us and our allies is not dependent on our side necessarily or always being in the right. Nations generally do not exchange diplomats with countries they are at war with. The exception that proves the rule -- the Soviet Union -- was both too big and too influential not to meet with, and yes, had many nuclear weapons, so it was important that communication lowered tensions during crises. Iran is none of these things, yet.

4) Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made an apology to the people of Iran in 2000.

5) Indian, Pakistan and Israel are not Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories, and not waging war on us. While Pakistan has troubling irredentist claims, its leaders have not reveled in talk of destroying India. The fact that Pakistan already has nukes is one reason we must engage with it despite its ambivalent position vis a vis Islamist terrorism, and for the same reason we do not want another (worse) state, such as Iran, to attain the same status. We of course do not want Pakistan and its nukes to fall to a clearly Islamist government.

6) Finally, with all the widely known reasons the U.S. has for shunning Iran, I'd like to know why you think there must be some secret or unsaid 'real' reason. Specifically, what is our "ulterior agenda" with regards to isolating Iran?

All that said, while I strongly defend Bush's (and preceding Presidents') decision not to meet with Iran's President up to now, I agree that Bush, McCain or Obama could reasonably choose to meet with Iran's President, and of course it is up to the President to decide the conditions under which he might do so.

I will make a prediction: If Obama is the next President, he will not meet with the President of Iran until "preconditions" -- including previous lower-level meetings to set an agenda -- have been met.

"No doubt we have talked and worked with unsavory characters, but my objection to meeting with Iran because it is warring against us and our allies is not dependent on our side necessarily or always being in the right. Nations generally do not exchange diplomats with countries they are at war with."

I think the idea that we're at war with Iran is extremely silly, not descriptive of reality in any way, and worse that than, a blunder. We have many tensions and problematic issues to deal with in our relationship with Iran, and the best way to resolve those, or at least ameliorate them, includes diplomacy. Which we're presently engaged in, anyway. Of necessity. Not some version of "we'll do anything to give Iran what it wants," but refusing to talk gains nothing; we both have things to trade, and things to lose if we don't.

Whereas acting as if we're at war, when we're not, can only make things worse, and sooner or later, probably sooner, lead to actual war.

"I did not say that when a country overthrows a second country's government that defines the first country's government as illegitimate."

Do you have some set of general principles we can look at as to what makes a country's government illegitimate? One that isn't arbitrary? I don't know that I have one that's dependent on external activities, myself, but I'd like to know if you do, since you're labeling at least one government illegitimate, and I'd like to know on what principle you're basing that judgment, and know if it's a principle we can useful apply consistently, or not.

"While Pakistan has troubling irredentist claims, its leaders have not reveled in talk of destroying India."

Iran's "leaders," of whom Ahmadinejad is neither foremost, nor in charge of foreign relations, nor the armed forces, are not more hostile to Israel in their language than Saudi Arabia and plenty of our other "allies." And said leaders have clarified a number of times that they're anti-Zionist, rather than threatening mass death, which, again, is a position held by most of our Arab allies, including plenty of Iraqi politicians. Using a couple of quotes from a guy not even in charge of Iran is extremely, and obviously wilfully (if not just ignorantly) selective.

It is extremely unconvincing reasoning as to why we shouldn't negotiate with Iran.

It's also the same reasoning -- the idea that refusing to talk to regimes we deem "illegitimate" will lead to a good outcome from our POV -- John Bolton has always pushed, the guy Bush now calls "not credible." It's the reasoning applied for years by Bush to North Korea, but given up on. It's the same reasoning historically applied by the extreme right to the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, and all the other commies.

It's never worked once.

One might learn from that.

1) "We have many tensions and problematic issues to deal with in our relationship with Iran, and the best way to resolve those, or at least ameliorate them, includes diplomacy. Which we're presently engaged in, anyway."

To the extent this is true, you have no cause for complaint about the Bush Administration, and as McCain has not attacked Bush for the extent of his diplomatic feelers to Iran, no complaint about McCain either. None of this amounts to the President himself meeting with Iran's President without preconditions.

2) A government is illegitimate if it maintains power by actively engaging in violence against its peaceful political opposition. Naturally we do and should have normal diplomatic relations with illegitimate governments, and perhaps no one of our complaints with Iran would rule such out. All taken together, I think a President should properly be allowed to eschew the Iranians without being attacked for same.

3) I do not believe that Iran is willing to trade away its pursuit of nuclear weapons. And I believe that legitimizing its government with a Presidential visit will help it to maintain itself internationally and domestically. If you believe otherwise about its weapons pursuits, then understandably you will feel otherwise about whether the potential benefits of pursuing higher-level diplomacy are worth these risks.

4) "Iran's "leaders," of whom Ahmadinejad is neither foremost, nor in charge of foreign relations, nor the armed forces, are not more hostile to Israel in their language than Saudi Arabia and plenty of our other "allies.""

Yes, but the Sauds are more interested in self-preservation than in Armageddon, the Saudis have no nuclear weapons programs, and not much of an army, and for all three reasons are not nearly the threat to Israel that Iran will be once it has built a couple nukes.

5) I don't know how "it" (whether it's not talking to, or taking a hard line with generally) can be said to have worked or "never worked once" since the U.S. has had a number of policies toward the USSR and China, major changes tend to take time, and both countries have liberalized significantly. Also, the USSR fell apart about 10 years into "right-wing" (Reagan-Bush) rule in the US, not after years of detente.

This recent Typepad refusal to allow for comments of more than a handful of paragraphs if there's a link is driving me crazy.

Pt. 1: "To the extent this is true, you have no cause for complaint about the Bush Administration"

Sure I do. Want a list?

"A government is illegitimate if it maintains power by actively engaging in violence against its peaceful political opposition."

Presumably you can define a bit more clearly a somewhat clearer level of violence, since certainly there's indisputably a certain amount of this sort of thing. I guess there's also a time limit, so the assassinations of Black Panther leaders, shootings at Jackson State, and Kent State, endless beatings and arrests, and so forth, of the Sixties, don't count, nor the many murders of civil rights leaders by local law enforcement types, the use of the Army to shoot union protestors, and so on, doesn't count.

Pt. II: "I do not believe that Iran is willing to trade away its pursuit of nuclear weapons."

I have no idea one way or another. I don't know how to find out without trying to find out via negotiations. What alternate means of knowledge do you base your belief on?

"And I believe that legitimizing its government with a Presidential visit will help it to maintain itself internationally and domestically."

How did we get onto discussing a Presidential visit to Iran? Did I miss a comment?

Pt. III: "Yes, but the Sauds are more interested in self-preservation than in Armageddon,"

Extreme and wild speculation aside, what reason do we have to think that the Iranians are different? If they're so wild for Armageddon, why did they make peace with Saddam Hussein after a vicious and devastating war with Iraq that Hussein launched? Where's the evidence that the Iranians are irrational? What wars have they started so far?

"Also, the USSR fell apart about 10 years into 'right-wing' (Reagan-Bush) rule in the US, not after years of detente."

Rewriting history so that the extremely conservative Eisenhower-Nixon era, in which our foreign policy was led by John Foster Dulles and ilk, who purged all the liberals from the State Department, and agitated for "rollback" rather than Truman and Acheson's (and Kennan's) "containment," wasn't "right-wing," isn't a line I'll buy. And, yeah, the Soviet Union fell apart also after years of detente. And the detente, and the Helsinki Accords, and the greater and greater exposure of Soviet citizens to the outside world, were a huge and fundamental part of why the Soviet Union collapsed.

1) Illegitimate governments attack their opposition at least to the extent necessary to maintain power.

Actually, some Southern state governments were at least arguably illegitimate, since they denied the vote to blacks and brutalized them and those who wished to give them the vote. The federal government sent in troops on several occasions and passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act -- radical intrusions into previous understandings of the proper powers of the federal and state governments -- to overthrow this order.

A government's agents occasionally engaging in violence in tense situations -- e.g., Waco, Kent State, striking workers, etc. -- not so much. For example, neither Nixon nor any other political leader ordered the Kent State massacre -- which hurt him politically -- and if Nixon had aimed to use violence to take on his political opponents he would have found a more meaningful target: blown up part of the Watergate complex rather than attempt to bug it, disrupted elections in Chicago, or had Humphrey or Muskie killed, for example.

2) I agree that the timeline and causation of the fall (or not) of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China is too complicated to attribute to either hardline or accommodative policies on the part of the U.S. But you have not supported your "never worked once" claim as more accurately pointed at myself than at yourself, and it is no more persuasive or accurate than "appeasement never worked once."

3) "How did we get onto discussing a Presidential visit to Iran?"

As the initial post read, "Obama suggested that he might meet with Iranian leaders without pre-conditions." (His campaign did later walk this back to "Barack Obama has always said that he is willing to meet with appropriate Iranian leaders at the appropriate time after due preparation and advance work by US diplomats.")

4) "I have no idea one way or another. I don't know how to find out [if Iran is willing to trade away its pursuit of nuclear weapons] without trying to find out via negotiations."

The West has not lacked for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear weapons.

5) A President who thinks he transfixes the world with a glowing green halo which keeps his listeners from blinking for 27 minutes, who denies the first holocaust and says Israel should be wiped off the map, who believes he has a personal role in bringing on the return of the 12th Imam, in a country working to build nuclear weapons, and which parades missiles with signs reading "for Israel" -- nothing to see here, move on.

DWPittelli, cut to the chase: are you advocating that we should forcibly overthrow Iran's government ?

" says Israel should be wiped off the map"

I'm not a linguist, but there's some disagreement about whether this was ever said. He may have only meant that there should be an election in Israel, with Palestinians allowed to vote, which would eventually result in Israel not being a Jewish state. That's controversial, to put it mildly, and not a solution that is likely to work (also putting it mildly), but it's not the same as threatening to blow up Israel with nuclear weapons.

I don't know what exactly was said, but it's not like you can trust the mainstream press to overthrow a widely accepted meme about one of our enemies--check out the link to the 60 Minutes massaging of the data at the link below.

Link


"appeasement never worked once."

Talking is not appeasement (at this point maybe this link is more appropriate).

And there's no walking back in your point 3, since there's no contradiction between the two statements.

Even countries at war, which have tried to invade and destroy each others' governments, have very rarely imprisoned each others' diplomats.

Still, I don't see this as the ultimate deal breaker. Even without an apology. We're a big strong country, we can get along without one. And even though Albright did apologize, it wasn't official, and the actual crime that she was apologizing for was infinitely worse.

All taken together, I think a President should properly be allowed to eschew the Iranians without being attacked for same.

Attacked? I'm just pointing out a flawed policy. He's allowed to pursue flawed policy. Heck, he makes a habit of it. But I'm also allowed to point it out. Also a habit.

and if Nixon had aimed to use violence to take on his political opponents he would have found a more meaningful target

But he did! It was called COINTELPRO. Further, Nixon sent in union toughs to violently break up protests, infiltrated anti-war groups and tried to incite them to commit crimes and several other nasty activities by and through the CIA and FBI. It's well documented in declassified documents.

As the initial post read, "Obama suggested that he might meet with Iranian leaders without pre-conditions

There are places to meet outside of Iran.

The West has not lacked for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear weapons.

Actually, it has lacked for US involvement in a meaningful way. Iran won't trade away its nukes unless the US gets involved and offers security guarantees. Which brings us back to square one.

Yes, but the Sauds are more interested in self-preservation than in Armageddon...A President who thinks he transfixes the world with a glowing green halo which keeps his listeners from blinking for 27 minutes, who denies the first holocaust and says Israel should be wiped off the map, who believes he has a personal role in bringing on the return of the 12th Imam, in a country working to build nuclear weapons, and which parades missiles with signs reading "for Israel" -- nothing to see here, move on

None of that suggests that Iran's leaders welcome the armageddon. Again, A-Jad does not control foreign policy or the military. And if you want to talk about crazy religious beliefs, should we also probe Christianity's? Judaism's?

I mean, our President, who does control the nukes, believes he is on a mission from God, and that someday soon, Jesus will return in the End of Days Armageddon, and that people will be raptured to heaven.

Nothing to see here?

Either way: What does that have to do with meeting with the Iranians? The whole point of meeting is to see if we can strike a bargain to persuade them to abandon nukes. If you really think the Iranians are that frightening, shouldn't we be pursuing all avenues?

At the very least, by agreeing to meet, and offering a real comprehensive deal (with incentives, security guarantees and, in the alternative, sanctions), the US will be in a better position if Iran rejects the offer and the US decides to employ other means.

I mean, our President, who does control the nukes, believes he is on a mission from God, ...

... and Palin's ever scarier. and McCain's impulsive, short-tempered, and outwardly belligerent. and you can routinely read opinion pieces in all of our leading newspapers (and hear them on TV) where people insist that we can invade, occupy or nuke other countries, assassinate their leaders (and convert the rest to Christianity), etc, etc, ad infinitum, yadayada, con carne, en fuego, del mar.

i love how conservatives of all nations want to be at war because of the actions and words of the conservatives of other nations.

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