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October 23, 2008

Comments

I don't think you understand: John McCain was a prisoner of war. We have to maintain the illusion that he's a foreign policy expert, despite all evidence to the contrary, because to do otherwise would dishonor the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform. People in real America know that.

Aren't most diplomatic documents worth their weight in negotiation gold filled with those little weasel words that fit both jackets. Even the passages you cite could keep the Security Counsel in session for years. It appears Sen. McCain is mostly right, and you're mostly right, and I know I'm mostly right. Sounds good to me. Hell, we haven't completed our withdrawal from Japan yet. One of those nuance things. Now talk about some B.O. Plenty, anyone game for some rhetorical flourishment.

Even the passages you cite could keep the Security Counsel in session for years

Huh? The Security Council doesn't get a vote, so wouldn't need to be in session at all.

There are no weasel words.

There is a firm timeline, and unless Iraq asks us to stay past that deadline AND we agree, then there is no conditions based adjustment possible.

McCain is beyond "mostly" wrong.

Hell, we haven't completed our withdrawal from Japan yet

Because the Japanese government hasn't asked us to leave yet, or insisted on a document setting a fixed date for the removal of our troops.

Yours is a non-point at best.

Just wanted, as a sixties relic, to thank you for the occasional song lyric from the distant past.

It's one of those lyrics that doesn't seem as incoherent when sung.

On the SOFA, Jonathan Schwarz seems to be of the opinion that "the deadline has no teeth, and the SOFA is already looking forward to U.S. troops staying there even after the 'withdrawal.'" If his interpretation is correct, or at least a plausible interpretation of the agreement, then McCain may not be as clueless as you and Mr. Ackerman say he is. Not about this, anyway.

Would you care to address Schwarz's points? His post is here:
http://thismodernworld.com/4517

Call me pointless but accurate. Those words are weaselly - weaselly enough that McCain is mostly right, and there likely won't be a finalized agreement before the election, and the Security Counsel will be involved. Nice try Eric,I've always been a Kenny Rogers fan.

BB: Which words are weasel words? Name them, and I'll discuss the merits of th claim that such words make McCain right or wrong.

here likely won't be a finalized agreement before the election, and the Security Counsel [sic] will be involved

That's something different from what McCain said. McCain is talking about this draft of the SOFA, not a hypothetical UN resolution that has not been discussed, let alone drafted and ratified.

And the Security Council, if it gets involved, would not be busy parsing weasel words in the abandoned draft of the SOFA.

"U.S. combat forces will withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages as soon as the Iraqi forces take over the full security responsibilities in them."

Sen. McCain knows how sausage is made. Everything is conditional.

Eric

I think blogbudsman is talking about the secret clause that allows Dick Cheney and/or Sarah Palin to waterboard al-Maliki until the Iraqis ask us to stay for a hundred years.

But your take on it is right as far as it goes. To bad you didn't get the super secret version of the agreement or you'd know these things.

ambivalent:

Here's the thing, the SOFA draft sets a firm deadline unless BOTH parties agree to extend it (as I mentioned upthread). But that goes without saying. If both parties to an agreement or contract want to change the agreement or contract, they can do so at any time.

That doesn't mean the contract doesn't have binding provisions, or "teeth." It just means that if both parties decide at a certain point that they want to change the arrangement, they can. Like any agreement.

Schwarz operates under the assumption that Maliki wants US forces in Iraq indefinitely. I don't think Maliki does. I think he looks at 2011 as an acceptable date for departure (he'll be busy between now and then for sure), so he won't want to amend the agreement.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Schwarz is right about Maliki's true desire (it's definitely a possibility, and I have long acknowledge it as such in the past).

Schwarz points out that, despite his wishes, Maliki is under intense domestic political pressure to set a timeline and not sign a SOFA that gives US troops the right to a long term presence. So Maliki is including such measures.

Nevertheless, despite those measures and others that represent a vast improvement (from the Iraqi perspective) over the initial draft in terms of timelines, control over national security issues and immunity, Maliki might not be able to get it done because of a lack of political support. Even now, with this SOFA that the Bush team is balking at, he lacks the backing!

So here's the thing: Even if Maliki is able to just barely scrape together enough political support to pass this version of the SOFA (or an even tougher version that the Bush team accepts begrudgingly), why should we assume that Maliki will have the political capital/support to amend the SOFA to extend a US troop presence down the road?

On the contrary, he will face the same stiff resistance that he is facing now.

But unless Maliki (or his successor) and the parliament (assuming Sistani continues to insist that parliament get a say) vote to amend the agreement, the current provisions stand.

Thus, the timeline has teeth.

Silly Eric!
Assuming that "words" have "meanings."

BB:

If you selectively quote the passage, you can create that impression. You left out the unequivocal second clause:

U.S. combat forces will withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages as soon as the Iraqi forces take over the full security responsibilities in them. The U.S. withdrawal from these areas shall take place no later than June 30th, 2009

Bolded for your reading pleasure.

The first clause says something will happen as soon as X occurs. The second clause sets a timeline even if X doesn't occur before the deadline.

Has Obama gone as far as saying that all troops will be pulled back to bases by June 30, 2009? McCain et al have accused him of raising the white flag, but Obama's talking about having combat troops out some time in 2010, right? It would seem to me that pulling all forces back into bases less than 9 months from now is a lot more percipitous that what Obama's proposing.

Tomeck: I honestly couldn't tell you the exact target dates that Obama has envisioned for such things.

But as a general matter, you are correct to note that the current draft is closer to the Obama plan than the McCain plan.

Look, I'm a doofus, but I'm generally OK at following links and finding source material. This one has me stymied.

Can some kind soul point me toward a link to the SOFA Draft Ackerman and Eric Martin are referring to?

Thanks.

But, "conditions-based" is mavericky-speak for "pragmatic", doncha know?

Has Obama gone as far as saying that all troops will be pulled back to bases by June 30, 2009?

Joe Klein just put up a really interesting interview with Obama, which has some info regarding this topic amongst other things.



[Q] Lets go back to we're now moving to the issue portion. When you questioned him [in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] the last time. You asked him about what [conditions on the ground] would be ‘good enough’ for us to leave Iraq.

[BO] Right.
[Q] As you sit here today, and you look at what's happening in Iraq, is it good enough?
[BO] I don't think it's quite good enough yet because I think we have to do a little more training. We've got to build up the logistical capacity. I think the possibilities of ethnic strife breaking out again are still present, precisely because the political system has not stabilized itself yet. But I do believe that we are at a point now where we can start drawing down troops. I think we can time a process where the drawing down of troops parallel to building up the capacity in Iraq and the Sofa agreement that just, the Sofa that was just put forward I think reflects that reality.


This is a blockbuster interview - if there weren't so much silly/nasty stuff going on with the campaign right now, this interview should be the story of the day today. See especially Obama's remarks regarging the interelationships between Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Kashmir.

Also on the "LeftTurn highly recommended reading list" are two posts that Larison put up at American Conservative (here and here) regarding Biden's international crisis remarks. I wonder if there is any relationship between the focus on Pakistan evident in the Joe Klein interview and what Biden was thinking about when he spoke.

Model 62, This is a PDF of the SOFA draft:

http://www.afsc.org/Iraq/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/69064

Thanks, EM!

Article 25, Paragraph 5 is interesting:

Before the end of the period mentioned in paragraph 1 of this article [December 31, 2011], and based on the Iraqi assessment of conditions, the Iraqi government is permitted to ask the U.S. government to keep specific forces for the purposes of training and support of the Iraqi security forces. In such a case, a special agreement will be negotiated and signed by both sides in accordance to laws and constitutional requirements in both countries. Or, the Iraqi government might ask for an extension of paragraph 1 of this article, and that can be done in accordance to paragraph 2 of article Thirty­One of this agreement.

This will allow the Iraqis to decide if they want to revise or extend the agreement's deadlines. It might be read to indicate, if one were so inclined, that Maliki is saying one thing to his constituency while planning to do something else.

Nevertheless, the decision will clearly be an Iraqi one.

It gives Maliki a certain level of flexibility, but as I said, any agreement has the same flexibility built in as a matter of course:

If both sides want to amend and alter terms (such as deadlines) they can by executing an amendment.

All this section does is spell this out.

Hey Eric -

You got this almost right, but left one part out:

Me: Well, before we agree to a time and a place to hammer out the terms of a possible agreeement, you have to agree to stop marketing Product X now, and throughout the entire negotiation process, which we both know could take years.

If that's not suitable, we'll kill you.

Gotta know when to hold'em and when to fold'em, folks.

Thanks -

Eric, that's a great comparison about demanding "preconditions."

Mostly off-topic question: is the pre-condition thing one of our disagreements about Israeli-Palestinian relations? I have heard various people say that Israel should not require recognition of Israel's existence as a precondition for high-level talks. My feeling was that recognition was more like preparation than a precondition, in that one doesn't usually enter a treaty with an entity you don't recognize. To use your simile, it's like showing up to a licensing negotiation and accusing the other side of being imposters. You can go through the motions of negotiating with someone like that, but what's the point, why would they keep the deal? I don't mean recognition of exact borders, which are obviously one of the things to negotiate about, just of existence and the right to exist in that general area.

I say this "was" my feeling because Hamas has sorta kinda recognized Israel and Israel has sorta kinda negotiated with them, so this is all probably moot now. But I'm still curious about your thoughts.

russell, with our troops stuck in Iraq, I think it's more like

If that's not suitable, we'll kill you...with this here empty gun.

The Bush Diplomacy: speak loudly and carry a small stick.

Russel: Point taken, but then modified ala That Crafty One.

If that's not suitable, we'll kill you...with this here empty gun.

I think the U.S. has more than enough left in its arsenal to kill more than a few people, despite the Iraq foolishness.

It's more a question of our exposure in Iraq. Our troops are well within striking distance for Iran, and they have enough allies, proxies and other assets to inflict real harm

The scary thing to me is how many folks in a position to make something happen would wade in with guns blazing regardless of whether it would be useful, effective, legal, right, or wrong.

There's a lot of stuff we could throw over the wall that would make a big boom. That appears to be all that some folks need to know.

"What's the point of having all this stuff if you never use it?"

Thanks -

Off topic, but the spirit of the recent song titles:
Damn It Feels Good To Be a Banksta

Mostly off-topic question: is the pre-condition thing one of our disagreements about Israeli-Palestinian relations? I have heard various people say that Israel should not require recognition of Israel's existence as a precondition for high-level talks. My feeling was that recognition was more like preparation than a precondition, in that one doesn't usually enter a treaty with an entity you don't recognize.

When you say "recognition that Israel exists", do you mean "recognition of Israel's right to exist"? Because I don't think anyone goes around claiming that there is no such entity as Israel...

You can go through the motions of negotiating with someone like that, but what's the point, why would they keep the deal?

Are you seriously asking this question? Might I suggest they would keep the deal because they want peace? Because they want economic development? Because they want a life for their children free of unending war?

Look, people participate in systems they think are illegitimate every single day. I thought Bush stole elections, but I still paid my taxes. At the end of the day, rights are secured by force, and Israel has a large nuclear arsenal backing up its right to exist. Palestinians don't need to accept any right to exist in order to cut a deal and follow through it. The whole point of a deal is that it makes everyone better off.

Peace and diplomatic recognition are about the only things the Palestinians can give Israel. They want land and some kind of settlement on the "right of return." To recognize Israel before negotiations begin is to play their ace before the game starts.

You wouldn't expect Israel to grant the whole West Bank to the Palestinians before negotiations began, so why should the Israelis ask for full recognition as a precondition?

It's more a question of our exposure in Iraq. Our troops are well within striking distance for Iran, and they have enough allies, proxies and other assets to inflict real harm.

You're assuming the people who want to bomb Iran care about any of those things. Or at least assuming they care enough to let it interfere with their plans.

tomeck, I'm not sure withholding recognition is an "ace." What does it get them that withholding peace does not? Countries regularly go to war with nations they recognize, and the Palestinians surely have adequate casus belli and international admiration (from a distance) that nobody would blame them for continuing to war with Israel. For that matter, Israel doesn't exactly need their recognition as such, it just needs it as a logically necessary precondition to a treaty and therefore to peace. I can't imagine Israel making a deal to trade land, water rights, money, or sovereignty for recognition but not peace. So refusing recognition seems more like an announcement that they will not deal in good faith and make binding agreements, than like a bargaining chip in the usual sense. Of course, one may negotiate over whether and how to substantively negotiate -- but to simultaneously demand substantive negotiations and refuse them seems pointless or at least disingenuous.

Eric, we do disagree.

At the end of the day, rights are secured by force, and Israel has a large nuclear arsenal backing up its right to exist. Palestinians don't need to accept any right to exist in order to cut a deal and follow through it.

If the mere threat of force were enough to make the Palestinians make peace, they would have already. They know perfectly well Israel can't use nukes against them, they're too close and Israel is too widely disliked. And obviously conventional force hasn't forced them to back down yet -- which is admirable, actually, but it does mean more is needed for a deal. Is threat of force really the only reason you pay your taxes? I agree with you about Bush but I can't help thinking of America as at least reasonably legitimate even so, and if most Americans didn't agree, I think we would need an awful lot more policemen to keep us paying our taxes. So I do think it's problematic to deal without a minimum acceptance of legitimacy beforehand.

You're assuming the people who want to bomb Iran care about any of those things. Or at least assuming they care enough to let it interfere with their plans.

It's worth noting that, as of yet, Bush has not, in fact, bombed Iran. I have little doubt that such concerns are the only thing holding him back.

Eric, we do disagree

About what?

So refusing recognition seems more like an announcement that they will not deal in good faith and make binding agreements, than like a bargaining chip in the usual sense.

But there is no logical reason why recognition of a right to exist and good faith are related. You keep saying they must be but you've provided no explanation for why they must be. Cutting a deal with someone is implicit acknowledgment of their right to exist, so offering or withholding the explicit acknowledgment is meaningless.

If the mere threat of force were enough to make the Palestinians make peace, they would have already

I mentioned nukes not because they can force the Palestinians to cut a deal, but because they assure Israel's right to exist. No matter what happens, whether a deal is cut or not, Israel can deter any assault on its right to exist with its nuclear arsenal. That means that Israel's right to exist is, for all practical purposes, uncontested. As, if someone decided to nuke Tel Aviv, regardless of who did it, we can expect that hundreds of millions of people in Arab cities throughout the middle east would be annihilated. In some incredibly abstract theoretical sense, I guess that means that people may not accept Israel's right to exist, but in the real world, Israel's existence will be secure indefinitely. To put it another way: the influenza virus may insist that I have no right to exist but I don't really care and it doesn't actually matter.

Is threat of force really the only reason you pay your taxes?

Yes. Based on my understanding of statistics and international law, I view our actions in Iraq as close enough to genocide for me not to care about the difference. For me, that means paying taxes to the federal government isn't that much more ethical than paying taxes to the Third Reich would have been. I know most people don't agree with that, but that's my take.

if most Americans didn't agree, I think we would need an awful lot more policemen to keep us paying our taxes.

Most Americans don't know jack sh*t about statistics or law or foreign policy or anything else besides who is winning American Idol. And even if they did know, Americans, like all people, go along to get along. Life is tough enough without getting upset about abuses and outrages.

So I do think it's problematic to deal without a minimum acceptance of legitimacy beforehand.

A willingness to deal is an implicit recognition of legitimacy. You don't cut deals with imaginary actors. Now, as with any deal, parties might renege, but that has nothing to do with legitimacy: if the deal isn't sweet enough to stick, it will happen whether or not the reneging party views the other party as legitimate.

Crafty Tril

Palestinian recognition of Israel would open the door for other Arab nations to recognize them, much more so than the recognition they've gotten from Egypt and Jordan.

I think sitting down and talking to Israel is already a recognition that they exist and have a right to exist. And I don't think the Palestinians would mind if the precondition were that Israel and Palestine recognized each other, yet it's never framed that way.

I admit, I haven't paid as close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as I used to. But the way I see it, the Palestinians don't have a lot of cards in their hand and we shouldn't expect them to play one without getting something back.

Eric, sorry, I meant to say turbulence. Really short on sleep this month.

Tomeck, good point re the other Arab nations. That makes sense as a bargaining chip, then.

And I don't think the Palestinians would mind if the precondition were that Israel and Palestine recognized each other, yet it's never framed that way.

I don't know if they would mind or not. I've never been clear on why they don't declare statehood as is - it would be instantly recognized by most of the UN, and then Israel would have even more trouble for, e.g., interdicting a sovereign state's borders.

Turbulence,

But there is no logical reason why recognition of a right to exist and good faith are related. You keep saying they must be but you've provided no explanation for why they must be.

The link is definitional. AFAIK, the only actual meaning of diplomatic recognition, is that you are willing to treat with a nation. Recognition is the norm; most nations will treat with most nations, so it would be more accurate to say that the meaning of non-recognition is that you will not treat with that nation because it should not exist and in some sense does not. It is a category basically reserved for the usurpers of a legitimate government which you wish to see restored -- and this is exactly how the Arab states meant it in 1948 and to this day. This is why they use the phrase "the Zionist entity": the legal fiction is that there is or should be a state (or perhaps a province of Jordan), Palestine, which is -- every inch of it -- illegitimately occupied by an improperly-constituted non-state force calling itself "Israel." You don't make treaties with such an entity, you destroy it. Comity among legitimate nations gives you the right, and even the duty, to do everything you can to harm it and save the legitimate state that it has usurped. That is why I say that negotiating before recognition lacks good faith, and that (other than Tomeck's point), it gets them nothing that withholding peace would not, except the right to negotiate in bad faith.

Perhaps the Palestinians mean something else by it -- as tomeck says, they may just be playing the chip -- but, well, words have a meaning.

Cutting a deal with someone is implicit acknowledgment of their right to exist, so offering or withholding the explicit acknowledgment is meaningless.

The Cherokee might disagree. Yes, it's all just words, but "recognition" is a word that puts a nation's credibility on the line, so nations think long and hard about going back on words like "recognition." With that word, the deal has to be a lot less sweet to stick. Without that word, a "treaty" could be viewed as no more binding than any "promise" by a hostage negotiator to any other gang of non-sovereign armed thugs.

Doesn't the question of recognition tie in with the specific issue of right to return? If Israel is accepted as a legitimate nation, then doesn't it get sole determination about who lives within its territory?

I think that formal recognition of Israel would be a huge symbolic move for Hamas (the PLO has already done so, I believe in their charter), while not actually making much practical difference (I think the PLO negotiated with Israel seriously in Oslo, for example, before they made the formal recognition). So a demand by Israel (as the stronger side) that the Palestinians make such a concession is a really poor negotiation technique (assuming that the Israeli side really want to negotiate).

If Israel is accepted as a legitimate nation, then doesn't it get sole determination about who lives within its territory?

Not necessarily, you can put anything you want in a treaty. Right of return is itself kind of a symbolic demand anyway - there's no way the Palestinains will get it. Compensation yes, but Israel doesn't have room for all descendants of Palestinians, and it would no longer be a Jewish state if they somehow could house them.

This sort of thing is exactly the problem -- neither side is making reasonable offers even as trial balloons because their hard-liners are living in a dream world. Everyone knows that a two-state solution will involve some minor border tweaks on both sides (as Olmert recently, unofficially, said), some kind of access between Gaza and West Bank, pretty free passage between the two states so that they can re-combine the labor economy and eventually their markets, water allocation, and some very strong anti-terrorism measures. But both sides cling to frankly outrageous demands well beyond that. Right of return and the whole of Jerusalem are non-starters; on the other side, Israel is going to have to give up the notion that it can keep treating the region as a protectorate after actual statehood (i.e., Israel is going to have to stop demanding at least most of: no military, flyover rights, no control of its own borders, subdivision by roads and checkpoints).

I think that formal recognition of Israel would be a huge symbolic move for Hamas...while not actually making much practical difference (I think the PLO negotiated with Israel seriously in Oslo, for example, before they made the formal recognition).

It's the particular type of symbolism that makes it a practical issue, though. If Hamas used swastikas on its letterhead as a symbolic statement, that would be unpleasant but would not have any legal significance. Non-recognition is different, for the reasons I stated upthread.

Your point about the PLO is very good. There are at least two different factors: (a) Israel had been dealing with specific people in the PLO long enough to build up some personal trust; and (b) the PLO (i.e. Fatah) had above and beyond the general motive of peace & prosperity, the very strong motive of getting Israeli support against Hamas. How about, non-recognition doesn't create an absolute presumption of bad faith, but it does create a rebuttable one, and Hamas hasn't rebutted it yet.

So a demand by Israel (as the stronger side) that the Palestinians make such a concession is a really poor negotiation technique

The Palestinians are much smaller, poorly-armed, and poorer, but they are not weaker in negotiations, because they have so far been at least as willing as Israel to walk away from the table. They also have much more widespread international support, which includes regional arms suppliers.

(assuming that the Israeli side really want to negotiate).

Always a question. I'm not sure they do either. I'm not sure they're sure.

As I say, this is all probably moot -- Hamas only controls Gaza and when it was in control of the PA said it would honor PA commitments (tho actually, I'm not sure the PA, as opposed to the PLO, ever recognized Israel, so that may not mean much), and Israel seems sort of willing to talk despite non-recognition.

Hey, did you know that there's a breakaway province of Morocco? I just noticed it, while looking up Israeli diplomatic recognition on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahrawi_Arab_Democratic_Republic


"Cutting a deal with someone is implicit acknowledgment of their right to exist, so offering or withholding the explicit acknowledgment is meaningless."

This isn't true at all. Tell it to Cuba, or North Korea, or, as it happens, the majority of Arab nations as regards Israel.

"That means that Israel's right to exist is, for all practical purposes, uncontested."

That explains why no Israeli has a problem using their Israeli passport to travel to Saudi Arabia, or Syria.

"I've never been clear on why they don't declare statehood as is"

They have. In 1988.

"it would be instantly recognized by most of the UN,"

Not exactly, no.

[...] The proclaimed "State of Palestine" was recognized immediately by the Arab League, and about half the world's governments recognize it today. It maintains embassies in these countries (which are generally PLO delegations). The State of Palestine is not recognized by the United Nations, although the European Union, as well as most member states, maintain diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority, established under the Oslo Accords.
This is not obscure info.

This isn't true at all. Tell it to Cuba, or North Korea, or, as it happens, the majority of Arab nations as regards Israel.

The question at hand is whether nation A's claim that nation B has no right to exist has significant predictive power in explaining whether or not nation A will not renege on agreements made with nation B. If you want to claim that the US doesn't recognize the right of Cuba or North Korea to exist (or that they don't recognize the right of the US to exist), I'd find that assertion bizarre and I'd like to request a cite. In addition, note that both the US and NK as well as the US and Cuba have successfully executed long term agreements. Can you clarify what point you are trying to make by vaguely alluding to NK and Cuba?

That explains why no Israeli has a problem using their Israeli passport to travel to Saudi Arabia, or Syria.

Nations are under no obligation to accept visitors using passports from countries they don't care for. That behavior might be childish and stupid, but it does not mean that these stupid and childish nations are any more likely to renege on agreements. Furthermore, Israel's right to exist remains practically uncontested in the sense that Syria or Saudi Arabia have nowhere near the military capability needed to terminate Israel's existence. If you feel they do have such capability, I'd like to see some cites.

Gary, could you please take the time to actually spell out your arguments? These allusions to potential arguments you've written aren't very clear to me at least, but perhaps I'm just too tired.

"The question at hand is whether nation A's claim that nation B has no right to exist has significant predictive power in explaining whether or not nation A will not renege on agreements made with nation B."

That's not at all the question I'm addressing. I'm addressing the second half of your sentence: " so offering or withholding the explicit acknowledgment is meaningless."

In fact, it has all sorts of consequences.

Gary, could you please take the time to actually spell out your arguments? These allusions to potential arguments you've written aren't very clear to me at least, but perhaps I'm just too tired.

Apparently the answer to this question is no. Which is fine, but it would have been nice if you at least took the time to say no yourself.

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