Friday, February 02, 2007

Get'cher Other War On II

So, when (as is so often the case) I don't understand what's going on (case in point: foreign policy; case more in point: Iran), I look experts who I've come to trust over the years. Not any old expert of course. I mean, what sane person still listens to Kissinger? But when Z-Big talks, I listen. And here's K-Drum on Z-Big on I-ran.

So, the worry here is that there are strong forces (the administration, the generally bellicose nature of the American public, etc.) pushing us toward war with Iran. I guess I have been even more worried about almost the opposite problem. Roughly: since only an insane person would want to start another war in that region before we've even finished botching up our two already-underway wars, I've been worrying that Iran can pretty much do whatever it wants to us without fear of reprisal. I had been thinking that they could pretty much get away with anything short of actually lobbing artillery rounds at us. Given how thin we're stretched and, even more importantly, how much international ill-will we've generated, I've been thinking that fighting Iran was completely out of the question, and that all the administration's chest-beating (me-too'ed by its wingnut echo-chamber) was merely intended to try to trick Iran into believing that we were just crazy enough to overlook the obvious fact that there's nothing we can do to them.

But as soon as I say that out loud, I realize that I've probably been worrying about the wrong thing, huh?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

WS, you just don't understand Bush math. Attack Iran and, since it borders both Iraq and Afghanistan, voila, you've turned two wars into just one.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Good one, LL. But don't blame Bush for this one.

[Huffington] then asked (Wes) Clark what made him so sure that the United States is headed in the direction of attacking Iran, and he replied: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

Of course, let's make clear that any relation of "New York money people" to Jews, or "some Jews" or "New York" or "money" or "people," to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

But I still don't see how ZBig gets the grapes to talk about anything Iran after so shamelessly turning it over to the, um, Kiwanis Club.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TVD, I can't even begin to make out your logic in holding Duhbya blameless. I could see it coming from him, but he has been a childish shirker all his life. But, as a grown-up, don't you have to admit that he's at least keeping the seat warm for Cheney? Frankly, I was looking for a way to make a joke out of your comment, but all I could find was absurdity up with which I could not sequit.

The most charitable interpretation is that you wanted to make two points - that Clark can now be suspected of anti-semitism and that Brzezinski (enough Zs?) didn't have a clear enough crystal ball to, what, nuke Qom and nip Khomeini in the bud? I'm no fan of Zbig, and I do blame Carter for for sticking much too long with the diplomatic lie that the "students" and the government were poles apart, but really why don't we blame the fricking Greeks for failing to wipe out Persia when they had the chance?

Still, I'd be more than happy to trade Brzezinski for Kissinger. While we're at it, can we put a few more of the wise old men of Washington out to pasture? Give someone else a chance to be wrong and well paid.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TVD's missing link to the Huffington Post item on Clark.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I love the "Clark is an anti-Semite" line. It's so exquisitely preposterous that I can't even work up anything resembling anger about it. The left is the master of this kind of argument, but the right has finally learned the trick, too: the race card always trumps, and the anti-semitism card trumps all other race cards.

And you've also gotta love the way the Republicans try to shift the blame on Iran to Carter. It takes some astounding dialectical acrobatics.

Eisenhower (for whom, incidentally, I have enormous respect overall) screws up in the characteristically Republican fashion, helping to overthrow a democratically-elected government because (a) there was oil in them thar deserts and (b) there was the faintest whiff of insufficiently anti-Russian fervor in the government. They weren't pro-Soviet, mind: they just weren't quite anti-Soviet enough to make us happy. So we replace the Prime Minister with a brutally repressive Shah who basically sets about torturing everybody in sight. Until he becomes the most hated and feared man in the country. A guy so incredibly bad that he made the mullahs look good by comparison. A kind of proto-Saddam Hussein, come to think of it...

And so when Carter notices that this is in violation of basically every American principle you can find and weakens our support for this guy, slightly hastening his inevitable downfall, who's fault is this huge f'ing mess?

Why, Carter's of course!

If he'd merely have continued to violate the eternal principles of human rights that this country was engineered to protect, everything would have been merely terrible for at least another couple of years.

Instead, he did the right thing and the inevitable happened more quickly.

And they wonder why I side with the liberals.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Not that everything you say isn't true, but you're leaving out a major culprit. The coup was engineered at the behest of the British, who were alarmed at the prospect of the nationalization of the oil sector and the doom it spelled for BP's gravy train.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Jimmy Carter indulging his moral narcissism by replacing a pro-American tyranny with an even more tyrannical (and an anti-American) tyranny gets him no points in heaven or on earth.

As for Wes Clark, one need not go to DefCon 4 and label him an anti-Semite to wonder (and have a good suspicion of) what was going on in his puddin' head.

But it's not about Mossedegh and Eisenhower, or Khomeini and Carter, it's about Ahmadinejad and Bush, and the Democrat congress, and us. The blame game doesn't get us very far.

If you insist that Bush is warmongering on Iran's Kiwanis Club chapter, or there are "New York money people" who are pushing him into it, all I can say is that the Kiwanis Club president seems to believe the 12th Imam, the Mahdi of the Muslim apocolypse, is coming, he wants Israel destroyed, and he's cooking up nukes.

This has nothing to do with Mossedegh.

To return to the original subject, what I gather from Zbig, a creditable anti-Communist but mostly anti-Soviet/Russia, is that he wants credit for helping to end the Cold War by fomenting the Islamist revolt in Afghanistan, but wants no part of the consequences, and so doesn't really believe Islamism exists. The Kiwanis Club defense.

(LL, I accept your Cheney screed as a surrender on the battlefield of ideas, but I must admit "I could find was absurdity up with which I could not sequit" is a delightful turn of phrase. You got style, man.)

11:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Wes Clark is smarter than you, smarter than me, and, just maybe, smarter than both of us put together. (What are the odds that you could be valedictorian at West Point? Mine: zero.) So I'm puzzled about the "puddin' head" comment. And if you (falsely) think he's an anti-Semite, then come out and say so.

Carter and Z-Big DO deserve credit without (much, anyway) blame for Afghanistan, as THEY had the sense to arm only the less radical factions. It took Reagan and HIS group of idiotic criminals to start arming the nuttiest of the nutty. Nice going, again, conservatives!

And I like the way you righties try to label anyone who isn't either nauseatingly greedy or blindly nationalistic as a moral narcisists. Attack the man, not the policies, that's y'all's motto. History by ad hominem. Lovely.

Fer god's sake, Tom, this is important stuff. It deserves to be treated with a little more seriousness.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Please. Targeting Bush as warmonger instead of Ahmadinejad as the self-confessed agent of an Islamic apocolypse is what's unserious. It's an unfortunate tendency of the modern left to destroy their own side and ignore the more difficult dangers.

As for Clark, just because some right-wingers called him anti-Semetic doesn't get him off the hook for his statement. Despite his credentials, it was stupid. Or worse. Your response is not a reply.

As for Zbig, I'm not blaming him (or Reagan) for arming the mujahadeen. It was a good call at the time. But if you poke through his worldview, Zbig is another unserious person, as he waves away any thought of Islamism as a danger.

As for Carter, he proved the only thing worse than being the West's enemy is being its friend. Faced with a moral complication, he simply bailed on an ally, washed his hands, and left something far worse behind.

His (in)action was self-indulgence, and had no thought at all for the well-being of his country and the free world.

But thank God for Hillary, if she is indeed our next president. She knows who Ahmadinejad is, anyway.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

If you're going to suggest that Wes Clark is anti-semitic, TVD, at least have the courage to take responsibility for your suggestion. You said:

"As for Clark, just because some right-wingers called him anti-Semetic doesn't get him off the hook for his statement. Despite his credentials, it was stupid. Or worse. Your response is not a reply."

"Some right-wingers" huh? You just said that his remark was either stupid or "worse", ie, anti-semitic. Nice way to cover your ass.

Clark's words were quoted as: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

What is stupid about this remark TVD? What is anti-semitic? Pointing out the obvious that many prominent right-wing American Jews want America to attack Iran? Am I allowed to say that?

TVD, yours is an instance of the more general phenomena we've seen lately: see the criticisms of Carter's recent book and the scholars from Harvard and Chicago who got slammed last year for stating the obvious:

And I thought conservatives were against political correctness...But now I see it's only when it suits their interests.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't know who Clark is talking about. Who are these right-wing Jews who are afraid some apocolyptic Muslim maniac is going to nuke Israel from the face of the earth? How silly. Perhaps you can explain.

And, via Kevin Drum, another unserious person.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That would be a huge ditto re: the newly minted right wing PC:

Kinda like Kinsley's comment that a politician commits a "gaffe" when he or she accidentally tells the truth.

As a Jew, I'm growing tired of some Jewish groups attempting to erect some sort of monolithic orthodoxy that I'm supposed to subscribe to regarding what's best for Israel and the United States' relationship with it. The fact of the matter is that, despite representing a minority of American Jewish opinion, their viewpoint garners the lion's share of media traction.

Simply pointing out the obvious is enough to get one labelled an anti-Semite or "self-hating Jew". The thing that takes it all the way to parody is that there is a much wider *acceptance* of viewpoints and debate IN ISRAEL than is accepted here under the enforced neo-McCarthyism of the neoconservatives and their acolytes.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I hope that the American left joins its European counterpart in being more open in its antipathy toward Israel. Then we won't need insinuations like "New York money people," and the electorate will know what it's getting.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for proving my point.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The left's antipathy is toward the winger assumption that America's foreign policy should match in every particular the Likud's most ardent wishes.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Happy to prove your point, anon, and I agree completely---the American left should have the courage to say what they really think about Israel. Then pay the price.

Reality check, LL. Your latest screed has mold growing on it. 59% of Israelis think the Iraq invasion was justified; 92% of Israelis think Ahmadinejad is a moderate or grave threat.

In a poll, 66 percent of Israelis said they believed Iran would drop a nuclear weapon on the Jewish state. Though defense experts are divided over the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear attack, every strategist we spoke with for this article considered the scenario plausible. "No one knows if Iran would use the bomb or not," says Sneh. "But I can't take the chance."

It's not just Likud. It's not all Bush. Y'all haven't been keeping up. At least, according to the left-leaning Haaretz, which also says St. Jimmy Carter got the least number of Jewish votes of any Democrat since 1920.

So, show yourselves, Carterites, members of the post-American world left. Ignore Ahmadinejad, blame Bush. It's you who speak neither for the American people (a strong plurality of which supports Israel) or for Israel itself.

But please, speak freely, and often. Tell the New York money people how you really feel. I'm all for it.

(And I hope that's enough links for you, LL.)

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How that poll proves anything resembling the opposite of what LL said I have no idea. But feel free to try again.

And take it easy on that strawman. What did he ever do to you? I haven't seen one person in this thread, nor any serious commenter on the subject, say that we should just ignore Iran and it'll go away. Nor that the Iran problem is all poor Georgie's fault. Your mileage may vary.

By the way, your polls reinforce MJ Rosenberg's view that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, something which can't be good for it.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

If Israel is so worried about Iran, then Israel can take care of its own problem. We already give Israel over $2 billion a year in foreign aid (more than any other country). We already give Egypt nearly as much to prop up a brutal dictator so he'll play nice with Israel (and torture people we need information from). If we do all that, we shouldn't have to fight Israel's wars for it as well. We've now fought one war that was intended to be a big favor to the Israelis. If you have any doubt about that, listen to Cheney's totally deceptive mantra about how Saddam was supporting terrorism, by which he means giving money to families of Palestinain suicide bombers. Of course, these suicide bombers were never a threat to America, something Cheney mysteriously chooses to omit. Anyway, that was my point about the pressure being put on Bush to attack Iran.

Look, I recognize that Iran is a problem right now and Ahmadinejad is dangerous. It's absurd to say that Bush is to blame for everything going wrong in the world. What I reject is the idea that America is clearly threatened by Iran. I also doubt that even a nuclear Iran would pose much of a threat to anyone if America and Israel tried more diplomacy and less hostility in the Middle East.

The fact is, it is dangerous to US interests for us to tie our Middle East policy so closely to Israel's that we are complicit in their sins against their neighbors. There are many guilty parties in the Middle East, but nothing is ever going to improve if we are always against the majority of people in that region. All that serious critics of Israeli and American foreign policy in the Middle East ask for is a little more fairness. More people are coming to see this. If Europe came to see this faster than us, maybe that's because they follow world politics a little more closely than we do here in America.

Now, right-wing Zionuts can rant away and insinuate away about the supposed anti-semitic intentions of their critics. If that's the best they can do, it shows desperation more than anything else. I think it's amusing. If I didn't have the facts on my side, maybe I would never stop calling Israel's apologists Arab-hating racists. Of course, that wouldn't quite have the sting of suggesting that someone is an anti-semite.

The more people learn about Israel's share of responsibility for the mess in the Middle East over the past 60 years and the way America keeps paying for Israel's mistakes, the more desperate this ranting and insinuating becomes.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Israel is isolated. How has being Jewish or Israeli ever been otherwise?

You seem to think I'm disagreeing with you, or looking for a fight. Not atall, atall. I agree totally that American Jewry does disagree with Bush and with Israel itself about what's best for it. Indeed, that was the Haaretz article's final point---that Israel is running afoul of America's Jews.

The nerve. Who do they think they are?

As for the straw man, I'll take your advice and tread carefully. It's just that I don't find Wes Clark or Zbig credible in this matter. I do hope your mileage likewise varies.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, Jared, you posted yours while I was writing mine. But you lost me at "Zionuts." They're just trying to survive.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

Glad to see you have a substantive reply TVD. But yes, I do think the brand of Zionism that some right-wingers espouse is more than a little nutty. Don't let my wordplay slow you down though, I know you're sharper than that.

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared - exactly.

I don't know why it's so hard for people to accept the compatibility of all the following:

1) Iran is a threat, but demanding to know the real nature and extent of the threat is in no way ignoring it. Nor is calling for engagement with it ignoring the problem either. The situation with Iran and the bomb is considerably more complicated than that of say, Syria, which I'll expand on in a minute.

2) Israel and the US are close allies and share many, many interests. However, that doesn't mean they are always identical.

4) As a friend and ally, we (both government and populace) have not only a right, but a responsibility to point out when Israel is behaving badly (nobody in the ME is entirely without blame for the unrest there) and in a way contrary to its interests.

3) Pretending Israel is helpless and unable to defend itself immediately diminishes ones credibility. It is routinely ranked in the top 5 militarily in the world and probably has many nuclear weapons. (MJ Rosenberg's article alluded to this when he castigated those who attempted to equate the current situation with that of Polish Jews in 1939).

4) One irony regarding Israel's security is the fact that it can count on secure borders from two of its less democratic neighbors - Egypt and Jordan. The democratic nation of Lebanon, less so. The fact that it chose to create at least a detente with ostensibly hostile neighbors shows what can happen when it takes the larger view of its own security interests. Word on the street is that, contraty to Bush administration wishes, there are already back channel contacts with the Syrians exploring a similar grand bargain, something which could help secure the Lebanese border and drive a wedge between Iran and Syria. (A further irony is that this Egyptian peace accord was greatly helped along by noted anti-Semite and Israel hater Jimmy Carter).

On Iran, the nuclear issue hangs over any present or future discussions. Containment and Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine worked against the Soviet Union, and China, both far, far more dangerous than Iran - unless you believe the ayatollahs are ready to have Iran a land of nuclear-flattened ruble, which brings us to...the crucial criterion of how sure you can be of your game theory suppositions.

MAD worked well because we could be confident in the SU's desire to remain alive and kicking. From a game theory point of view, that's really important. The complication comes when you can't be sure of that premise. In game theory, it may actually *help* your side in a game of chicken to be *perceived* as not rational (i.e. not persistently dedicated to remaining alive).

Now, at the time, many people thought of China's nascent nuclear program in the same way Iran's is being characterized. Did they have an irrational, hell-bent expansionist desire that couldn't be deterred, even with the threat of total annihilation? I don't think we would have been as aggressive in Indochina as we were if we thought they did. Actions speak louder than words, and it's worth noting that the Persians haven't invaded anybody in over 200 years.

Is it a perfect analog for Iran? No, not necessarily; the true center of gravity in terms of power in Iran is not located in those who today form its public face, despite the grandiose statements of their currently useful stooge. However, the powers that be in Iran DO have an ideological commitment to an extreme form of Islam, at least on a disconcerting enough level. Religion, of course, is one of the great X-factors in game theorizing conflict with an enemy. One need only be familiar with Knights Templar, Kamikazes and Islamist suicide bombers to realize that the calculus is markedly different.

That being said, there is NO DOWNSIDE WHATSOEVER, that I can see, to being engaged with one or more centers of power in Iran. At the very least, it would vindicate the surprisingly pro-American sentiments that lie underground in the Iranian populace. What's more, even though we have genuine disagreements, disagreements of principle (such as support for terrorism) that we consider non-negotiable, engagement offers the best chance for resolving differences without resorting to widespread conflagration. As Wesley Clark says, "at the very least, you're still talking to people instead of bombing them. You can always bomb later if you absolutely have to".

So you may disagree, but since I tend to think of wars as generally bad things, I think people like Wesley Clark has a $hitload more credibility on these matters than you do. As does most of the world.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll add that I meant to say in the last sentence that people like Clark have a $shitload more credibility on these matters than you THINK HE DOES.

Didn' mean for it to be a personal attack.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I appreciate that, I do, anon.

Clark and Zbig are wrong to put the situation in American political terms and as fodder for our partisan battles; theirs is an outdated and dangerous mindset. 2/3 of Israelis think Iran will bomb them, and the last thing they want to see is a return to Carterism, which largely consists of pressuring Israel into concessions when it's not simply legitimizing Israel's enemies.

The dynamics here are similar to 1977, except the American Jewish left has changed sides, presumably because of their enmity toward Bush, and find themselves allied with Carter---but I get the sense that Israelis themselves by and large feel they achieved their historic peace agreements despite Carter, not because of him.

Clark picked a stupid time to "speak truth to power"---he mistook what he hears from the American left for the voice of Israel. The New York money people are far more plugged in.

Neither do I hear from Clark why he thinks talks would be effective in this uniquely dangerous historical moment which is palpable to 2/3 (or even 92%) of Israelis. (See Benny Morris, for instance.)

The usual boilerplate about diplomacy submits that we can somehow talk Ahmadinejad out of his apocolypse. What could we offer in its place?

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except that Clark and Zbig's loyalties and concerns are rightly focussed on the US. And to the extent that support for misguided Israeli policies works against our interests, they and all the rest of us have a duty to say so.

The Israelis may or may not believe that the historic peace accord was completed in spite of Carter, but the evidence plainly contradicts that belief. It's supposed to be a coincidence that the first time a US president really put a lot of effort into the process and put his prestige on the line that effort pays off? And history has also shown, a la Clark's sentiments, that when the US has been closely engaged and pushing the parties to at least talk, tensions have tended to be lower. Progress may have been measured in inches during those times, but at least they weren't killing each other.

Funny that the Egyptians felt the same way. I recommend Kenneth Stein's book for a more comprehensive account.

You're also taking Benny Morris' view as gospel, something which I think is unwarranted. Rosenberg actually dealt with Morris' unduly dire view here, in the piece I referred to before but mistakenly didn't post:

The Israeli public also doesn't have the unbreakable attachment to the settlements that the most strident US Jewish groups do; it seems to believe that they must ultimately be included in a grand bargain to be had with the Palestinians. Some hardliners, particularly in Likud, dispute this on the basis of a Biblical claim to the territory. It's as if there existed powerful, ostensibly *pro-US* groups in another country who claimed that in order to really support the US, you needed to support only the Republican Party platform. It's just crazy.

"Consistent with their expectations, 62% of the Israelis support dismantling most of the settlements in the territories as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians."


And this:

"The Likud charter calls for the annexation and settlement by Israel of the entire Land of Israel, which comprises what the world calls 1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria/the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the City of Jerusalem."

from here:

(Whether the Palestinians can ever be united enough around a moderate leader like Abu Mazen, and therefore represent a solid negotiating partner able to deliver solid peace and security, remains to be seen; for now, it appears they might have their own civil war between Fatah and Hamas/I.J.)

And like it or not, Iran's instransigence has a lot to do with the US. They're probably wondering what it takes to get us to talk directly with them. Hell, even the Saudis and Iraq's Prime Minister think we should hold direct talks with them. Maybe they also have the same crazy idea that Clark has in which before you escalate to explicit conflict with someone, you should at least sit down and find out if there's someone there you can deal with.

I agree with Morris that it would have been better to talk to the Iranians sooner, preferably soon after 9/11, when their offer of assistance in defeating the Taliban could have been a stepping stone to finding some common ground. Unfortunately, the Bush administration said no thanks. Next thing you know, they're being included in the Axis of Evil, and have every reason to distrust us.

And I think you underestimate the depth of knowledge and thinking, as well as sense of fairness, that Clark brings to the table as far as the ME goes. You can get a better sense from these interviews he gave when running for President:

At no point does he even suggest that reasonable measures Israel takes to defend itself should be criticized. As for his recent comments, I'm pretty confident that the way they were spun were an inaccurate characterization of his attitude, but you're free to think as you wish. One should be held accountable for what he says, not what others hear. (Plus his comments addressed increasing US-Iran tensions, not Israeli-Iran)

10:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't necessarily disagree with your comments, but they don't include the elephant in the room, that the Iranian president thinks the apocolypse is imminent.

The traditional ME arguments, Clark, and Zbig, ignore this reality as well.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, but you first need to determine a number of things:

1) Are you confident he really believes that, or is he saying it for political effect/consumption?

2) Is he really in charge

In short, you need to get a handle on the game theory vectors I mentioned in an earlier post. And like Clark, the PM of Iraq, the Saudis, the Baker-Hamilton commission and countless others have said, that is best done through direct contact, rather than competing media manipulation.

I'm not a big fan of hers, but Hillary Clinton said something extremely smart that was quoted in Rosenberg's article, and that was this:

"We have to keep all options on the table, including being ready to talk directly to Iranians should the right opportunity present itself. Direct talks, if they do nothing else, lets you assess who's making the decisions -- what their stated and unstated goals might be. And willingness to talk sends two very important messages. First, to the Iranian people, that our quarrel is with their leaders, not with them; and second, to the international community, that we are pursuing every available peaceful avenue to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power"

2:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think the two conditions are being fulfilled. There is a vain hope that the rest of the west will get hip. So far, they've been more engaged than say with Iraq, which they see as a relatively unthreatening matter that largely serves to hamstring the US.

There is also the meme that Iran is crumbling, that the people are upset with Ahmadinejad, and the mullahs are fully aware of this.

Which is the only reason we haven't bombed 'em yet. A Holocaust-denying lunatic on the verge of nukes who goes in front of the UN talking about the 12th Imam should have been taken care of awhile ago. It is unacceptable without the hope that he will fall without drastic action.

(And I'm sorry, I find little of substance in Clark's positions on the ME, except he's OK with building the wall. The New York money people are no doubt unimpressed.)

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they aren't being fulfilled. That's exactly the point. The one thing that might work isn't even being tried - direct talks.

I don't see a downside.

As for Clark, well, you're entitled to your opinions and the rest of the world is entitled to theirs.

I don't really have any more time to devote to the debate.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand, and thank you. If you think of anything we can offer Ahmadinejad instead of his apocolypse, please let me know.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're welcome. Anytime you need someone to discuss something with whose substantive points you ignore (1. Ahmenidinijad is most likely just a figurehead and his party just got trounced in regional elections and 2. His talk may be just bluster anyway, but there might be ways to find out short of war - remember Kruschev slamming his shoe down and claiming he would "crush" us?), you can call someone else.

And you apparently missed this passage in the article by Rosenberg (who's pretty well plugged-in to ME politics):

"Like most of the gloom-and-doom school, Morris believes that the only thing motivating Iranian policy is the desire to eliminate Israel. But Iran’s dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship is about much more than Israel. In fact, it is primarily about the United States. That is why many believe that negotiations would be productive. In negotiations with the United States, Iran can demand recognition and security guarantees from Washington while we can demand an end to nuclear bomb development, an end to their meddling in Iraq, an end to support of Hezbollah and endorsement of negotiations as a means to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."


6:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I did miss it, purposely, anon, altho I read the other one because it included source material. Since I don't post opinion pieces from the right (except my own) and expect anyone to read them, I expect people to try to meet me halfway. I do my own research and form my own opinions.

By coincidence, or perhaps not, my morning (decidedly unconservative) LA Times has an article on the current situation I could have written. (A first!) Zbig and Clark are at least going to have to come up with something more reassuring to the New York money people (NYMP) than the small consolation that if they destroy Israel, Tehran gets nuked, too. Let them make the case Israel is being silly about a second Holocaust instead of bashing Bush and the NYMP.

I hear you and them just fine. You think Ahmadinejad can be waved away, and Iran will become a good actor if we just chat it out with them. I didn't ignore anything that you wrote, except the concessions you expect from Iran are unattainable, for the reasons Benny Morris cites. Carterism, and Morris' former position, believe that if historical injustices are only righted, there will be peace. Morris came to believe that is not so, which is why he despairs at the current situation and the west's inability to recognize it.

I also happened on Michael Totten today, whom I believe is well-regarded by all political stripes. He's on the ground in Lebanon, and what he writes about Syria certainly applies to its master, Iran:

Most Lebanese think the American and Israeli “realists” who want to negotiate with the Syrians are painfully naïve at best, and downright sinister at worst...

I have better things than this to do, too. I'd have let this discussion go long ago, except I kept finding things I thought worth passing on to whoever's still reading this. Clarity is more valuable than agreement.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Apologies, anon, for my ignorance. Now that I've done some poking around, I realize I didn't realize you were cribbing from the Rosenberg-Silverstein-Juan Cole-et al. axis, which explains the shorthand and seeming (to me) incoherence of your arguments.

For those who came in late (like me), it appears that the anti-Bush American left has made common cause against the neo-cons, even though that means their position, unlike in 1977 vs. Carter (see previous link), is contrary to the general fears and concerns of an indisputable majority of the Israeli people itself. This goes far beyond the American proxy war between Labor (Democrat) and Likud (Republican), an outdated paradigm if there ever was one. No wonder Ariel Sharon could form a completely new party and get himself elected.

It's all clear now. And now that George Soros has decided to finance that axis vs. the "neo-con" AIPAC, I expect its arguments will become more familiar to all of us in the general public.

Thank you, anon. I've learned a lot from this exchange. Sorry, I just didn't know what was happening here, that there was this whole universe I didn't know about, and so I just posted my original thoughts. But you've prepared me, and us, for what Soros' money will be putting out there, so we are in your debt.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another churlish liberal (me) repays backhanded compliments with attempts, however unsuccessful, to construe TVD's arguments as having coherent logic:

Good one, LL. But don't blame Bush for this one.

Subsequent postings suggest that TVD excuses whatever warmongering Duhbya engages in because the world was the way it was when he took office.

(LL, I accept your Cheney screed as a surrender on the battlefield of ideas, but I must admit "all I could find was absurdity up with
which I could not sequit" is a delightful turn of phrase. You got style, man.)

I've just imputed incoherence to TVD, and he thinks I've surrendered. By this "logic", the two-year-old who has just learned 'no' must vanquish his parents on the "battlefield of ideas". Reminds me of Darth Cheney's "last throes" and bespeaks strangely fantastic wishful thinking.

Jimmy Carter indulging his moral narcissism by replacing a pro-American tyranny with an even more tyrannical (and an anti-American) tyranny gets him no points in heaven or on earth.


But it's not about Mossedegh and Eisenhower, or Khomeini and Carter, it's about Ahmadinejad and Bush, and the Democrat congress, and us. The blame game doesn't get us very far.

So, is it about blame, or isn't it?

Targeting Bush as warmonger instead of Ahmadinejad as the self-confessed agent of an Islamic apocolypse (sic) is what's unserious.

How dare you run against Nixon when Ho Chi Minh is still in control of Hanoi!

By the way, you, Joe Lieberman, and any number of "mainstream" pundits seem to believe that "unserious" means "dissenting from whatever you all identify as the conventional wisdom". Calling Zbigniew Brzezinski unserious is what's really unserious; it's akin to calling Henry Kissinger unserious.

Go ahead and call them wrong. That doesn't try to shut off debate.

Quite the contrary, it starts debate.

59% of Israelis think the Iraq invasion was justified; 92% of Israelis think Ahmadinejad is a moderate or grave threat.

Basic logic error: It's still Likud's foreign policy to take an aggressive stance, for example.

Further, is what Israelis think about an American invasion of Iraq decisive? Don't Americans get to decide our own policy? That's what the left thinks, anyway, not to mention the center and the right. (Some who believe this are sane and some are insane, across the spectrum. I say this obvious thing because TVD so often uses a logic-free argument of the form: A believes X and Y. B believes X and is therefore responsible for defending Y.)

St. Jimmy Carter got the least number of Jewish votes of any Democrat since 1920.

And the significance of this is? (Note: The link is not the original source and is unclear, but this has to be percentage. The link is clear about the year, 1980 when there was a significant Independent candidate - John Anderson - not 1976. Still doesn't bear on this argument.)

But TVD makes back and forth across the line of accusing just about everyone left of, oh, the DLC of anti-Semitism.

I get the sense that Israelis themselves by and large feel they achieved their historic peace agreements despite Carter, not because of him.

TVD has a sense, which doesn't even start to be evidence.

The list of TVD's tactics in this one thread then:
- backhanded compliments (in hope the recipient won't notice the back of the hand?)
- double standards, particularly IOKIYAR
- deliberate and fanciful misconstructions with a straight face
- false dichotomies
- non sequiturs

Then, of course, there's the flippant accusatory drive-away: But you've prepared me, and us, for what Soros' money will be putting out there, so we are in your debt.

TVD, man, are you in marketing? 'Cause you have a great gift of putting together sentences that seem to make sense until one looks closely at them. (You be the judge whether this is a backhanded compliment of my own, but I don't mean it that way.)

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You seem to have hit on a few of the highlights of the sophistic river of inanity I patiently put up with from TVD.

His rhetorical flourish seemed to have been asking the question: What could we possibly offer to the crazy, nihilistic neo-Hitler Ahmedinejad in talks with him? Well golly gee, how about a crazy fucking idea like maybe, asking him? At least as a start? Perhaps exploring further the overtures Iran made to us years ago? If the Israelis aren't all squeamish about talking to icky people like the Syrians, why the hell should we be?

Of course our current bunch of highly successful and focussed leaders *never could have imagined* that one should talk to those on the other side of the equation:

But perhaps the apotheosis of his skilled logic is that of his dismissal of my positions based on their association with such evil anti-Semites/Israel-haters as Silverstein, Cole et al., a neat package of argument ad hominem and argument based on visceral identification. One that deftly avoids addressing either the merits of the position or whether their past judgments have actually been more accurate about ME than his preferred *experts*.

And being the noted expert on Israeli politics that he obviously is, he then posits that Sharon formed a new party just because of the proxy disagreement in the US over Likud vs. Labor policy. It couldn't possibly be because he saw that the intransigence and hardline platform of Likud was becoming an obstacle to progress and was about to hit a brick wall domestically, a judgment that appears to have been particularly keen given Likud's thrashing in the most recent elections.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also worth noting that one of the main reasons Sharon formed the new party was in order to carry out the anathema-to-Likud program of disengagement from Gaza, a program first explored a few years earlier by a Labor government.,_2006

As far as *out of the mainstream of Israeli opinion* it's hard to overstate the drubbing Likud took last year. It got even fewer votes than the Socialist Shas party.

FWIW, I don't personally think the unilateral disengagement plan should be taken too much further, because one of the most important bargaining chips Israel has with the Palestinians is withdrawal to pre-1967 borders (something similar to the Saudis' proposal at the 2002 Arab League meeting). Unilaterally doing so leaves a lot less to bargain with.

Sharon and others began to realize that the occupation was literally killing Israel, and sought to pull back a bit. Even though the occupation stemmed from a war the Arab nations started, it had become obvious that it was defining and consuming Israel.

If you look past who the evil author is, and address the numbers, facts and arguments, one could see that the Israeli public's rejection of Likud dogma is based on cold, hard realism.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Confirmed by Wilkinson too:

It's not that farfetched. They did indeed offer help with the Taliban and we had just done them a huge favor (obviously not our intent) by getting rid of Saddam, one of their nemesises.

Sometimes its just wise to cut your losses and admit that Bush's idiocy, obstinacy and incompetence HAS caused tremendous damage. No, it's not ALL his fault only, but he's done nothing but fuck up everything he's laid his hands on.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I wasn't defending Likud, just the opposite. I was saying that carrying your anti-Bushism into Israel's security questions is a bad idea. I have no disagreement on why Sharon's third party was able to win.

However, if elections were held today, Likud would win, so your victory dance over Likud's corpse might have to wait.

This is why it's naive if not dangerous to ask creeps like Ahmadinejad "what they want." It legitimizes them.

(And by referring to me in the third person, you reiterate your surrender, LL. You have nothing to add except ill will.)

(And yes, anon, I hear your last argument. However, the Cuban Missile Crisis forced the Kennedy Administration to give Castro security guarantees. Asking the mullahs what they want would have forced us to do the same and made encourging their opponents very difficult. Unless you are in favor of breaking agreements, of course.

Diplomacy is nice between good faith parties. But making it an end in itself like Clark does and you apparently do is giving away the store for nothing. You don't make deals with bad guys because it's "nice," you do it because you have to.)

7:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, and I did come off unnecessarily snarky on my discovery of a unified American left position on Israel. I'm sorry.

I don't mean to say that an association with Soros or Rosenberg or Juan Cole makes you wrong; I'm very happy that Soros' money will let your word get out. I want people to consider what I consider its wrong-headedness for themselves, and certainly want your argument that dissent is suppressed to have no legs at all.

But I do want you (and Wesley Clark) to pay the price, and I think you will. Your central argument is that Ahmadinejad is not sincere (and not a trial balloon sent up by the mullahs to see what they can get away with), that Israel needn't worry about him, that any differences with him and the mullahs can be talked out, and that only a right-wing cabal stands between the people and your truth. I think any supporter of Israel who aligns with the left and these arguments is out of his mind, and I want you to have every opportunity to prove it to him.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your central argument is that Ahmadinejad is not sincere

There are many words for this; horseshit is as good as any of the others.

TVD, you would have called us liberals commie symps for not going straight to Moscow in 1945 and "confronting" Stalin right then. Oh, yeah, you did, but you were just as wrong then. Stalin was clearly more dangerous than Ahmadinejad is now (or Saddam was in 2003, for that matter).

Yet a new world war after WWII was unattractive then as war with Iran is now. Had we fought it then, our lives would be simpler, and, a la Einstein, we'd be fighting WWIV with sticks and stones.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't dispute that you MIGHT be right. But directly talking as a way to find out what could be accomplished has far less of a downside than you indicate.

You seem to believe the following, all of which I think are false:

1. That negotiations with Tehran would necessarily go as those with Havana and Moscow did, as we'd be FORCED to make extreme concessions.

2. That whatever concessions we made to Castro have somehow severely hamstrung us. Exactly what disaster resulted for us from giving him whatever security guarantees we did?

3. That Tehran is even in the league in terms of danger that the SU was, as LL points out.

4. That Ahmadinejad not being *sincere* definitely means that he's angling for an Iranian hegemony over the entire ME, including the planned eradication of Israel. That may be true or may not; talking with them in no way makes this more possible, unless like an idiot you let your guard down while you're talking. The possibility it's *posturing* also comes to mind.

And diplomacy is not an end in itself, it is an instrumental tool that can yield two types of results: one, it can potentially head off conflict if an acceptable accomodation can be reached by both sides - there is only one way to know for certain if this is the case, and that is to talk; and two, it confers legitimacy on more extreme measures that must subsequently be taken if negotiation fails.

This is the underpinning of the post-WW-II diplomatic system that the US pushed into existence, and so far it's kept us out of WW-III. We have had no enemy in our history more diametrically opposed to what we stand for than the SU, and yet for forty plus years the President could pick up an phone and, without even dialing, talk to the Soviet PM.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Whoa, I lost track of this thread...didn't realize how extensive it had become...

8:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I meself took the occasion to attempt get up to speed on "the question" of Israel. My perceptions were apparently out of date. I didn't have a handle on what Wes Clark and Mr. Anonymous were talking about.

It turns out they and many others are talking in the same vein, albeit mostly in America.

On the other side, I was surprised to learn that Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud are on the verge of making a comeback. Like Mr. Anon, I too had thought Likud was dead, and always thought that Netanyahu was far too much of a hardass to ever captain the Zionist entity again anyway.

I think Israel took the Hizbollah/Lebanon thing last year in stride. Shoulda done this, shouldn't've done that, whatever. Replace the ruling party and prime minister, business as usual.

But a nuclear Iran captained by a Holocaust denier who wants to hasten the apocolypse, well, that seems to have changed things.

Maybe we have a better sense of perspective back here in the relatively safe USA. Or maybe not as much...

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with your thesis is that it has no basis in reality. Ahmedinejad's remarks (those in question, as well as many other inflamatory others) were made five months BEFORE the most recent Israeli elections.

And I'm sure Likud would win today, based on those polls. And Hillary would defeat Rudy or McCain, based on our most recent polls. Righty-o.

And for some of us it's more than just an academic concern, since we have relatives and friends living in Tel Aviv and on a Kibbutz. The issue is one of strategy, not concern for Israel. I'm sure the Israelis are thankful for your concern. But the ones I know are also thankful that they don't have a Bush of their own.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, I thought I was presenting an evenhanded account.

Please do expound on your strategy.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can read back over the thousands of words in this thread to get an idea of my strategy.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, it's unalloyed Carterism, which consists of making consessions to bad guys. Even its achievments are accidental:

"If you go back to the Egyptian peace process, Sadat didn't decide to make peace because he was suddenly convinced of the merits of the Zionist case. Sadat decided to make peace because he realized that Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony.

The process was very visible. There were whole areas of Soviet bases and no Egyptian was admitted. Sadat, I think, realized that on the best estimate of Israel's power and the worst estimate of Israel's intentions, Israel was not a threat to Egypt in the way that the Soviet Union was.

So he took the very courageous step of ordering the Soviet specialists out of Egypt, facing the danger they might do what they did in Czechoslovakia or Hungary. They didn't, fortunately. Then he hoped that Washington would help him, instead of which Washington produced the Vance-Gromyko Agreement, a sort of diplomatic carve up, in effect giving Egypt back to the Soviets. That was [former president Jimmy] Carter's real contribution to the peace process. All the rest of it is imaginary; imaginary is the polite word."
---Bernard Lewis

Israel has got nothing out of decades of "negotiating" with the Palestinians except more intifadas, and now it has Hamas. Now it's to try it with Iran, to which it poses no direct threat, and which arms Israel's enemies like Hizbollah.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick reading of my earlier post about your ill-drawn conclusions about past negotiations dictating the progress of future ones as well as the $2B+ of aid that flows from the US to Egypt shows that both your most recent post, and the fevered rantings of Bernard Lewis are both twaddle.

The resumption of aid that was at least implicitly contingent on Egypt making nice with Israel was the honey used to draw Egypt into at least a detente. To that extent it neutralized or offset any loss of succor from the SU. The fact that diplomatic ties between Egypt and the US increased between 1979 and 1990 shows that Egypt simply switched sides, and puts the lie to Lewis' fanciful wishes of what actually happened.

In short, we bought their turn away from Moscow and grudging acceptance of Israel.

And Israel has not gotten much from negotiating with Palestinians, yes, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't continue to try. Or should they just accept perpetual war, or attempt genocide?

3:57 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

There's a downside to negotiating when the other party is not working in good faith. Israel has already shown its cards with the Clinton go-round; the Palestinians have already won concessions that will serve as the baseline for the next go-round, without yielding a single concession themselves. To date.

We should learn something from that.

Your $2B argument is a good response to Lewis' complete dismissal of Carter, but "fevered rantings" doesn't address the contention that Carter accidentally pushed Sadat toward peace with the Vance-Gromyko agreement.

If you want to exchange calling each other's writing "twaddle," I can do that. Good of you to admit that negotiations with the Palestinians have been fruitless, altho since Iran is even more implacable (and has less at stake), I don't know why you want to repeat the mistake. "Try," as in "at least I tried," is solipsistic twaddle, the defining feature of Carterism.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of those negotiations have not changed one iota what the final agreement will look like. That's what's so frustrating about the situation. Everybody knows it's going to be something like Israel's withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders with financial compensation to the Palestinians in exchange for recognition of Israel and security guarantees, something which has been offered time and again. Some things like the right of return and final status of Jerusalem may somehow be finessed.

This is similar to what was offered by the Saudis at the Arab League meeting in 2002. The reason it's pretty fair and logical and yet unattainable is becuase of the splintering of the Palestinian side. The Hamas and IJ psychos cling to their hate and grudge, and there has never been a strong, visionary and unifying leader capable of bringing into the fold, or at least controlling, the most violent factions. Unless and until that can be done, nothing of substance will be achieved.

Iran, on the other hand has already indicated that it seeks talks with the US, and even the Saudis and Egyptians think we're crazy to not take them up on their offer and at least explore it.

And the contention that Carter pushed Sadat toward peace with the Vance-Gromyko initiative shows a stunning lack of knowledge about the domestic Egyptian situation at that time. They were in real financial trouble, complete with food riots erupting in Cairo. Yes, Carter's offer of aid was a bit of a blackmail, but the point is that everybody got something in the final agreement, except for the more radical elements of Egyptian society, which never forgave Sadat for dealing with the colonizers and making peace with the infidels.

And avoiding war is almost always a good thing. That is something that Carter seems to have learned and you haven't.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

The idea that the Palestinians under Arafat didn't compromise with Israel is absurd. Fatah agreed to recognize Israel to make way for the Oslo accords, then they agreed to settle for 22% of pre-1948 Palestine. Now, we could debate all day who was to blame for the failure of the Clinton talks, but one thing no one can debate: Israel was founded on the settlement of an Arab country and the promises and power of Britain and the United States. Jews from Europe and Russia settled in Palestine in the late 19th century and early 20th for the sole purpose of eventually taking it over through violence if necessary. That's what a homeland for Jews--Zionism--would require.

The idea that the Palestinians owe Israel concessions is pure nonsense. If the world were perfectly just, the Israeli government would pay reparations to the Palestinians for the next 100 years in addition to the pathetic 22% of what was an Arab country before 1948. Perhaps that's why peace will be very hard, though, because of the magnitude of the injustice Israel committed in its founding and the difficulty of convincing people in the Palestinian camp to forgive and forget. If you stop and think about it, it's probably not easy to want to stop fighting a nation that takes over your country and calls it theirs, then subjects you to their rule and peace on their terms for 50-plus years.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The idea that the Palestinians under Arafat didn't compromise with Israel is absurd.

Absurd? Strong rhetoric.

Fatah agreed to recognize Israel to make way for the Oslo accords, then they agreed to settle for 22% of pre-1948 Palestine.

This is an interesting assertion, Jared. Please, and I mean this unsnarkily, do bring me up to speed. Has any Palestinian entity recognized Israel? Offered to?

Missed that. Pls advise.

Anon, I'm glad we're speaking again. This has been nourishing. You are a person operating in good faith; of this you've convinced me.

Iran, on the other hand has already indicated that it seeks talks with the US, and even the Saudis and Egyptians think we're crazy to not take them up on their offer and at least explore it.

I've been following the headlines, and Iran has made some noise in the past few days that it wants to talk.

Asking to talk, in my assessment of the dynamic of the ME, is a sign of weakness. That Iran announces it wants to talk is perhaps a good sign, although after nearly 30 years of its Islamic republic financing radicals to kill Jews, its own Iranian dissidents overseas, and sometimes Americans, like in Iraq, for instance, we should ingest a grain of salt.

That the Bush administration immediately sent out reciprocally conciliatory signs is an admission of its own political weakness, political weakness being the Achilles' Heel of all democracies, not to mention a sentimentality along the lines of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football.

(I have my doubts that the Sunnis of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are any more trusting of a hudna with the Persians than I am. In fact, it's in both their interests that the US and Israel start a war with the Shia Crescent, come what may.)

(It is good that as we distance ourselves from our domestic partisanship, we begin to explore the problem together. I realize you're too busy for this, but I appreciate you making extra time to extend the discussion. Where it'll lead, who knows? Perhaps dialogue...)

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Setting aside the I-P conflict which carries immense complications, the worst of which I belive, as I pointed out before, is the lack of a unified Palestinian *side* that can function as a counterparty in negotiations, I think the situation WRT to Iran might be relatively easier.

TVD, you seem to be purposely missing what Iran could gain from rapprochement with the US and the West. Looking at it from their point of view, perhaps a difficult thing to do, do you think they really want a sectarian civil war on one of their borders and a resurgent Taliban on the other?

And they have serious internal problems that we in the West could DEFINITELY help them with:

I don't know if any headway can be made through negotiations, but I think that dismissing it or giving only a half-assed effort, with the result that thousands more might die unnecessarily, is the height of irresponsibility. But some, including the worst factions in the Bush administration, are in the constant habit of chanting 'give war a chance'.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think that's a slander and a demonization, myself.

Yes, Iran (and therefore Ahmadinejad) is having economic troubles. To rescue him now is foolish. Never interrupt your enemy while he's making a mistake. When it's Iran begging for talks, perhaps the time will be right.

As to Israel, do you believe that it could have accomplished diplomatically what it did by bombing Saddam's nuclear program?

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not talking about Israel and Saddam's nuclear program, but thanks for the misdirection towards false dichotomy anyway. Sometimes diplomacy can work, sometimes it can't. One thing is logically certain, however: you can't know for sure unless you try it.

Try treating each case as sui generis, maybe you'll understand what I'm talking about.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm saying the same thing. If you observe the Arabs' style, sometimes refusing to negotiate for awhile yields the best results, as it makes the other side more pliable.

This is what I meant about diplomacy becoming an end in itself. One size doesn't fit all.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And BTW, charging me with sophistry might be a bit of misdirection on your own part, away from the fact you don't seem to have a satisfactory response for the analogous situation of bombing Saddam's nuclear program.

Just a thought.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm saying the same thing. If you observe the Arabs' style, sometimes refusing to negotiate for awhile yields the best results, as it makes the other side more pliable."

Examples, please? Since sometimes all refusing to negotiate does is make the other side dig in its heels and become more obstinate. And perhaps its instructive to remember that the Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.

And it is sophistry when you continually bring up other situations which don't have a bearing on the point of this thread, which you seem to be doing everything to avoid, namely, attempting to engage Iran. It's commonly referred to as a strawman.

But since you mention it, I really don't know if diplomacy could have accomplished WRT to the Iraqi nuclear program, but since he was our client at the time, I'd say if the US cared enough, it would certainly have had a better chance than the Israelis.

And failure to fully engage diplomacy can also work out worse later for YOUR side too. Remember Bush refusing to engage the North Koreans soon after he came into office, preferring to rattle the saber at them by including them in the "Axis of Evil"(TM)? How'd that work out for us? Here's a little hint:

And now, whaddya know, they're going to get pretty much the same deal they wanted a few years ago, but they get to keep a few nukes too! Nice going Georgie:

Even St. Ronald Reagan negotiated directly with the "Evil Empire"(TM), with good results. Trust, but verify; words to live by. But George Truman, excuse me, I mean George Bush and Deadeye Dick would rather play the tough guy, regardless of how many people die and how much misery results.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it's clearly true. Georgie wants to SOUND like St. Ronnie, but when the rubber meets the road and its time for diplomacy, Deadeye Dick's foul ideology rears its wretched head:

Some choice excerpts from the Newsweek piece Matt links to:

"After September 11 in particular, relations grew warmer than at any time since the fall of the shah. America wanted Iran's help in Afghanistan, and Iran gave it, partly out of fear of an angry superpower and partly in order to be rid of its troublesome Taliban neighbors. In time, hard-liners on both sides were able to undo the efforts of diplomats to build on that foundation. The damage only worsened as those hawks became intoxicated with their own success. The secret history of the Bush administration's dealings with Iran is one of arrogance, mistrust and failure. But it is also a history that offers some hope.

For Iran's reformists, 9/11 was a blessing in disguise. Previous attempts to reach out to America had been stymied by conservative mullahs. But the fear that an enraged superpower would blindly lash out focused minds in Tehran. Mohammad Hossein Adeli was one of only two deputies on duty at the Foreign Ministry when the attacks took place, late on a sweltering summer afternoon. He immediately began contacting top officials, insisting that Iran respond quickly. "We wanted to truly condemn the attacks but we also wished to offer an olive branch to the United States, showing we were interested in peace," says Adeli. To his relief, Iran's top official, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, quickly agreed. "The Supreme Leader was deeply suspicious of the American government," says a Khameini aide whose position does not allow him to be named. "But [he] was repulsed by these terrorist acts and was truly sad about the loss of the civilian lives in America." For two weeks worshipers at Friday prayers even stopped chanting "Death to America."

"Opinions differ wildly over how much help the Iranians actually were on the ground. But what is beyond doubt is how critical they were to stabilizing the country after the fall of Kabul. In late November 2001, the leaders of Afghanistan's triumphant anti-Taliban factions flew to Bonn, Germany, to map out an interim Afghan government with the help of representatives from 18 Coalition countries. It was rainy and unseasonably cold, and the penitential month of Ramadan was in full sway, but a carnival mood prevailed. The setting was a splendid hotel on the Rhine, and after sunset the German hosts laid on generous buffet meals under a big sign promising that everything was pork-free.

The Iranian team's leader, Javad Zarif, was a good-humored University of Denver alumnus with a deep, measured voice, who would later become U.N. ambassador. Jim Dobbins, Bush's first envoy to the Afghans, recalls sharing coffee with Zarif in one of the sitting rooms, poring over a draft of the agreement laying out the new Afghan government. "Zarif asked me, 'Have you looked at it?' I said, 'Yes, I read it over once'," Dobbins recalls. "Then he said, with a certain twinkle in his eye: 'I don't think there's anything in it that mentions democracy. Don't you think there could be some commitment to democratization?' This was before the Bush administration had discovered democracy as a panacea for the Middle East. I said that's a good idea."

Toward the end of the Bonn talks, Dobbins says, "we reached a pivotal moment." The various parties had decided that the suave, American-backed Hamid Karzai would lead the new Afghan government. But he was a Pashtun tribal leader from the south, and rivals from the north had actually won the capital. In the brutal world of Afghan power politics, that was a recipe for conflict. At 2 a.m. on the night before the deal was meant to be signed, the Northern Alliance delegate Yunus Qanooni was stubbornly demanding 18 out of 24 new ministries. Frantic negotiators gathered in the suite of United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. A sleepy Zarif translated for Qanooni. Finally, at close to 4 a.m., he leaned over to whisper in the Afghan's ear: " 'This is the best deal you're going to get'." Qanooni said, " 'OK'.""

The rest, as they say, is history. At precisely the moment when Bush could have been Nixon going to China, he chose to make domestic political hay rather than pursue a potentially historic rapprochement. We'll never know how successful that might have been if we'd had an adult in the White House.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...


The rest has some good points, but I'm exhausted negotiating the cowpies. I've been far more diplomatic towards you than you've given back, and our dispassionate readers, if there are any, are invited to examine the record.

As for your philosophy of negotiation, which has become the core issue, I'm beginning to suspect there are no liberals on the World Poker Tour, or any who have seen "The Corbomite Manuever." Negotiations begin well before negotiations begin. If you look around the poker table and can't identify the sucker, it's you.

A good point on the nascent Nork re-agreement. Absent some wrinkle that makes it different from the cowpie that Carter ceremoniously foisted onto Clinton, it illustrates my point more than disproves it, diplomacy for its own sake.

I heard the Iran rapprochement story a couple of months ago, on BBC Radio via Barbados, waiting for a cricket match, as it turns out. I believe it, on the whole, that the Bushies blew off the Iranian feeler.

On the other hand, I don't believe it would have resulted in peace, or any pullback of Iran's support for Islamicist maniacs. Sort of like the Nork situation.) I previously injected the word and concept of hudna in hopes you would acknowledge it.

What the current Iran regime wants is not a bribe like Sadat and Mubarak's Egypt is satisfied with. Would that you were right, and words and money could satisfy them. We must see them through their own eyes, not ours. What they want, we cannot give them.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point is that the 1994 Agreed Framework kept them from making nukes for 8 years. I agree that it wasn't perfect; specifically, the 'verify' part of trust, but verify wasn't strong enough. But it was better than letting them acquire a few nukes. Even kicking the can down the road is better than that.

As to Iran, I'm very impressed that you're such a skilled mind-reader that you needn't even explore diplomacy with them to know that we could never responsibly address their demands.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You have no idea what they want? None?

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you can start with what they explicitly asked for in the communiques mentioned in the Newsweek piece, as well as the obvious help they need with their withering economy.

This is getting absurd. You can discount all day whether they're serious or genuine or whether they were speaking in tongues when they sought contacts and diplomacy, but it's all pointless conjecture because our undiplomatic administration purposely blew them off because part of their grand plan for the Middle East included picking a fight with them, even via goading them into giving us a casus bellum, as per Hillary Mann.

It's really a moot point whether diplomacy would accomplish anything anyway, because you go to foreign relations with the Administration you have, not the Administration you'd like to have. And this one isn't interested in diplomacy*. It's only interested in war.

*It is interested in diplomatic masturbation in the service of being able to go to war.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, so you can stop purposely playing dumb:

10:48 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...


The best documentation I can offer on the fly about the Palestinians having recognized Israel is Wikipedia:

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared, you're right, but part of the problem, as I mentioned before, is the fractile nature of Palestinian politics.

That accord was signed by Yasir Arafat on behalf of the PLO, neither of which really exist anymore. And my understanding of the recent problems between Fatah and Hamas is the former's inability to bring the latter into the fold as far as abiding by agreements reached by past Palestinian leadership.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

It's a sad inidication of how bad things have gotten in the Middle East when Hamas has the influence in Palestinian society it now has. Ditto with Hezbollah in Lebanon. In any case, I agree 100 percent that Hamas is one of the primary reasons that a future peace process is hard to imagine. At the same time, my point is just that, in the past, the Palestinians have been more than eager to negotiate a settlement with the Israelis, but during the 90s after the death of Rabin, the Israelis were more interested in continuing to build settlements in the West Bank. Clinton turned a blind eye, like his predecessors, and that is one thing that made his Camp David talks extremely difficult.

I didn't intend there to be a relation to Iran, but there is one. For decades, American foreign policy allowed Israel to make mistake after mistake vis-a-vis their relations with the Arabs, mainly by allowing settlement construction throughout the West Bank after the '67 war and not demanding that Israel return the West Bank and Gaza back after Resolution 242 and 338. Then we sit back and allow Israel to occupy and destroy southern Lebanon throughout the 80s and 90s, spawning Hezbollah. Then George W. Bush comes along, and he blithely invades Iraq, not understanding the complexity of that nation and the consequences it would have on the wider Middle East. Now, the same guy with the same geniuses advising him are contemplating taking action against Iran. All the while, our "moderate Arab allies" are dictators in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and many of the Gulf states. With a record like that in the Middle East, is it any wonder most everyone there thinks ill of us?

There is a theme here: American foreign policy not understanding a region we have critical interests in, and making enormous errors in judgment time after time. Of course, the errors in judgment and willful ignorance have reached a fevered pitch with Bush. But you have to stop and ask yourself at some point--why are we so bad at foreign policy in the Middle East?

12:27 AM  

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