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James is right when he says:

Obama’s remarks may make for wrongheaded policy — I happen to think that in some instances they do and in some they don’t — but Bush’s remarks typify the clumsy, overgeneralized, harping, dull, and rote approach to democratization that has made his administration such a sustained failure.

Certainly, that is what should be emphasised about Bush’s speech, along with its basic conceptual error that negotiations are an exercise in persuasion.  Diplomacy is much closer to haggling and pazari than it is to rhetoric.  In fact, a good diplomat doesn’t really care whether his opposite number has been persuaded by the virtue of his argument, but is most concerned to know that his opposite number is operating in good faith and will follow through on the bargain that has been reached.  There are things that will be non-negotiable for other regimes, just as there are for our own, and part of the art of diplomacy is to make maximal gains towards that limit of the non-negotiable for your side.  Or you can pretend that diplomacy has something to do with being nice and yielding to your rivals, as I assume Mr. Bush must believe for him to equate it with appeasement, which is almost the exact opposite of what proper diplomacy is.  It doesn’t matter to me that much whether or not Bush was referring to Obama.  I think he was, but that isn’t my concern.  What concerns me is that idea that Mr. Bush’s style of foreign policy can still be presented as self-evidently right and competent in the face of a mountain of evidence that it is neither.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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