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James [1] 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.

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8 Comments To "Negotiation"

#1 Comment By Benny One Six On May 15, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

What is the evidence that Bush’s foreign policy has been bad?

Certainly not the installation of pro-American and mostly rightist leaders in Europe and Australia…

The occupation of Iraq (and not the invasion or removal of Sadaam) was and is a mistake but other than that, what’s the problem? Historically, Iraq is not the WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED EVER EVER!!!!! so many portray it as…

#2 Comment By Benny One Six On May 15, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

And, another thing, Bush was talking about a specific foerign entity with the whole no appeasement thing… He wasn’t laying out how he would deal with every state or even every state opposed to America’s interests… Just “terrorists” etc.

#3 Comment By Daniel Larison On May 15, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

Installation? I didn’t realise that they were vassal rulers whom we installed. I have no argument with Rudd, but to call him either “pro-American” or “mostly rightist” would be wrong, since he is obviously opposed to continued Australian deployment to Iraq and is a man of the left. His opposition to the war does not make him “anti-American,” to be sure, but it’s worth noting that for every Schroeder who was ousted there is a Howard to compensate on the other side. Of course, I agree that Iraq is not the worst thing that has ever happened, I have never said such a thing, and I have rebuked people in the past for saying things to that effect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a colossal blunder, an enormous injustice and a gross waste of our resources, and all of it coming at an inexcusable cost in human life. One problem is that the U.S. waged a war of aggression, which is bad enough in its own right. By most standards, the Iraq war is not as colossal a blunder as entering WWI or going into Vietnam, but it is certainly one of the great errors of all of U.S. foreign policy.

What else has Mr. Bush damaged? Let us see….

Objectively, our relations with Russia are demonstrably worse. We invaded another country without just cause and alienated a good three-quarters of the globe doing it. Our Pakistan policy, so called, has been a bad joke, and has tied us to one of the more unpopular of their unpopular dictators, while simultaneously straining what should otherwise be a promising relationship with India. Washington hasn’t completely dropped the ball on the relationship with India, but it hasn’t cultivated it nearly well enough. The Near East is far less stable, far more dominated by Iran and our allies are less secure than they were when he took office, and a good part of this can be traced to his decision to invade Iraq. If Mr. Bush somehow gets credit for Sarkozy’s election, which I would dispute, it’s worth noting that Sarkozy now thrashes around in newfound impotence, while the adamantly “pro-American” Tony Blair was ousted and the “pro-American” Angela Merkel has gone out of her way to thwart the ludicrous schemes of Mr. Bush to incorporate Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Thank goodness Merkel did, or else I could add that to the list of his terrible decisions. Never mind that these “mostly rightist leaders” have been elected largely on domestic political grounds, while Zapatero continues to govern in Spain, elevated in the wake of the Spanish people’s repudiation of Aznar’s close alliance with Bush over Iraq and his cynical exploitation of the train bombings. The previously sycophantic Tory leaders of the past are gone, replaced by Cameron, who is quite happy to thumb his nose at us when he will (which is probably ultimately for the best, but is also a clear rebuke to Mr. Bush and the servile relationship Tory leaders had with the GOP). Oh, yes, and he recognised Kosovo as an independent state, which has been and will continue to worsen separatist crises around the world. The genius also promoted elections that empowered Hamas and actively encouraged Israel in a counterproductive and failed war in Lebanon that empowered Hizbullah. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but there have been so *many* failures that it does become difficult to keep track. Let us turn the question around: in what way has Mr. Bush’s foreign policy been good or successful?

#4 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On May 15, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

Bush was targeting Obama, and spouting the usual democratist drivel.

What day is it? It’s always Groundhog Day, 1938!

#5 Comment By Benny One Six On May 15, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

Installation was just a terrible choice of words on my part…

You’ve provided a list, fair enough.. First, I’d note that it’s really quite small when you look at it.. Russia is upset with us and Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are stronger and separatism is on the rise… Assuming that all these are true, is it all that bad of a record compared to past presidents? I say no.

Re: separatism: that’s the way things are moving in the world and Bush has identified it and seen that it is a good thing and works to our advantage. Why shouldn’t the Shi’a rule where they are the majority? Why shouldn’t power devolve down to smaller constituent parts? Hasn’t the arbitrary construction of states and nations in Africa and the Middle East been a disaster?

Hamas and Hezbollah are the gov’s of the people whether we like it or not.. Opposing them opposes the majority of the populations and is a losing game…

As to why Bush’s been good… Well, I’d point to the consolidation of the Anglosphere and the addition of India and hopefully soon Iran. And, I’d dispute that we are less secure than we were…

#6 Comment By Bustrofedon On May 16, 2008 @ 4:46 am

But isn’t Bush also the biggest hypocrite we’ve seen in a while – and there is always fierce competition for that title – complaining about appeasement when his Administration has/is talking to Iran, Sudan, and North Korea – all on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

The fact that he has almost banrupted this country, wasted its political capital worldwide, and hollowed out our military force in military misadventures also has obvious foreign policy implications. That should count for something surely.

#7 Comment By Adam01 On May 16, 2008 @ 9:43 am

“The occupation of Iraq (and not the invasion or removal of Sadaam) was and is a mistake but other than that, what’s the problem? Historically, Iraq is not the WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED EVER EVER!!!!! so many portray it as… ”

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

While I would agree that our Iraq misadventure has been less bad than, say, the Black Death, Mongol Invasion, attack by Cylons, aren’t we setting the bar a little low here? Talk about the soft-bigotry of low expectations…

#8 Comment By davegnyc On May 17, 2008 @ 7:45 am


I will only add that what makes Iraq particularly sad is that it was completely avoidable and voluntary. He had to go to great lengths to make this mistake.