Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Diplomacy vs. Imperialism

Kevin Drum is going to catch hell for his post about Carrots and Sticks with regards to Bush's war, but he is fundamentally right. It's a little complicated, so read carefully.

He quoted James Fallows from The Atlantic saying that the NIE report, which showed that Iran's nuclear weapons program basically stopped in 2003 invalidates Hillary Clinton's argument in the recent NPR Democratic debate that good foreign policy takes carrots and sticks, which is why she voted for Kyl-Lieberman stating that the Senate considered the Iranian National Guard a terrorist organization. [Anglachel aside - I agree with that, the ING *is* a terrorist organization.] Fallows argues that since Iran abandoned the program in 2003, Hillary is wrong to be rattling the saber now.

Kevin then reminded us:
Iran's about-face on its nuclear program may have had nothing to do with Kyl-Lieberman, but surely 2003 rings another bell in the carrots-and-sticks department? There may have been multiple reasons why Iran shut down its bomb program, but I think you'd have to do some pretty serious special pleading to argue that our invasion of Iraq wasn't one of them. And if that's the case, it's pretty good evidence that sticks have a place in foreign policy, just as Hillary says.

This isn't an argument that the Iraq war was a good idea. It's an argument that once Bush made the decision to go to war, it was foolish not to take advantage of one of the resulting upsides. Iran was pretty clearly spooked after we crushed Saddam with such stunning ease, and was pretty clearly ready to do a deal with us. But the Bush administration was so blinded by its own world historical importance, and so dominated by triumphant neocon ideologues, that it refused to see the deal that was in front of its own face.

Carrots and Sticks

Um, well, kinda. Hussein didn't allow the inspectors back in until after the AUMF (AUMF joint resolution on October 10, UN Resolution 1441 on November 8, weapons inspectors back in Iraq November 27, 2002). Iran had a double incentive to discontinue their program - Hussein's bluff was called and the US was sitting right on their border with an army itching for a fight. In addition, Khatami was in power and he was looking for a way to normalize relations and further undermine the mullahs. If a normal administration had been in charge at that time, it could have been a win-win-win situation - the Taliban ousted, Hussein's bluff called and him humiliated, and Iran willing to come to the table to talk seriously about ending their weapons program.

It was not until after Bush had declared he didn't care what the inspectors said that we heard from Richard Clarke, who let the public know that the tue goal of the Bush administration all along had been Iraq. And, by then, there was a war juggernaut in place and rolling.

So, before dismissing anyone who supported AUMF, it is crucial to remember the difference that Bush brought to the table - a willingness to lie and misrepresent to get the most slender thread on which to charge forward into war.

I think Kevin goes too far in saying that the actual invasion of Iraq was in any way counter-balanced by the the cessation of the Iranian weapons program. The actual invasion was so completely beyond the realm of justifiable behavior that any positive side effects are cancelled out by the butchery inflicted on Iraq. Also, we have to look at how much Iran benefitted from the invasion in ways that do not brign advantage to anyone else.

But what the NIE demonstrates without a doubt is that serious diplomacy and strategic use of threats do work.


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