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Monday, May 19, 2008

When it's wrong to negotiate

America's former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton (pictured) explains the difference between John McCain's views (and his own) on negotiations and those of Barack Hussein Obama.
On one side are those who believe that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time. That is where I am, and where I think Mr. McCain is. On the other side are those like Mr. Obama, who apparently want to use negotiations 100% of the time. It is the 100%-ers who suffer from an obsession that is naïve and dangerous.
Bolton goes on to explain the costs of negotiation and why it is definitely not a "nothing to lose" proposition.
When the U.S. negotiates with "terrorists and radicals," it gives them legitimacy, a precious and tangible political asset. Thus, even Mr. Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter for his recent meetings with Hamas leaders. Meeting with leaders of state sponsors of terrorism such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il is also a mistake. State sponsors use others as surrogates, but they are just as much terrorists as those who actually carry out the dastardly acts. Legitimacy and international acceptability are qualities terrorists crave, and should therefore not be conferred casually, if at all.

Moreover, negotiations – especially those "without precondition" as Mr. Obama has specifically advocated – consume time, another precious asset that terrorists and rogue leaders prize. Here, President Bush's reference to Hitler was particularly apt: While the diplomats of European democracies played with their umbrellas, the Nazis were rearming and expanding their industrial power.

In today's world of weapons of mass destruction, time is again a precious asset, one almost invariably on the side of the would-be proliferators. Time allows them to perfect the complex science and technology necessary to sustain nuclear weapons and missile programs, and provides far greater opportunity for concealing their activities from our ability to detect and, if necessary, destroy them.

Iran has conclusively proven how to use negotiations to this end. After five years of negotiations with the Europeans, with the Bush administration's approbation throughout, the only result is that Iran is five years closer to having nuclear weapons. North Korea has also used the Six-Party Talks to gain time, testing its first nuclear weapon in 2006, all the while cloning its Yongbyon reactor in the Syrian desert.

Finally, negotiations entail opportunity costs, consuming scarce presidential time and attention. Those resources cannot be applied everywhere, and engaging in true discussions, as opposed to political charades, does divert time and attention from other priorities. No better example can be found than the Bush administration's pursuit of the Annapolis Process between Arabs and Israelis, which has gone and will go nowhere. While Annapolis has been burning up U.S. time and effort, Lebanon has been burning, as Hezbollah strengthens its position there. This is an opportunity cost for the U.S., and a tragedy for the people of Lebanon.
Here's hoping that Bolton is Secretary of State come January 2009. At least he understands that negotiations are a two-way street both between the parties and in terms of their cost-benefit analysis.


On Monday night, Bolton appeared on Fox's Hannity & Colmes show, where he said, "Bush hit the nail on the head in Jerusalem, and now the nails are complaining."

Watch the video here.


At 10:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Reminder: Bolton said his "diplomatic role model" is James Baker (who McCain also likes).

At 2:18 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Israeli government appears to consist of 100% percenter negotiators. They've never indicated when there is a time negotiations make no sense whatsoever and its time for Israel to begin pushing the enemy back.


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