Obama’s Diplomacy in a Void

There are two reasons you engage in international diplomacy:

1. You both want roughly the same thing, but there are some thorny issues involved which must be addressed before either of you can get it. Trade agreements and alliances against a third party are this sort of diplomacy.

2. You and the other guy want diametrically opposed outcomes and you’re both trying to force the other to climb down, with a risk of war ever present. This sort of thing comes up when two nations with a great deal of enmity are getting at loggerheads.

The first example is mostly harmless in that success doesn’t lead to universal peace and brotherhood, but failure also doesn’t come with much cost. It would be the rarest of rare birds if, say, a negotiation over a trade deal resulted in war breaking out between the two parties because they couldn’t come to an agreement on tariffs. On the other hand, the second form of diplomacy is fraught with danger because the whole point of negotiating is to try to prevent a war – both sides want something the other side cannot agree to. In negotiating, what they are really doing is trying to answer the question, “are you willing to fight over it?”.

In the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War in 1877, Russia – victorious – was in a mood to just do as she wished with Turkish possessions…which then ranged deep into the Balkans of Europe and which were of great concern to other major powers. When Russia’s plans for prostrate Turkey became known, Britain, especially, let it be known that Russia’s plans were unacceptable and if not modified, war would result. The Germans, under Bismarck, held a conference of all interested parties in Berlin and to Bismarck fell the task of finding out if the British answer to the question was really, “yes”. Bismarck went at it for quite a long time against the British Prime Minister, Disraeli, trying to get out of him a “no”. At the end of it, Britain’s position was crystal clear and Bismarck, who was trusted by the Russians, let them know that if they persisted, they’d have a war with Britain, with incalculable risks that other nations would become involved. Russia, having got her “yes” from Britain, answered her “no” in reply…Russia didn’t want a war with Britain. They weren’t willing to fight over it. War was averted (well, strictly speaking, it was delayed…until 1914 when Russia started fishing in those same troubled waters…but, still, peace was achieved in the 1870’s which endured for decades). That is the sort of diplomacy we’re really thinking of when we think “diplomacy”.

Our liberals use the word diplomacy quite a lot – in fact, it is their magic talisman against all threats. All you gotta do is get some diplomacy going and everything can be made right. But what liberals don’t understand – refuse to understand – is that in the great international crisis, the question remains as always: are you willing to fight about it? If you are not willing to fight about it, then you will not get what you want. The other side, once sure you won’t fight, will just grab what they demanded – and then probably demand even more, just to see how far you can be pushed until the answer becomes “yes”, with the risk that they’ll miscalculate your weakness and thus provoke a war (this was Hitler’s problem in 1939 – he thought that after Munich he could take Poland without Britain fighting…he miscalculated…there was a lot of surrender in Neville Chamberlain, but not complete national abasement). In Obama’s Iran negotiations, what we are seeing are the results of one side thinking that negotiations are the end rather than the means – and they are viewed as an end, in themselves, because a person like Obama is fundamentally incapable of envisioning war resulting from failure.

Obama is going to get his agreement with Iran – which will be of no real value, because all Obama wants is the “agreement”…something on paper which says that peace and amity are secured. What actually happens is irrelevant – the agreement is all. This is diplomacy in a void – mere sound and fury, signifying nothing. I’ve watched a few MSM reports of late – forgive me for wasting my time – and they’re all, “there is only a few days left until the deadline”. Deadline? Deadline for what? Suppose we pass it – are we going to go to war? No. Impose new sanctions? No. Stop negotiating? No. We’ll just set a new deadline. Because we have to get an agreement – and, in fact, the current deadline, given Obama, means the pressure is on us. As we won’t do anything if the deadline is passed, it is up to us to get something on paper before the deadline arrives. The Iranians know this full well – and are taking advantage of it (their demand that all sanctions be lifted is a, “we know you won’t do anything, so give us all we want” ploy). At the end of the day, it would have been better all around if Obama had just unilaterally terminated the sanctions and entered into no negotiations, at all. Our overall position would be stronger – we could still, in theory, have a military option on the table, even if only as a wink and a nod to Israel, should they decide to strike. Now there is no military option, rumors that we’ve agreed to prevent even an Israeli strike, and an upcoming agreement which will commit us to removing sanctions without stopping Iran’s nuclear program. Obama is essentially going to make the United States the guarantor of Iran’s nuclear program – protected until fruition by an “agreement”…and once complete, impossible to reverse because you can’t ever force a nation to give up nuclear weapons.

My view is that Obama doesn’t understand this – he has shown over time that he understands very little about how the world works. Combine this with a set of liberals in his Administration who are likely convinced that Iran is only an enemy because of bad American actions, and you’ve got the impetus for one of the most astoundingly stupid foreign policy programs in human history. Obama is going to redeem Neville Chamberlain – after Obama gets done with Iran, people will be able to look back and say, “well, at least Chamberlain didn’t actually arm the Germans”.

How this mess is to be cleaned up remains to be seen – if Iran tests a nuclear weapon before 1/20/17, there will be no way for us to really do anything. We’ll just have to wait for the inevitable Iranian collapse – their fertility rate is below replacement level and corrupt, dictatorial governments are really never too long for this world. The USSR showed probably the maximum length of time such a thing can endure before it implodes. But this could mean several decades of a nuclear-armed Iran causing massive trouble around the world. If Iran doesn’t get a nuke before Obama leaves office, then the next President will have to make stopping Iran the first priority of foreign policy – and we’d better be loud and clear that our answer is “yes” to the question, or we’ll just be wasting our time.

7 thoughts on “Obama’s Diplomacy in a Void

  1. Retired Spook March 22, 2015 / 7:59 am

    Excellent analysis, Mark. I only have one minor disagreement.

    My view is that Obama doesn’t understand this – he has shown over time that he understands very little about how the world works.

    I think he understands perfectly how the world works. But he makes the same mistake that Liberals have been making for as long as there have been liberals; that the reason it works (or doesn’t work) the way it does is because the right people weren’t in charge, ie. him, and he’s set out to fundamentally transform it to the way he thinks it should work. Of course it won’t work, AGAIN, and down the road another Liberal who thinks he/she is that right person will come along and try again. Or it could just be that Obama is an evil SOB and doesn’t give a sh*t.

    • M. Noonan March 22, 2015 / 10:48 am

      That is true, as well – I’m sure Obama believes that this agreement will break the log jam and open up American-Iranian friendship…it won’t work, of course.

  2. tryvasty March 23, 2015 / 2:43 am

    So now that Ted Cruz is officially running for president, are you guys going to be up in arms about his eligibility? After all, if Obama’s birth certificate is faked, it would have been specifically to hide circumstances that exactly match Cruz’s: he was born to only one American parent on foreign soil. Any of you armchair Constitutional lawyers readying your protest signs?

    • Retired Spook March 23, 2015 / 7:32 am

      So now that Ted Cruz is officially running for president, are you guys going to be up in arms about his eligibility?

      Actually several of us have discussed Cruz’ potential eligibility problem on a number of occasions. We had an entire post/thread a while back that garnered over 200 comments. Unlike the way Obama was vetted (or not vetted, as the case may be), I’d like to see the “natural born citizen” issue settled once and for all by the Supreme Court in a case specifically brought to determine the definition of “natural born citizen”, even if it means Cruz is not eligible to be President.

      These Harvard Law Professors seem to think the issue has already been settled.

      The proviso in the Naturalization Act of 1790 underscores that while the concept of “natural born Citizen” has remained constant and plainly includes someone who is a citizen from birth by descent without the need to undergo naturalization proceedings, the details of which individuals born abroad to a citizen parent qualify as citizens from birth have changed. The pre-Revolution British statutes sometimes focused on paternity such that only children of citizen fathers were granted citizenship at birth.

      The Naturalization Act of 1790 expanded the class of citizens at birth to include children born abroad of citizen mothers as long as the father had at least been resident in the United States at some point. But Congress eliminated that differential treatment of citizen mothers and fathers before any of the potential candidates in the current presidential election were born. Thus, in the relevant time period, and subject to certain residency requirements, children born abroad of a citizen parent were citizens from the moment of birth, and thus are “natural born Citizens.”

    • M. Noonan March 23, 2015 / 9:21 am

      I never was – I was always of the opinion that even supposing Obama had been born in Kenya, he was born to an American mother and that was sufficient for me. The Founders who wrote the Constitution by and large wrote the first Naturalization Act and it held, pretty clearly in my view, that a natural born citizen is anyone born to an American citizen.

      My only thing about it relates to a different issue – illegal immigration: I want an amendment to our Constitution stating that an American citizen is any person born to at least one American citizen…no more “you got across the border and were born, so you’re in”, nonsense.

    • tryvasty March 24, 2015 / 2:25 am

      I apologize, I was somewhat less precise than I should have been in my question. It isn’t particularly shocking that there are people here who were never on the Obama could never have been president bandwagon, although if there was a 200 comment thread on it there obviously must have been some that at least strayed close to that position. I suppose if I’m interested, I can just go find that post, though.

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