Saturday, February 10, 2007

World Leader Pretend

As I mentioned earlier this week, there are certain factions within the Bush administration and its ideological environs that would prefer to confront their adversaries through military action rather than engage in the give and take of diplomacy and negotiation. Those predisposed to prefer such bellicose "solutions" are operating under the misapprehension that the use of force can "clarify" the stakes and relative power relationship in a manner that would yield the highest amount of benefit, while foregoing the need to offer costly concessions or compromises. Why give up anything of value when you can keep it all if you just flex your military muscles?

Spencer Ackerman recently highlighted one of the most egregious examples of this by recounting the fact that Iran sent Bush administration officials a rather conciliatory entreaty immediately following the invasion of Iraq. The missive, sent via fax, outlined a list of items that would form the basis for negotiations - and it was a surprisingly broad range of topics for which Iran indicated a willingness to discuss.

In recent questioning before the Senate, Condoleezza Rice claimed that she did not remember seeing such a fax. Sure. I can imagine how such a document would have seemed relatively unimportant at the time. Michael Hirsch, though, was helpful enough to locate the fax which I'm sure Condi will appreciate. Spencer Ackerman provides some trenchant analysis in a follow up post:

Through a Swiss intermediary, the Iranian regime proposed the basis for comprehensive discussions. If accepted, it would have meant the Iranians would have put on the table ending its support for Palestinian terrorist groups; "action" on transforming Hezbollah into a "mere political organization within Lebanon"; "transparency" that Iran isn't trying to develop WMD; and "enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran." In return, the U.S. would ultimately lift all sanctions on Iran; ensure "full access" to nuclear technology (!); and provide, in general, a "halt in hostile U.S. behavior," to include action against "anti-Iranian" terrorist groups.

It's of course worth noting that the sincerity of the offer is not something to accept at face value. But that would have been the point: to create a diplomatic mechanism to find out how serious the Iranians actually were about reaching a modus vivendi with the U.S., and to determine if the price for that was acceptable. (Giving Iran access to nuclear technology, for instance, sounds like a pretty bad idea.) The alternative path, however, appears to be clear: an escalating series of tensions with an Iran that's only grown more anti-American in the intervening three and a half years. If yesterday's hearing is any indication, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to explore this question in the days ahead -- and maybe now Secretary Rice will have a clearer memory.

This episode is illustrative of the reckless approach that the Bush administration continues to adhere to. They stubbornly refuse to negotiate or open diplomatic channels with Iran - yet at the same time are trying to convince the country that an expansion of the war with Iraq to the east would be in our interest.

Think about that last point for a moment. Pace Dan Froomkin (via Henley), we are on the verge of unleashing massive firepower on the nation of Iran -aerial bombardment and other military action that will undoubtedly result in the brutal deaths of thousands of innocent Iranian civilians (not to mention the lives of scores [or more] of Coalition soldiers in retaliation), but the administration won't open a dialogue with that country's leadership to even make an attempt to find a peaceful work around.

There are few matters more dire and irreversible than military confrontation and the death that it brings, yet the Bush administration won't even fathom the pursuit of the alternative. Look, if you attempt to negotiate with Iran, and that country's leadership won't budge an inch on the vital issues, the worst case scenario would be a continuation of the status quo ante. What are they so afraid of?

Could it be the fear that negotiations might actually obviate the need for violence?

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