Thursday, October 23, 2008
Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In
Blitzer: The Bush administration seems to be close to what is called a “status of forces” agreement with the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It calls, in the draft agreement at least, for the complete withdrawal of combat forces from villages and cities by July 30 of 2009, and out of the country by December 30, 2011. If you’re elected president, would you, as commander-in-chief, honor this agreement if, in fact, it’s formalized?
McCain: With respect Wolf, and you know better, my friend. You know better. It’s condition-based. It’s conditions-based, and Ryan Crocker, our ambassador to Baghdad, said, “If you want to know what victory looks like, look at this agreement.”
You know better than that, Wolf. You know it’s condition-based, and that’s what the big fight was all about.
Here's the thing, though: It's very clearly not conditions based. At all. The draft SOFA establishes one of those firm, fixed date "timelines for withdrawal" that people like McCain have been warning about, and railing against, for years. As Ackerman explains:
...[I]f you read Article 25 of the Oct. 13 text — as I blogged yesterday — you’ll see it says that “The U.S. forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territories no later than December 31st, 2011″ and goes on to say “U.S. combat forces will withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages as soon as the Iraqi forces take over the full security responsibilities in them. The U.S. withdrawal from these areas shall take place no later than June 30th, 2009.”
The only possible claim to truth McCain has here is in subsection 4, which allows for a “review” for “one side asking the other to extend or reduce the time periods mentioned.” But changing the dates requires “both sides’ approval,” which is going to be difficult to obtain and easy for one side to obstruct. What the agreement definitely does not call for is “conditions” to determine the pace of withdrawal.
Sorry, my friend, but your position on the war is in tatters.
In other McCain/Palin conditions-based incoherence, Ilan Goldenberg cites Sarah Palin flubbing a question posed to her about the infamous preconditions that Obama would, or would not, insist upon prior to high level meetings with Iranian leaders. Goldenberg cites an excerpt from a Palin interview with Brian Williams:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Gov. Palin, yesterday, you tied this notion of an early test to the president with this notion of preconditions, that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. First of all what in your mind is a pre-condition?
PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, or one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or our allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad, and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them, that's some ill-preparedness right there.
Ilan makes it a teaching moment:
Ummm.. What Palin is describing is what would be called preparation not preconditions. Just to be clear. Not negotiating until preconditions are met means not starting your negotiatins until the other side has met some kind of condition you imposed. In the case of Iran, McCain insists that the Iranians suspend their uranium enrichment program before we can even begin to negotiate. Obama opposes this preconditions. The basic argument against preconditions is that you can't ask your adversary to give up a big negotiating point in exchange for absolutely nothing and expect them to actually sit down at the table. Doesn't happen. Didn't happen when we dealt with the Soviets or the Chinese. And so then you have no exchange of information whatsoever and can't find points of common interest or negotiate. You end up in a total stalemate.
I couldn't agree more. I've always found the Bush administration's insistence on preconditions with respect to uranium enrichment to be unrealistic to the point of absurdity. The Bush administration is, ostensibly, willing to negotiate with Iran with respect to Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program but only if Iran first...suspends its uranium enrichment program!
I should try that the next time I'm trying to negotiate a deal for one of my clients.
Or maybe not.
Me: My client is interested in acquiring ownership of your client's Product X because it competes with many of our most important products and my client wants to lock-up the market.
Opposing Counsel: Interesting, perhaps we should meet to discuss what you had in mind.
Me: Well, before we agree to a time and a place to hammer out the terms of a possible agreeement, you have to agree to stop marketing Product X now, and throughout the entire negotiation process, which we both know could take years.Opposing Counsel: Hangs up phone.