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November 08, 2007

Bolton and Carrot Soup

Reviewing John Bolton's new book, Surrender is not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad, Mark Goldberg writes, "to Bolton, cutting deals to satisfy mutual interests is a form of surrender. And surrender, as Bolton helpfully reminds us in the title, is not an option." This is extreme even for the Bush administration, and it makes for some bizarre bureaucratic battles, and eventual humiliations, later on:

In a September 22, 2004 dinner with G-8 countries, Bolton claims that Powell unilaterally discarded existing administration policy by affirming American support for a European plan to offer a Tehran a package of incentives as part of a nuclear deal. But Bolton, as he reminds us frequently throughout the book, "doesn’t do carrots," and was incensed that Powell would offer to engage Tehran. Worse, according to Bolton, Powell's motives on Iran were less than pure -- angry with Bush over Iraq, Powell sought to cement his own legacy at the president's expense. "Powell had violated our long-standing Iran policy, colluded with the [Europeans] against it, and come out nearly endorsing Kerry's Iran position only weeks before the election," writes Bolton.

Upon learning of Powell's apparent deal-making, Bolton frenetically worked the bureaucracy in a successful bid to outflank his boss. "Along with others, I foiled Powell's legacy project." Bolton boasts. "I knew, and he knew I knew it." Bolton's push for a harder line Iran policy would be short lived. Following the 2004 election, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice steered Iran policy back to Powell's approach. On May 30, 2006, Rice invited Bolton to dinner to let him know, face-to-face, that the United States was signing on to a European plan to offer Iran a package of economic incentives if Iran would agree to suspend uranium enrichment.

A depressed Bolton remembers what he ate for an appetizer -- carrot soup.

Ah, irony. In any case, it occurs to me that I've never read a sustained argument for the neocon position that diplomacy and negotiations are bad things, ad these procedures should be reimagined as the carrots with which we compel good behavior -- i.e, Iran gets a meeting if they cease enrichment -- rather than the process through which we negotiate adherence to our references. Anyone know of such a piece, or is this attitude too crazy to even be argued?

November 8, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

"occurs to me that I've never read a sustained argument for the neocon position that diplomacy and negotiations are bad things"

Check out the Athenians in Thucydides

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 8, 2007 1:27:37 PM

Check out the Athenians in Thucydides

The strong do what they will and the weak do what they must?

I seem to remember that the Athenians ended up losing that war . . .

Posted by: rea | Nov 8, 2007 2:06:02 PM

I guess it's the idea that if you dole out an aid package everytime someone acts belligerently you'll incentivise it.

Posted by: pimp hand strikes! | Nov 8, 2007 2:18:43 PM

"occurs to me that I've never read a sustained argument for the neocon position that diplomacy and negotiations are bad things"

If they made the argument, it would clearly brand them socio/psychopathic or just plain evil. It goes like this, why would you negotiate and give something away if you don't have to. America has the power to back up threats to others to do as they're told or be severely damaged, if not destroyed. The neocons have already shown they are willing to illegally invade a sovereign country, to forego any other law/treaty, to murder, and to torture to get what they want thus giving the argument force.

Diplomacy and negotiation are, for them, not bad, just wussy and bad economics.

Posted by: little green | Nov 8, 2007 2:20:53 PM

Perhaps I should have said uneconomical, wasteful, or poor economics instead of bad economics. :-)

Posted by: little green | Nov 8, 2007 2:26:57 PM

I guess it's the idea that if you dole out an aid package everytime someone acts belligerently you'll incentivise it.

In a weird way, you're on to something. It's as if folks like Bolton are paralyzed by fear that if they even sit down at the table, they'll end up giving away the farm. Their lack of confidence in their own ability in the art of diplomacy casues them to retreat to this reflexive belligerence that fails to achieve the desired results - with staggering consistency.

Strong, competent, confident negotiators have no such fear, and thus know that they can actually negotiate with adversaries without "dol[ing] out an aid package everytime someone acts belligerently." They know how to drive the bargain themselves, to get at the desired result. And if no such result is possible, to break off those negotiations.

Competence is not always in ample supply however.

Posted by: Eric Martin | Nov 8, 2007 2:33:21 PM

I guess it's the idea that if you dole out an aid package everytime someone acts belligerently you'll incentivise it.
Posted by: pimp hand strikes! | Nov 8, 2007 2:18:43 PM

Well the Bush administration gives the military dictator of Pakistan about $200 million a year, along with a $100 million cash injection directly to their military every single month. You read that right, every single month, just a cash deposit into their treasury, no questions asked, no restrictions on usage. So, yeah, great idea their Limp Hand.

Posted by: chowchowchow | Nov 8, 2007 3:36:13 PM

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