Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reality-based diplomacy (for once, we'd eschew irony)

LGM points us to Charles Pierce's politics blog at Esquire. Worth a look, though the lead post right now is actually by Thomas Barnett:
It is time for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to stop being our problem and ours alone to solve. The Bush-Cheney unilateralism segued right into the Obama-Biden version: We simply refuse to deal with the regional powers, all of which want a far bigger say in how this whole thing settles out. Instead of working with India, China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran — and accepting that their more vigorous management of the situation would mean "victories" for them and not us — we've chosen consistently to side with Pakistan, which not only wants but is committed to keeping the region unstable.

And now comes word that they've been ambushing our soldiers? Please.

In strategic terms, I can't think of anything in U.S. foreign-policy history that reeks of the same level of sheer stupidity — nor stubbornness. On this level and this level alone, the Af-Pak fiasco outdistances the tragedy that was Vietnam. And for this reason alone, the Obama administration has shown itself no better at managing the long-war against violent extremism than the Bush administration was in its final years.
I wish there were more people saying this. We have some interests in the area, at least along the lines of (1) no nuclear war and (2) no harboring of terrorists, but quite obviously the next-door neighbors of all this have much more interest than we do, and any halfway successful policy will have to be built on that fact. Where's Henry Kissinger when you need him?

... My Kissinger quip btw shouldn't be taken as a mistaken agreement that Kissinger was in practice a realist. Walter Isaacson writes of K. during the 1971 India-Pakistan crisis:
The conflict thus illustrated two of the basic themes of his [K's] diplomacy: the primacy of realism over moral concerns, and the tendency to see disputes through the prism of the Soviet-American competition.
But, leaving aside "moral concerns" (which one might have thought were the *aim* of policy?), there is nothing "realistic" about projecting fantasies onto facts and treating a local conflict as a puppet show between the superpowers. If "realism" is to mean anything other than a contempt for human suffering, it has to mean a conscious effort to shed one's prejudices. What Stendhal said about bankers and philosophers applies to diplomacy as well:
To be a good philosopher, one must be dry, clear, without illusion. A banker who has made a fortune has one character trait that is needed for making discoveries in philosophy, that is to say, for seeing clearly into what is.

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