Diplomacy is Dead

From the New York Times:

DIPLOMACY is dead.

Effective diplomacy — the kind that produced Nixon’s breakthrough with China, an end to the Cold War on American terms, or the Dayton peace accord in Bosnia — requires patience, persistence, empathy, discretion, boldness and a willingness to talk to the enemy.

This last point is crucial. One must always talk, and listen. Yes, even the fact of talking grants a measure of legitimacy, and it can be said this should not be freely offered. One reason why Hamas refuses to acknowledge the Jewish State of Israel is that they feel this is must be an end result of negotiation, not its starting point. But even so, Israel and Hamas have been communicating for years, through back channels.

Speaking of Hamas:

Breakthrough diplomacy is not conducted with friends. It is conducted with the likes of the Taliban, the ayatollahs and Hamas. It involves accepting that in order to get what you want you have to give something. The central question is: What do I want to get out of my rival and what do I have to give to get it? Or, put the way Nixon put it in seeking common ground with Communist China: What do we want, what do they want, and what do we both want?

Earlier in the article the author mentioned Egypt as a mini-success of Obama’s diplomacy, and he may have a point. Many here in Egypt’s opposition see the current situation as a negotiated settlement between the US, the military, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Each one has gotten something that they want. The opposition, meanwhile, feels left out in the cold.

But here is where diplomacy’s rubber meets the road. For the idealist, it is painful. But did the opposition get what it wants? There is the beginnings of a democratic system which can be continually contested. They just didn’t win.

Maybe. But to voice their complaint, what did the Brotherhood get? Access to the reigns of power has limits – the army is off limits, as is any real tension with Israel – but comes with great privilege. Some see this privilege extending to be able to manipulate the situation (democratic as it may remain) for their own benefit. What does this give America? As goes the theory, stability in the region.

So, diplomacy, if this picture is true, is it good enough?

For America, perhaps. The task of international diplomacy is to secure the interests, and not the ideals, of the home nation. If Egyptians only get a manipulated democracy that allows the US to check off the accomplishments of its own internal ideals, of what major concern is this to America?

But that is no reason for the Egyptian opposition to accept the situation. They have their own diplomacy to worry about. And part of diplomacy is overstating your case in negotiation. It is conceivable they have quite exaggerated the manipulations of the Brotherhood.

But do the events of yesterday, the second anniversary of the revolution, suggest that the opposition is abandoning diplomacy?

Diplomacy achieves an imperfect solution, but tends to avert war and violence, which usually are far less perfect for all parties involved. But goodness, is it maddening.

 

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