Dialogue with Iran

US, Iran will cooperate on Iraq security

Jeff Jacoby - Why are we rewarding Iran?

Bill Richardson made a comment during the Youtube debates to the effect of "talking to people doesn't mean you're losing." Well it does mean you're losing if you see the world only in terms of power - if you don't have the power to enforce your will by force and have to talk instead, it means you lose power.

This is a conflict of two (or more) worldviews - Jacoby's hard-power-centric view of the world as run by America, doling out rewards and spanking countries when they come home after midnight, against the view of America as one of many leaders of the world, leading by example, and keeping open channels of communication with everyone we can. People that think like that don't realize that power relationships have qualitatively changed due to continuous Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) and individual superempowerement. In my view, talking is now more necessary than it has been in the past. Related to TDAXP's conception of generational warfare's relationship to the OODA loop, if countering the opponent's actions is too difficult because of the number of decentralized potential actors, its best to "go deep" and challenge the observations and orientation of the potential enemy. Treat the disease (underlying orientation) rather than the symptoms (the individual attacks), and hopefully before any symptoms manifest.

To me, it seems that if you are "professional" who makes this kind of stuff your career, you'd have to be an idiot to not understand this. But I think that is the nature of people operating in different worldviews/paradigms/whatever you call it. I and others like me are starting from X and proceeding logically (at least I hope so), and Jeff Jacoby, Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Norman Podhoretz, and others like them are starting from Y and proceeding logically (giving them the benefit of the doubt), and we end up talking past each other. Unfortunately I have not read Thomas Kuhn.


Dan tdaxp said...

On of Tom's old profs, Joseph Nye, devised "soft power" to help bridge a similar divide in academia between "idealists" and "realists." Since his work the "debate" has collapsed, and the once warring schools are largely more sources of analogies than truly different world-views.

Adrian said...

While "realists" are advocates of hard power by definition (brilliant branding on their part, I think it was E. H. Carr that came up with the term), I don't think being an advocate of soft power makes you an idealist or utopian, just someone who is less militaristic.

andres kahar said...

Didn't many of the Clinton-era foreign policy advisers see the US as leading a Western concert/economic stewardship?

The Bush adminstration/neocon agenda has really messed up the old realist-idealist paradigmatic divide. I've heard therm described as 'utopian anarchists.'

Good points, Adrian. Also, talking and carrots doesn't rule out use of the stick. Case in point: Bosnia, Kosovo and Holbrooke-led diplomacy.

Adrian said...

Holbrooke was reportedly an extremely forceful negotiator. His tactic would be to identify the individual in the room he needed to convince of a particular point, and then engage them in conversation, one on one, and gradually physically encroach on their personal space until they were literally backed into a corner and he was right up in their face. Holbrooke is also physically large. Apparently that made other diplomats more amenable. It'd be interesting to see an individual like Holbrooke confront someone like Jacoby who says "because you're talking, you're losing."