Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Conservatives Fail at Diplomacy

If they speak of diplomacy at all, conservatives speak of it as a tool or a weapon--as just one more instrument one can "use" and then discard at will. At best, conservatives view diplomacy as they seem to view most interpersonal interactions: as zero-sum haggling rather than as a geunine relationship. Conservatives approach diplomacy as though it were some kind of high-powered business deal where the name of the game is to screw the other guy and grab as much as you can get. Conservatives think nations are corporations and a treaty is just another contract.

Thus conservatives fail to see why diplomacy requires honesty, personal and national investment, the institutional equivalent of good listening skills, and symbolic gestures of trust and good faith. Thus conservatives mock the idea that treaties might benefit from constructive ambiguity and fail to grasp that negotiations must sometimes be more about finding common ground than fixing the bottom line. Thus conservatives mistake diplomacy for appeasement... Because for all this corporate talk of modern "win-win" deals, deep down the only relationship conservatives truly believe in is the tug-of-war and the only equilibrium they understand is a stalemate.

In the fight against terrorism, conservatives are blinded by their ideology. They see no real distinction between nation-states and terrorist organizations--all of them are just "actors" on the international stage. (Conservatives only seem to discover the difference when it comes to the Geneva convention.) The term "terrorist state" encapsulates the poverty of this world-view. Diplomacy builds relationships between states, or de facto states with a recognizable constituency and effective territory--it does not "work" with Al-Qaeda-type terrorist organizations. To conflate the two shows how little one understands both of them.

I am no expert on international relations and so I am sure what I have said here is woefully incomplete, and just a mish-mashed re-hashing of well-known arguments. I certainly welcome clarification from those who actually know what they are talking about here! My basic point is this: I think the Bush administration fails at diplomacy for the same reason they fail at economic policy. Bush-Cheney Conservatives have only one ideology and its bankruptcy fails them again and again. When it comes to building nations or economies, on a very deep level they just don't get it.


Raised By Republicans said...

Well, Dr. S. one can hardly be faulted for not examining all the ways in which Conservative foreign policy is flawed. :-)

We could all go on and on about this for ever.

For now, I'll just add that Conservatives (at least the bunch we have in the White House now) fail to understand that states are not the only actors out there.

There are internatioanal organizations like the UN, WTO, the World Bank, IMF, NATO, ASEAN, the EU, etc

There are international non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and even Al Qaeda.

What's more, even states are not unitary actors and often have rogue elements that act on their own.

The point these guys miss is that big events can happen (like 9/11) that don't have much to do with traditional states.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I fully agree with these sentiments, and have some more along these lines to add. Conservatives bungle diplomacy because they think of it as a sign of weakness. They think 'peace through strength' means you can intimidate your way to security. It doesn't work. Just like allowing everyone to carry concealed weapons will not make us safer, neither do arms races. (Note: ask someone who advocates this if concealed weapons should be allowed in the white house. Turns out they don't mind security zones for their leaders, but they don't see why those safety zones should include schools, churches, parks, or hometowns).

Fundamentally, conservatives don't get the fact that the security dilemma is a collective problem. The prisoner's dilemma is not "solved" by guessing how the other prisoner will respond - it's solved by talking to him.