Hillary Clinton offers some bad advice:
The US should not be negotiating with Iran “on anything right now,” including a nuclear agreement, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
“I would not be negotiating with Iran on anything right now, including the nuclear agreement,” Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, adding that the horse is “out of the barn.”
Clinton is hardly alone in calling for an abandonment of diplomacy in response to Iran’s crackdown on protesters, so it may be worth spelling out why this sort of short-sighted posturing is harmful to U.S. interests and to the people of Iran. If the US is ever going to have success in negotiating with adversarial authoritarian governments to advance toward its policy goals, it cannot tie its hands by conditioning the negotiations themselves on other actions that those governments take in unrelated areas. The nuclear issue is one where the downsides of refusing to negotiate are potentially so great that it makes no sense to reject engagement unless one wants to create conditions for rising tension and conflict.
The aversion to negotiating stems in part from the idea that negotiating with an oppressive government is a reward for them and therefore one shouldn’t “reward” a government that is abusing its own people. That idea gets things as wrong as can be. Our government doesn’t negotiate with another government as a favor to their side, but as a means of securing our interests. If it is done well, diplomacy should produce mutually beneficial agreements, but then that means that refusing to negotiate amounts to denying yourself the potential benefits of an agreement out of spite. Opponents of diplomacy can pretend that this has something to do with standing on principle, but it is really just vanity. It is the position that people choose to take when they already wanted to oppose diplomacy but need a plausible excuse for it.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.