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.
One of the first questions put to me by a reader via the Comments function with respect to Monday’s report of my initial impressions after arriving in St Petersburg was: and what is the general mood of people? I begged off answering, saying that I would have to speak to a lot more people before I could confidently answer that question.
And in all truth, what I am about to say is still based on a very small sampling, combined with observations of what is being said on public television. But I think the overall contours of the ‘public mood’ are emerging to my satisfaction and can be shared.
In a nutshell: ‘life goes on.’ The fear of economic upheaval, fear of losing one’s job or small business, fear of price inflation and volatile exchange rates which I saw at the beginning of the Special Military Operation – all of that has dissipated. In my own immediate surroundings nothing could confirm that better than what occurred yesterday in our dealings with the first prospective Buyer of our little farm property south of Petersburg. In mid-September, she had placed a deposit on the purchase with the broker but then backed out of the deal over fears for the future when the partial mobilization was announced. Yesterday she sat down with us in the notary’s office and then at the bank which was opening escrow accounts for execution of the sale-purchase. She signed all the papers and the deal proceeded to the stage of re-registration of the title deeds. That was an unspoken but dramatic confirmation that someone from the ranks of the Russian middle class, someone working for a living, has enough confidence in the future to make a personal investment in a fixed asset that you cannot put in the back of your car and take across the border.
Taking advantage of NATO’s defense umbrella, the Latvian Foreign Minister stated yesterday that Ukraine should be free to bomb targets deep inside of Russia, stating that NATO members “should not fear” any escalation. That these weapons are primarily made in the USA apparently means little to little Latvia. Also today: is Poland salivating over western Ukraine? Finally: as Congress races to shovel more money into Ukraine, a new poll shows Americans could not care less.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Cold War ended, I heard a lot about peace dividends. It was time to become a normal country in normal (more peaceful) times, said Jeanne Kirkpatrick, an early neocon who served under Ronald Reagan. More than thirty years later, America still awaits its peace dividends from the Cold War.
When the Afghan War came to a sputtering and ignominious end in 2021, I didn’t hear much at all about peace dividends. Even though the Afghan War was costing the United States almost $50 billion a year before it crashed and burned, the Pentagon budget for 2022 went up by that amount rather than down. You’d think the end of wars would lead to a decrease in military spending, but not in America.
At the NATO foreign ministers summit in Bucharest this week, Member states talked tough about endless support for Ukraine “whatever it takes.” They also reiterated a 2008 pledge to eventually welcome Ukraine as a Member. Are they serious? Also today: Biden’s neocons are reportedly considering sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine despite Russian warnings that it would be a major escalation. How far will they go?