The View From 1776
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Diplomacy Backed By Power
As far into the past as there are records, tribes and organized political states have sought advantages by gaining access to desired territory or resources in other political realms. Hence the unrelieved chronicle of diplomatic threats, invasions, and wars, everywhere in the world.
Effective diplomacy requires that one or both parties to negotiations have vulnerabilities that the other party can exploit if negotiations fail. The winning negotiator must have sufficient military power to inflict real damage to the other party, should matters come to a standoff. Or it must have something of real value to trade to the other party in exchange for what it desires.
Obama’s apparently sincere belief is that expressing friendly goodwill toward an aggressor nation like Iran will mollify it, particularly when such gestures are accompanied by reductions in our military capabilities and subordinating our diplomacy to UN approval. Or, cynically, perhaps he is prepared to sacrifice Israel’s survival for the ayatollahs’ assurance of goodwill towards the United States.
Russia, meanwhile, has aggressive intentions toward its eastward and southward former vassal states. Obama is, accidentally, on record telling a Russian diplomat that, after his re-election, he would be prepared to cut Premier Putin yet more slack to further Russia’s territorial expansion aims.
In the Far East, to which Obama is said now to be pivoting diplomatically, China’s rapidly growing naval capabilities put real pressure on Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines, whose island possessions China covets for their natural resources or as a military border screen against potential Unites States military reprisal. We are, as noted, reducing our naval capabilities, a policy that simply emboldens China.
Furthermore, while Obama says he is abandoning Afghanistan and turning diplomatic attention to China and India, it’s not so simple. Afghanistan is the territorial conduit through which Iran and Russia aim to run pipelines to transport petroleum and natural gas for access to other markets. The departure of our military from Afghanistan decisively reduces the ability of the United States, either through diplomatic or military means, to influence the diplomatic postures of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, China, and India, all of which are contiguous or connected through Afghanistan (see “The Revenge of Geography,” by Robert D. Kaplan).