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Beltway based Pundita observes:

The US is fighting a war in a region where we’ve been very hostile to two countries bordering the war zone. Pundita is of the mind that the top priority is to win the war, and for that we need all the help we can get.

Right now Syria’s government is overwhelmed with looking after refugees from Iraq. So I would try offering Syria considerable help in exchange for vigilance with foreign travelers.

When it comes to asking Iran and Syria for help with Iraq, I see too much halfhearted trying from the US, then waving of hands and saying, ‘See, they won’t deal.’ Try harder.”

I agree. Iran and Syria are nasty regimes whose actions we must often oppose but where they are willing to cut some fair deals we should get down to business. Freezing Castro in the diplomatic equivalent of absolute zero has only served to help preserve his Communist- caudillo regime until the dictator’s old age while irritating most of our allies and trading partners. Do we really want a 92 year old Bashar Assad still in power someday ?

3 Responses to “”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    I’ve been arguing for years that a carrots and sticks approach should be sued WRT Iran but that the carrots should be things that the Iranian regime really wants and the sticks are things the regime really doesn’t want. The problem is that the U. S. doesn’t want to give the Iranian regime anything that they really want and we’re afraid actually to do something they really wouldn’t like.

    That inevitably gives the Iranians the initiative.

  2. mark Says:

    “The problem is that the U. S. doesn’t want to give the Iranian regime anything that they really want and we’re afraid actually to do something they really wouldn’t like.”

    Well put, Dave.

    The Bush administration has a bizarre reluctance to sufficiently reward our friends – after our friends have gone to bat for us – much less offer carrots to flip an enemy.

    An attitude that I have heard carries over into their Congressional relations where the WH staff quite regularly stiffed GOP Congressmen, Senators and Republican bigwigs on small courtesies and just froze out most of the opposition (until they re-took Congress).

    Some kind of siege mentality, I suppose.

  3. nadezhda Says:

    I agree with the “attitude” problem you guys have identified, which can extend to our friends as well as foes. But I think it goes deeper than that with Iran (and for that matter Syria and a number of other countries). The default position for the US when we don’t like someone is “regime change” — that we should be able (and entitled) to coerce a country to pick leaders and policies congenial to us.

    It’s deeply pathological in the Bush/Cheney complex, but a milder version is unthinkingly echoed even by Democratic congresscritters. So every message that gets sent — even if its form appears to invite diplomacy — sends a subtext that the other guy is illegitimate and needs to be thrown out or thrown over. The notion that the US State Dept now is organized (insert joke here) to promote “transformational diplomacy” and a “forward strategy of freedom” gives me hives. But Congress is almost always worse than the executive branch because of a combination of no-nothingism, hubris and domestic ethnic lobbies.

    As Mark points out, a policy of “regime change” doesn’t produce a change of regime, and it’s more likely than not (Libya the complicated exception that proves the rule) to produce a frozen regime. Furthermore, once we’ve settled on a “regime change” approach — whether bad-mouthing, formal sanctions or sabre-rattling — our own policies become frozen. Nobody can call for changes in policy without being accused of being a spineless wuss, so only Nixon can go to China. Cuba being the textbook case, where we’re still awaiting a Nixon.

    If we’re really interested in helping to influence a change of direction of a regime (or for that matter to promote freedom), “regime change” should usually be eliminated from the policy menu.

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