The triumph of Or Else diplomacy

October 22, 2006

The NYT reports that Dubya is fixing to send an ultimatum to our enemies our allies in Iraq. Like an unproductive employee going on probation, they will be handed a list of benchmarks and a timeline.

…the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.

What’s striking about this approach is its deep similiarity to the way the Badministration tackled the problem of North Korea.

Step One: Throw away the only bargaining chips you’ve got. (In the case of NK, forswear the existing signed agreement, and let them toss out the IAEA inspectors and hide away the previously monitored plutonium. In the case of Iraq, grind down your armed forces until the whole world knows they are powerless to mount any additional threat whatsoever.)

Step Two: Refuse to offer any carrots whatsoever, refuse to enter into talks with your adversaries, and wave around a papier maché big stick. Loudly insist, and this is key, that the other parties must do exactly as you say, Or Else.

Step Three: When the other parties do whatever the heck they please, do nothing. (In NK, doing nothing consists of saying, “China will negotiate for us, we’re not here.” In the case of Iraq, doing nothing consists of “staying the course:.
Step Four: Loudly insist that the other parties must now do exactly as you say, Or Else. Loop to Step Three.

The Badministration appears to be suffering under the delusion that reality can always be cowed into submission by the issuance of vague threats. Because it is a point of pride among them always to speak, and never to listen, they haven’t been hearing the whole world replying, in ever more contemptuous tones, “Or Else what?”


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