New Column

On Bush’s addled concept of diplomacy:

So, probably, to get them to do what we want them to do, we’re going to have to offer some kind of concessions or reassurances that they want. This is what used to be called “diplomacy.” Alternatively, we could — without warning and for no real reason — just announce a new national space strategy designed to cope with far-fetched scenarios but that can only be viewed as a major affront to the interests and sensibilities of other major powers like Russia and China.

This is precisely the sort of thing the Bush administration doesn’t seem to think about. And they don’t think about it because they don’t really understand what diplomacy is. To them, it’s simple. Diplomacy means talking. The alternative to diplomacy is coercion. If you want a country to do something, you might try to get it to do that thing through threats — either of military force or of economic sanctions. In situations where coercion is impossible or undesirable, they resort to their version of “diplomacy,” talking — saying what it is you want the other country to do, over and over again, in hopes that they will do it.

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