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Woulda Coulda Shoulda

By Matthew Yglesias on December 15, 2006 at 9:05 am

"Woulda Coulda Shoulda"

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Condoleezza Rice explains that there’ll be no new diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria because “neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq.” What’s more, she “also said there would be no retreat from the administration’s push to promote democracy in the Middle East.”

Seriously, people, it’s time to grow up. Sitting around in the Situation Room and deciding that other countries just should do what we want them to do so there’s no need for diplomacy is insane. The way the world works is that if you want some countries to do some things, you need to discuss this fact with them, ascertain what their actual views on the matter are, see what they would want you to do in exchange, and then make a decision. Rice rejected this option “saying the ‘compensation’ required by any deal might be too high.” Get that again. She won’t talk to Syria and Iran to explore options because the price might — might — be too high. Why not find out?

The interaction of this “they should do it anyway” view with the democracy view is especially toxic. Promoting democracy, in this context, means putting an anti-Iranian government in Baghdad, putting an anti-Syrian government in Lebanon, and overthrowing the regimes in Damascus and Teheran. Let that be as desirable as you like, but it’s obvious that neither Syria or Iran is going to help us bring stability to anything as long as that remains the medium-term objective of our policy. Most insanely of all, given the circumstances insisting on “the administration’s push to promote democracy in the Middle East” isn’t going to actually promote democracy in the Middle East. It’s just going to ensure that Iraq slips ever-deeper into chaos and that we more-and-more lose our grip on the situation.

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