This is what good statecraft looks like

Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store has a terrific piece titled “Why We Must Talk” in a recent issue of the NY Review of Books. In it, he makes a strong argument why “we”– in this case, I think, western advocates of democracy– need to start talking seriously to, among other, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Here is the core of his argument:

    Many of those who most strongly oppose dialogue in international relations prefer to live in a world they wish existed. Some of them believe that imposing a particular political system in other countries by the use of force is worth large expenditures of wealth and of life. Others take the view that a “clash of civilizations” requires us to build walls to protect our society from an inevitable global threat. Some maintain that the willingness to negotiate and compromise will be interpreted as a sign of moral and military weakness. None of these approaches points to a plausible way forward. And the cost of pursuing any of them is high.
    In contrast, defending and employing dialogue is neither a naive nor utopian strategy. It shows strength to be willing to talk to the adversary. It is not weakness. And it is not cowardice to debate your opponent and try to persuade the world to follow you by speaking your values. It may take some courage.
    In this sense, the defense of dialogue springs from a perspective best described as principled realism—an approach that attempts to find solutions that both improve the world and recognize the constraints of the current global order. As defenders of dialogue, we always keep open the option of walking away rather than talking. But we also believe that we shouldn’t be so quick to do so. The fact that there may be some positions and conflicts that cannot be resolved does not mean that the possibilities of dialogue shouldn’t be actively explored. Dialogue is more important to our globalized world than it ever has been. We must therefore defend it all the more strongly. At a time that seemed far more dangerous than our own, John F. Kennedy formulated the principle that has since been too often disregarded: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The essence of democracy, after all, is the proposition that political differences must be resolved through discussion and deliberation based on mutual respect and the key notion of the equality of all human persons, rather than through the application of brute force or the application of superior power. And this is not just the case at the domestic level: It also applies between nations.
I am so glad Store made this case– which is very similar to the case made by Turkey’s current leaders, too, as well as by many Swiss officials. If these important actors in the community of democratic nations are making this case, why is it so very hard for politicians in the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world” to see the value of these arguments?

6 thoughts on “This is what good statecraft looks like

  1. Don Bacon

    It’s a great concept but its implementation is almost entirely dependent upon the U.S. relinquishing its role as world leader, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.
    It has been in the U.S. interest to maintain instability in Asia, from the Middle East to India, particularly in Palestine. The U.S. is now, with its new AFRICOM combatant command, moving into the dark continent with Libya, and others to come.
    Store didn’t mention Iran. The U.S. is currently ramping up tensions with that country. Obama gave a NawRuz speech which virtually asked young Iranians to take to the streets, plus it has claimed in a UN speech that there are “credible reports of Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear warhead.”

  2. Salah

    As a watcher from the distance with full understanding of Arabs/Muslim world the recent demands that mainstreams citizenry in Arab world really about their daily lives also their rights that taken from them as they have all the tools of communications (internet, phone, TV..ect) to compares themselves to other nations around the world how those citizenry living also how they get to this level of life standard.
    They saw the communist world felled down followed by those Eastern Europe countries were people facing their dictatorships regimes and toppled them then they moved for more open and more human environment although it might greedy or more money oriented.
    For decades Arab world experienced many type or ruling in deferent places from nationalism to religious from both sect. and other, none of them achieves the desire of ME citizenry. These days demonstrations of regimes rejection in the region is a singe that all those who ruling their time off they should go after decades of frustrations facing ME citizenry in different lands.
    Calling for talk to groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or other religious group it’s not helping here, as well known that these groups although they are part of movement right now,but they are not popular groups in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries also they are not the answer for ME people and their future life as we seen in Iraq in Iran or Saudi.
    These guys are looking for their share of power and proved they are using religion for their self-necessities as we seen in Iraq those many religious group who were crying and screaming for suffering Iraqis, now Iraqi ended in a miss and in hand of lairs and beneficiaries of power and money although these guys beard turbans style, same we can say about Iran when millions rush to wellcome their Mullah as if he is the rescuers for a nation that looks for their destiny in this challenging world.
    But as for westerns as always they need to reserve their positions and their strategic interests in the region this might widely accepted groups in the West asking to talk to them as Helena’s quote here.

  3. Michael Murry

    It seems to me, Don, that Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany, just to name a few important countries on the U. N. Security Council, have pretty much rendered judgment on the United States as self-described “World Leader” — by choosing not to follow. “By your followers you shall judge your leadership,” I suppose we could say.
    Respecting these important countries and their judgment, I had to ask myself why they didn’t veto yet another American Ordnance Expenditure Expedition into yet another Muslim nation? I could only conclude that they saw no national interest in doing so and no penalty for washing their hands of the entire affair — with the added bonus that the rampaging Lunatic Leviathan would achieve nothing of value in “success” and all of the costs of failure. In other words: “If your principal competitor and greatest threat appears intent on shooting himself once more in the face, then wisdom councils non-interference.” Something like that.
    How soon before the American people start walking like Egyptians and rid themselves of the corrupt corporate oligarchy that keeps squandering their blood and money abroad while driving millions of American citizens into unemployment, homelessness, and poverty? It seems to me long past time to replace the Eagle with the Ostrich as America’s national symbol.

  4. rosemerry

    I often wonder why “all options on the table” never seems to include talks on a peaceful resolution of conflicts.
    I wonder if Netanyahu and his predecessors have ever even met a Hamas elected official (they could easily find the dozens they kidnapped and put in Israeli jails when Hamas decided to enter the electoral process). I cannot believe Ismael Haniyeh is a terrorist, and he has written several rational letters to Presidents Bush and Obama, with no response.

  5. Michael Murry

    You wonder, rosemerry, “why ‘all options on the table’ never seems to include talks on a peaceful resolution of conflicts.” I, too, have long meditated upon just how best to critique this Orwellian doubleplusgood duckspeaking as an official place-holder substitute for real thinking. Then I thought of Dante’s Inferno, and this happened:
    “The Answer Off the Table”
    The bankrupt brainless blowhard beast defies
    The reason to contest stupidity.
    Grown fat and lazy on its loathsome lies,
    The perpetrating predator feels free
    To gorge upon the surface spoils of war:
    Domestic profit far as eyes can see
    Where foreign puppets groomed to play the whore
    Return a portion of their greedy gains
    To congressmen who leave us poor and sore,
    While death upon a target people rains
    And soldiers into pudding pounded are
    By roadside bombs. How little now remains
    Of them and us who suffer while we spar
    Against the bogus baby made of tar.
    Our new commander in his briefs has bought
    The dreary drug of endless, pointless fights
    And thus cannot discern the Truth he ought
    That Quagmire in its sophistry delights
    In making men of straw, red-herrings, too:
    Those lifeless foes whose fragile feeble slights
    Prove easy for the brain-dead to outdo;
    A dialectic dodge that paints “extreme”
    On any choices obvious and true,
    Which leaves decision “centered” in a dream.
    The feckless failures flail about and flop.
    With each New Year they COIN a great new scheme.
    We hear of “options” on the table top,
    Just not the one to clearly think and stop.
    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” copyright 2009

  6. JHM

    Q. So writing articles is ‘statecraft’?
    A. On Planet Justworld, of course it is.
    Q. But here on Terra?
    A. I’d rather not say.
    Q. And how about “prefer to live in a world they [only] wish existed”?
    A. No comment.
    Happy days.

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