Thumbing our noses at tyrants

One of the things that puts the Kumbi-ya crowd into an absolute frenzy is President Bush’s refusal to deal directly with murderous dictators. Forgetting the example set by Neville “Peace in Our Time” Chamberlain, this crowd is certain that, if they can just wrest a smile from someone evil, they’ll be halfway to ending all the wars in the world. To that end, Nancy Pelosi gets pally with Syria’s Assad, Columbia rolls out the welcome mat for Ahamdinejad, the New York Philharmonic makes beautiful music for Kim Jong-Il, and presidential contender Barack Obama announces that dictators of the world should line up at his office, because he’d just love to have a chat with them.

Right off the bat, it’s apparent that, for a supposedly smart man, Obama is pretty damn stupid. Negotiation works when both parties have a goal that, in a rational world, can be achieved without destroying the other party to the negotiation. Each side may have to give a little to get a little, but both will walk away have achieved their primary ends. But how do you negotiate with someone whose primary end is your own destruction? What Neville Chamberlain learned, and what Israel demonstrates daily, is that it is impossible to have a good faith negotiation with someone like that. There are only two outcomes in such negotiations: either the other party will lie through its teeth to set the preconditions for your destruction, or you’ll just have to agree to shortcut the whole process by committing suicide.

Such statements about an open door policy for negotiation with any and all comers are especially stupid coming from a man who is not only (at least in theory) a lawyer, but also a law professor. It’s a fundamental principle of law that negotiations, to be valid, have to be in good faith. Otherwise, as any person with on the ground experience knows, they are, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, terribly destructive.

Faced with Obama’s manifest idiocy, George Bush, showing himself to be a smart and righteous man, got all hot under the collar:

At a news conference where Bush showed unusual passion for a president in his waning months, he said “now is not the time” to talk with Castro.

“What’s lost … by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” he said. “What’s lost is, it’ll send the wrong message. It’ll send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It’ll give great status to those … who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.

“The idea of embracing a leader who’s done this, without any attempt on his part to … release prisoners and free their society, would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal.”

Warming to the subject, Bush continued: “Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, ‘Look at me. I’m now recognized by the president of the United States.’”

Good old horse sense, which is sorely lacking on the academic Left, demonstrates the truth behind Bush’s words — you don’t validate evil by treating it as ordinary and respectable. But I don’t need horse sense alone to reach this conclusion. I have testimony from someone who lived under one of the world’s most evil regimes — Communist Russia — and who writes with deep conviction about the strength it gave the Russian anti-Communist opposition to know that, out in the wider world, there were people and governments who willingly and loudly called out evil when they saw it. The testimony of which I speak comes from famed Soviet dissident and political prisoner Natan Sharansky, and is found in his book The Case For Democracy : The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.

Sharansky’s book is a sustained attack against “detente” or normalization of relationships between dictatorships and democracies.  (And isn’t that what Obama is really proposing?)  After detailing the various sophistic arguments (many well-intentioned) that supported the broad detente policy the West adopted vis a vis the USSR, Sharansky explains why it was such a bad policy when it came to dealing with a totalitarian dictatorship:

Fortunately, there were a few leaders in the West who could look beyond the facade of Soviet power to see the fundamental weakness of a state that denied its citizens freedom.  Western policies of accommodation, regardless of their intent, were effectively propping up the Soviet’s tiring arms.  Had that accommodation contined, the USSR might have survived for decades longer.  By adopting a policy of confrontation instead [as Reagan did], an enervated Soviet regime was further burdened.  Amalri’s analysis of Soviet weakness [Andrei Amalrik’s 1969 dissident treatise explaining the fatal cost to a dictatorship of having to “physically and psychologically control[] millions of its own subjects”] was correct because he understood the inherent instability of totalitarian rule.  But the timing of his prediction [that the Soviet Union would not outlast the 1980s] proved accurate only because people both inside and outside the Soviet Union who understood the power of freedom were determined to harness that power.  (p. 11.)

Obama preaches pabulum from the ivory tower; Sharansky speaks truth learned the hard way in a totalitarian society.  Who are you going to believe?  I’m with George Bush, who accepts and understands a Democracy cannot and should not prop up dictators by treating them before the world as if they are just “regular guys.”

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  • Ymarsakar

    Also, one must remember that people in the Democrat party and on the Left simply do not know how to conduct diplomacy with efficiency. For one thing, diplomacy assumes you are loyal to your country. For another thing, diplomacy assumes you are competent at reading human nature and making good policy decisions. None of the above should be assumed to be true for Democrats.

  • Ymarsakar

    was correct because he understood the inherent instability of totalitarian rule.

    Wars decide which nations get to survive and which get to go on bended knee for the crumbs of mercy.

    The artificial world constructed by the Left, originally for the purpose of aiding the Soviets in fighting the cold war against America, is a house built upon sand. It is ridiculously easy to knock down precisely because it was never designed to stand up to anything harsh.

    You think Code Pink and MoveOn could fight Al Qaeda and US forces hand to hand, eye to eye? That’s not what they are for.

    In the grand scheme of things, there are materials made of plastic that will survive for thousands of years without decomposing and then there are materials made specifically to be disposed like disposable cups and forks. Amongst that spectrum, the US Constitution, US military, armed force, violence, and competency rests amongst the durable side. The anti-durable site consists of the tissue paper that is the Left. Designed to be used and then discarded. Members of the Left prefers recycling because they find a certain affinity with the process.


    Bush needs to work on telling an audience stuff that doesn’t immediately spell out what he means. He loses around 50% of the impact of his claims because he doesn’t make the audience make the connections themselves between what an oppressed person sees or doesn’t see about dictators talking to the United States. This is not explanation, so much as exposition.

    It is woefully inferior to the rhetoric and oratory methods used in say… comedy. The whole point of rhetoric as a skillset is to get your audience thinking what you want them to be thinking. Bush would make a fine instructor, to a degree, but he cannot convince people with just claims that oppressed people prefer not to have the US President meet with dictators.

    A nice little challenge Bush can do to avoid meeting with dictators is to say, in public and very often, that he will meet with dictators if they release 500 political prisoners that America has chosen from a list that the dictator must provide America.

    Diplomacy is always, if you are talking about professional and competent diplomacy, about ensuring that your opponent is caught in a catch 22. This way, you win either way. Instead of expending time and resources trying to justify why you’re not meeting with dictators, say that you will, but only if you are given more power. And that is what it is when dictators give you a list of people they have arrested for political reasons. Now you get to decide who becomes free or not, providing both international as well as local prestige and influence beyond what you could achieve with the incompetent State Department or military force/sanctions.

    And if they refuse or release only 1 or 5, then you reply, “since you only completed 10 to 5% of the requirements for a meeting, you get only 5% of the time you would have gotten had you completed the requirements”.

    There’s a lot of different themes and methods you could try. You could try the intimidation game and say that you cannot guarantee the safety of anybody from Iran or Cuba if they arrive in the US. Without diplomatic immunity, their spies will not exactly be all that eager to fund propaganda operations about how you are the one refusing to negotiate and “talk”. You’re not refusing to talk, you’re just saying that if you don’t like what Castro says, Castro may not leave the meeting alive. That’s a very simple thing in politics.

    Another flavor is extortion. Demand money from dictators for attending a meeting with the United States, given that lobbyists pay money and so do people who retain lawyers for advice and paid consultants. Why shouldn’t dictators pay millions for each meeting, given that they will be given access to decision makers that can exterminate whole peoples and nations if the dictator’s requests are granted?

  • Mike Devx

    Since the 1960’s, Democrats have consistently engaged in economics that make no sense. Republicans, at least, sometimes make sense on the economy.

    Given their refusal to face reality on economics, why would we think that Democrats would face reality on diplomacy?

    I hadn’t compared Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous ‘Peace In Our Time’ effort to what Obama might do. It hasn’t really concerned me that he would be willing to “talk” to dictactors and enemies.

    But what if his idea of “talk” leads to the kind of appeasement practiced by Neville Chamberlain? What if Obama engages in not just talk, but in this kind of diplomatic weakness and surrender of all advantage? For tyrants and dictactors – predators – that would be like blood in the water.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Obama will do his best to convince the rest of the world that it has nothing to fear from us. What he will do is convince the bad people of the world that they have nothing to fear from him and the United States, thereby giving them the green light to do whatever they wish to do. This is what Jimmy Carter did, and the Iranian Islamist theocrats and Russian imperialists acted accordingly. (YM – I am channeling you, here). Ditto for Clinton and Al-Qaeda. Oh well.

  • Ymarsakar

    All of life is a struggle between dualities. Life and death. Goodness and evil. Wisdom and foolishness. The darkness and the light.

    Just because America has achieved a special place in history, does not mean we are immune from having to fight battles against Democrats and plans to flip the country upside down from its foundations. We are not invulnerable to invasion and the human condition, no matter how many Americans believe that they are safe from invasion. No human is safe from the effects of propaganda and psychological warfare, thus no human being is invulnerable to invasion, given that I don’t need to cross a national border to bend someone to my will.

  • Ymarsakar

    The challenge given to classical liberals is simply this. How do we ensure that humanity is being helped further along the road to progress so that each individual can have a chance to maximize his or her potential?

    We have seen historically that every system of government, empire, and military rule has fallen, oftentimes because of an internal defect giving way to external threats.

    The problem was always, no nation was ever wealthy enough to pay for the welfare of its own citizens AND its military. So thus you could protect your people from bandits, but only by taxing them to death. You could lower the taxes and provide your people with wealth and roads and benefits, but then eventually the barbarians will be at the gates cause you cut back on your military spending.

    America is at a curious situation in which she can both afford a military might unsurpassed while at the same time take care of her citizens and non-citizens too. That balance is not sustainable, though, since human beings are human beings. They want more than they are getting.

    Europe, on the other hand, is in a similar situation, but they don’t have to pay for military expenditures because they are parasites upon the US military.

    The question of affordability is important because classical liberals want to help people, but we also must recognize that there is no point to helping people if it is only temporary. If helping others means weakening ourselves to the point where we may be defeated, then who is going to help anybody after we are gone? What’s the point of building the Hagia Sophia and putting all that money and work into it, only to have the Muslims conquer it and call it their own because you put all the money that was going into the military, into public works and bribes to the steppe raiders? Justinian’s orders to Belisarius to reconquer the Western Roman Empire bankrupted the Eastern Roman Empire. So Justinian got a bunch of land in Italy and Europe in return for the Muslims taking over Egypt’s grain production and Syria. He lost loyal supporters in return for rebellious barbarians. That’s a nice trade, I suppose.

    Whatever the idealism of a classical liberal, he must also face reality and accept the limitations that reality imposes upon human affairs. So it has come about, as a purely historical moment in time due to the actions of many factions, that the fate and destiny of a superpower is advanced, not by exploiting people and their resources, but by accepting them as equals and uplifting them further along the road to human ultimate potential.

    Read this for an example of what I am writing of. Link

    Amazingly, America is at a position in history where she can help herself… only by protecting and absorbing the nations and interests of other people. America cannot protect the borders and the trade lanes of the world just by herself. She needs other people, other allies. Most people forgot that Rome started off as one single nation state and gradually grew larger as they allied with fellow Italian city-states, which more and more benefited from the expansion of Roman citizen from one city, Rome, to all of Italy. Then to most of the known world.

    There is nothing particularly wrong with a Democrat saying that America can’t go it alone. Except for the fact that a Democrat could not care less that human beings in this world requires the intervention of power, specifically American power. Democrats are not against using government power, meaning American power, to intervene in the lives of disadvantaged people and victims. The fact that Democrats care not for victims that don’t vote for them, is what is wrong. It is not wrong that they say folks need help, it is that they are only doing so in order to further their own personal ambitions. So why do you think Democrats care about people that can vote for Democrats here in America, and are willing to use military and government force to compel, force, and convince these people of the benefits to the Democrats’ better way of life, but won’t do it for the even more poor and disenfranchised in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Not to mention Vietnam.

    Regardless of what answer you pick, the only thing that matters to classical liberals is that Democrats have no interest in helping people that will not benefit them politically. And what benefits Democrats politically, unfortunately, is creating dissension, strife, conflict, and violence between human beings. That’s not the goals of classical liberals. So while classical liberals have a vested interest in helping other people precisely because this also helps the classical liberal’s country, given that liberty equals prosperity and security equals liberty, Democrats do not. The Left does not and the fake liberals definitely do not.

    Conservative isolationists also can find themselves politically allied with the Democrats on this issue precisely because isolationism requires that one remove oneself from foreign affairs. The cause of furthering perpetual war also, conveniently, requires that America be removed from foreign affairs.

    The Left decries empires and exploiting people. The fact that they say nothing negative about Islam’s Empire is all that a classical liberal needs to know to determine the goals and motivations of the Left and their Democrat allies.

    Human beings are motiviated by selfishness and personal interest, yes? If so, then if the Democrats truly believed that protecting and securing Iraqis, brown people, and Africans in Africa would help Democrats out politically, then you couldn’t scrape a Democrat off the issue of building an American Empire if you had CodePink blocking the only doorway in and out. But they are against an American Empire precisely because they know that only the Soviet Empire was just and worthy, and America was the enemies of the Soviets. Just as problems in WWI led to WWII and problems in WWII led to the cold war, so is that our problems in the Cold War have translated themselves to our problems in the here and now.

    I remind you, Democrats are not against the principle of using American might to protect and intervene in people’s lives. That is not their excuse for not wanting to spread American power to Africa, the Middle East, etc. They might try to use it as an excuse, but it is not an excuse. It’s a lie. The real reason they aren’t interested in helping Iraqis is that Democrats have no personal nor altruistic reason for doing so.

    And so that is how the chessboard is setup. We have one long term strategy of making America more powerful, secure, ethically correct, respected, and so forth. And then we have the plan of the Democrats, which as I have already illustrated, has nothing to do with helping human beings and everything to do with gaining power in their own political system.

    Here’s an analogy to cut down all the issues. A family that has seen its children starve to death, dismembered, and their girls raped, will think what when they see Americans come in to offer aid, security, and prosperity in return for an oath of allegiance and loyalty? Will the family think “these colonial bastards are out to exploit us and put us back in the bad old days of the British Empire”? Or do only fake liberals think that? So who are the Democrats really benefit when they say that they are out to protect the sovereign rights of indigenous peoples and victims? The victims… or the Democrats?

  • Ymarsakar

    As an advance counter-argument for the people that think the Democrat opposition is based primarily on the fact that we are killing people in Iraq with our military, think back to all the times that the United States had used martial law and military force to protect blacks from being lynched and discriminated against. JFK himself sent tanks into the streets in the South. President Grand sent federal troops to crush the KKK insurgency that had so effectively terrorized the South that the South became totally Democratic even after slaves in the south had the right to vote. The right to vote, perhaps, but only if there was military force to prevent blacks from getting hanged after they vote. The KKK had introduced a new right for blacks. You can vote your conscience so long as you are hung from a tree afterwards. Someone more poetic could probably make that rhyme.

    So were the Democrats against the US using military force to protect the rights of individuals? Yes, they were, when they controlled the South that is. But in Waco, they were definitely for it. In the Elian-Cuba case, they were definitely for it too. In Kosovo, they were for it. So either the Democrats are hypocrites, or they have gone back to their true and ancient roots.

  • suek

    Whoa Ymar! you really do get going!

    This link expresses some of the same philosophy, but is much more concise. Also much harsher than your thoughts…but still…!

  • jj

    And, BW, I will still maintain that Pelosi should have been prosecuted for it. Shoulda. Shoulda.

  • Ymarsakar

    Unfortunately, Bush isn’t into using the powers of the government to pursue personal vendettas. Unfortunately only because his enemies do believe in using the powers of government for that explicit purpose.

    Also much harsher than your thoughts

    I go easy on the death and torture pronouncements since it’s rude to Book to keep going on about it at her blog. The regulars already know my sentiments on this score, and if they don’t, they can get it by reading Tom Kratman’s Caliphate and Carnifex.