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Archive for the ‘diplomacy’ Category

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Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff write in Haaretz:

If someone were to offer Ehud Olmert the possibility of drawing a thick, black line through all of the events of the past year, presumably the prime minister would gladly accept it. It isn’t just the war in Lebanon. It is also the affair of the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit two and a half weeks earlier, and the failed “Summer Rain” military operation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the kidnapping, which did not bring Shalit back and did not yield any other significant accomplishments.

Here are two of the outstanding statements from that period that Olmert would no doubt prefer to forget: On June 26, one day after Shalit was abducted: “The question of the release of [Palestinian] prisoners [in return for Shalit] is not at all on the agenda of the government of Israel.” On July 1, a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Olmert’s behalf: “There will not be any deal. The soldier Shalit will be released, or else we will be compelled to act to release him.” Behind the scenes Olmert’s people were constantly briefing and reminding journalists: The aim is to break the old rules of the game. Israel will act so that the terror organizations, first in the territories and afterward in Lebanon, will lose the desire to abduct more people.

Since then more than eight months have elapsed. The appetite of the would-be abductors has perhaps been tempered – in light of the many losses among the Palestinians and the Lebanese – but the incentive is still there. Israel is now negotiating the release of thousands of prisoners in return for Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in two separate channels.

The numbers reported here seem to be a bit excessive. 1400::1 is a very high price to pay for a prisoner exchange with no assurances that this behavior will cease, that rockets will no longer be targeted from Gaza into Israel, with no declaration of both the de jure and de facto existence of Israel (what other state requires this of their neighbors?) As regular readers of this blog know, I am not opposed to the notion of negotiation with one’s political enemies. It must be clear, however, that any negotiations that occur do not amount to a list of demands by one side as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. 1400::1 or even 1400::3 borders on a take-it-or-leave-it demand.

It is clear that negotiations require two sides that are willing to engage each other in meaningful talks. No reasonable person can enter talks that place demands so far out of reach that they don’t pass the giggle test. All one can do is giggle at a demand that 1400 prisoners, each with, to use the Israeli phrase, blood on his hands, in exchange for from 1 to 3 kidnapped soldiers. The demand is simply ridiculous.

If Hamas truly intends to negotiate with Israel as its leadership has indicated in recent days then it is up to that leadership to drop their ridiculous take-it-or-leave-it demands and sit down as honest negotiators. Both sides should negotiate hard, but reasonably. Most importantly, both sides must be willing to make concessions to the other, small ones that can be monitored and deemed successful at first, and then larger ones. In the end, neither side can resort to violence the second one does not get its own way. It is time for a new way of thinking, for the playground bullies to stand aside and let the people negotiate an end to nearly a century of violence.

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In a feed from REUTERS, Yahoo News reports:

President Bashar al-Assad met a Republican member of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, a day after Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended a visit to Syria that was criticized by the White House. The official news agency said the meeting between Assad and Darrell Issa, a member of the House Committee on Intelligence, discussed ways to improve relations between Washington and Damascus.


If this is not evidence of the paranoia of the extremists on the right than I am not sure what might be classified as evidence. Nancy Pelosi, constitutionally third in line for succession to the presidency, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Democrat travels to Syria to engage with Syrian President Assad in discussions that may prove fruitful in the pursuit of a lasting peace in the Middle East and she is roundly criticized by the Bush administration. But, when Darrell Issa, a 4th term congressman from California, does the very same thing the silence from the White House is deafening. Where is Bush now? Where is Cheney, now? Where is the right wing blogosphere now? How is it that when a Democratic leader in the house takes reasonable steps to engage in the political life of the nation she is portrayed as no less than Satan himself but when a Republican back bencher does precisely the same thing not a sound can be heard from the hecklers. Perhaps it is time to stop the vitriolic nature of American politics, to begin to find a common ground from which to conduct ourselves in the world. That won’t happen until we are, once again, able to talk without shouting here at home.

Less than 655 days left in this administration’s tenure. Can we survive that long?

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Writing in the Washington Post, Peter Baker reports:

“He strode alone into the Rose Garden and complained that “it has now
been 57 days” since he asked Congress for more money for the Iraq war
and still has not gotten it. For President Bush, the fight over
war-spending legislation has become the only talking point — an
opportunity, his strategists hope, to demonstrate strength and turn the
tables on a Democratic Congress that may be overreaching.”


What, he thinks he just snaps his fingers and the Democratic Congress just wilts and complies? No, Georgie. In Civics 101 you should have learned about the Constitution of the United States, a document that established 3 co-equal branches of government each with a check on the other in order to maintain a pragmatic balance. But, gosh you must have been soused during those lectures. You have had no checks on your rule in the White House until now. But, oh my, get used to it for the remainder of your time in office.

Rather than asking for more money, perhaps you should begin to think about how you can work to restore balance in the Middle East so that it doesn’t erupt into the melting point for WWIII. But, that one will be on your hands as well. Perhaps you should join forces with Nancy Pelosi as she seeks to be a peacemaker rather than a mad bomber, as she tries to restore confidence in the reputation of America that you have ruined. But, you are do arrogant that I suspect that will never happen.

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I received a comment from someone who did not agree with my position. After some consideration I decided that I would delete the comment, not because of its content, but because of the language used to express disagreement. In two lines I counted five off-color comments. Rational debate has no room for language that is offensive, for name calling, or for displays of anger that are out of control. One of the great features of a blog is the ability to carry on reasonable discussions regarding many issues of interest to the blogger. This blog is no exception to that idea. My concern here is not that someone disagrees with my position; I do not nor can I claim a lock on any knowledge. Rather, my quarrel is with the tone and tenor of the comment itself. Rather than dispute ideas, the commenter resorted to name calling and foul language that has no place in civilized discussion. I will delete comments like this one every time I see one. I will never delete a comment that engages in an exchange of ideas.

Giorgio Agamben (1998) makes the point that modern democratic societies run the risk of decaying into totalitarian states when the subjective self confuses itself with the objective whole thereby granting to the sovereign all power, even full power over death. The comment I received was from an individual who, in his (or her) anger, could no longer engage in rational debate; he (or she) could no longer recognize that a difference of political opinion in a democratic state must not lead to responses embedded in anger, rather that they ought to be open to the light of day for all to respond. When anger wins out Agamben’s point appears in full force–the totalitarian state is here as we are expected to submit to the will of the dictator, in this case, George W. Bush. Granting the sovereign maximum power outside of debate and with no accountability is nothing more than objective submission to totalitarianism, something a democracy cannot tolerate.

I struggled with deleting this particular comment, the first time I have ever done so, because I believe in the power of rational debate, discussion and the inevitable disagreements that flow from these debates. The fact is, however, that I have chosen to approve comments as a form of censorship of abusive, crude, or foul language; language that has no place in thoughtful debate or discussion. I doubt if the commenter is a regular reader of this blog, but if he is I invite him to resubmit his comment without the language problems that prompted my deletion. Make your point, make it clear and let’s have at it and see what ideas prevail in the end.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press.

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Nancy Pelosi arrived today in Damascus to begin discussions with Syrian officials. President Bush is indignant saying Pelosi’s visit sends mixed signals to Syrian President, Bashar Assad. The Bush solution to diplomacy is, it seems, to be two-fold:

  • Not talk to those with whom he doesn’t agree
    or
  • Bomb those with whom he doesn’t agree back to the stone age

Bush’s child like decisions to bully the world are not the stuff of which international respect is gained. Bush, furthermore, seems to not understand that he does not control the Congress as he has in the first six-years of his administration. He no longer speaks and his will is done. He must come down from his god-like stance and somehow begin to act as a reasonable political leader.

While I am not sure what good will come of the Pelosi visit to Damascus I am unwilling to dismiss this bold move as dangerous to our national interests as our President seems to be so willing to do. But then, Bush has had six-years of ignoring the Loyal Opposition so why not ignore others that don’t agree. The best part of this whole debacle is that Bush has less than 660 days left in office. How much harm can he do in 660 days? I, for one, am afraid to find out.

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