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Thread: talkin' tough and international diplomacy

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    talkin' tough and international diplomacy

    It seems like the media and politicos in Washington are always obsessing about how Obama (and past Presidents for that matter) should talk to trouble-making regimes such as Iran and North Korea. The fretting is usually over what should be the appropriate level of "tough talk" given the situation, but everyone pretty much agrees that nothing should actually be done about the situation so as to not escalate tensions or upset/alienate allies or sort-of allies (i.e. China). Recently John McCain said Obama was basically being too soft with Iran; not soft in the sense that the Obama administration wasn't taking any actions to deal with the thuggery and deepening totalitarian behaviors of the regime (they weren't), just that he felt the President hadn't been using sufficiently harsh language to denounce said regime.

    I understand the thinking behind diplomatic communication to some extent, but, for lack of a better way to put it: talk is cheap, isn't it? Does "tough talk" and sabre-rattling mean anything without action of some sort? And should we even assume that these lunatic despots are listening to what Obama says, let alone taking any meaning out of it? I'm guess I'm having trouble understanding all this hand-wringing over the words our President should use when talking about our enemies...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    All I know is that I sleep a lot better at night with Obama handling foreign policy than I did before. I don't worry about him being soft on "the enemy" the way I used to worry about the U.S. bombing "the enemy" just because they looked at us funny.

    Foreign policy is complicated stuff and it takes some subtlety. North Korea knows that if they ever tried to do anything remotely aggressive, they may make a point but are also likely to be the subject of a multilateral response that might set them back in their ambitions.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I understand the thinking behind diplomatic communication to some extent, but, for lack of a better way to put it: talk is cheap, isn't it? Does "tough talk" and sabre-rattling mean anything without action of some sort? And should we even assume that these lunatic despots are listening to what Obama says, let alone taking any meaning out of it? I'm guess I'm having trouble understanding all this hand-wringing over the words our President should use when talking about our enemies...
    the people the words are being directed towards are looking for ANY opportunity to take something out of context as an aggressive, anti iranian (or korean or islamic or what-have-you) comment so they can somehow justify their position(s) and polices. it is a lot easier to say "look, that guy over there wants to kill you and overthrow your government" than it is to try and backup your own underhanded policy. magicians do that all the time. get the audience to watch the left hand while the right hand is doing something under the table.

    some previous leaders of this country would jump at the opportunity to throw slander and fear mongering in name of capitalism or democracy or whatever goal they were championing that week. it shows a lot about the current leadership that they are not trying to use brute force and instead are patiently waiting for the tantrum to end before acting. imo - the leadership and thought leaders involved in the countries we have had issues with in the last 15 years are basically no better than two year olds throwing a tantrum to get what they want.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    The only way to solve world strife is to colonize the entire world under the American flag.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    There are clearly many in the republican party who believe that anything less than being a big bully to the rest of the world is weakness. They seem to see America's goodness somehow explicity tied to its agreesiveness.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    There are clearly many in the republican party who believe that anything less than being a big bully to the rest of the world is weakness. They seem to see America's goodness somehow explicity tied to its agreesiveness.
    Oh, come on... ...that's as exaggerated (in diction) as saying that there are many in the democratic party who don't believe that democracy and freedom are worthwhile unless it's being taken away from their own person, and that they tend to see the United States' principles defined strictly as imperialism and discrimination.

  7. #7
    Personally I think that part of the reason may be to appeal to people who want to see an intervention. Though John McCain, just as an example, may realize that intervening would only fuel the rhetoric of totalitarian regimes attempting to convince their people that the U.S. is waging war on their way of life, he can still criticize Obama's language for not being harsh enough and that will put him on better terms with Americans seeking intervention even though he doesn't agree with it.

    So I suppose I see it as a popularity thing. He doesn't want to lose people from an important voting base, but he doesn't want to make an outrageous statement that almost none of the other legislators will agree with him on, or have the media dissect his statements.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I love the Theodore Roosevelt attitude - "Speak softly and carry a BIG stick".

    'Behave and you'll have friends in the World, cause trouble and you'll regret it dearly'.

    The problem with the current "Can we just talk it over, sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya?" tack is that the worst despots throughout history have looked upon that attitude as a sign of a weakness that is ripe for exploitation. Unstable ego-maniacal bullies CANNOT be reasoned with and can only be defeated.

    As has been learned by many throughout history: Peace is NOT the absence of war, it is the absence of THREAT and the BEST way of fostering and maintaining TRUE PEACE is to be prepared to meet and defeat any and all threats.

    For that reason, I sleep much less soundly now that I had over the past eight years.

    Mike

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    ^It seems to me that we're doing exactly what Teddy Roosevelt said - speaking softly, but still carrying the biggest stick in the history of mankind. The size of the stick isn't shrinking either.

    I think the absolute worst thing that Obama could have done over the last few weeks with Iran would have been to have given them some outside force to blame their problems on. Sometimes saying nothing is the best thing that can be said. It's not always a matter of reasoning with enemies versus defeating them, sometimes it's knowing when to stay out of the way and let the locals handle things - an uprising almost always has a better chance of success when there are no obvious outside fingerprints.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I love the Theodore Roosevelt attitude - "Speak softly and carry a BIG stick".
    That's exactly what we're doing. I don't understand why you sleep less soundly now. Unless you're saying that our military is less powerful now that a Democrat is in office? I think that's quite the claim, if so.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Thank God for President Obama. For decades we have pursued a policy that has not worked. The most recent former president of the USA was the best recruiter Al Quada ever had.

    We need to adopt a national attitude that is less strident and much less confrontational. We don't need to be always sticking our noses into everyone else's business. Other nations really, really resent that.

    Obama has condemned the bad that is going on in Iran. The talking heads and the Republicans are dissing the president on adjectives and adverbs - not content. John McCain had he become president would have done largely the same thing - condemned the actions of the Iranian government and then watched events unfold. What more can a president do? Invade Iran? Ewww. How about more sanctions? That has worked so far.

    What is going on Iran is an internal struggle for control of the government. It is essentially not our business until it crosses borders and affects us. We certainly would not want the Iran government interfering with our internal political struggles.

    Obama is trying a new tack. Let us give him time to work it out. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won't. We know that what we have been doing for decades has only brought misery, death and hatred of the USA to the Middle East and terror to our shores.

    I sleep better knowing John McCain isn't president. Good man, though he once was. he drank the Kool-Aid.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
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    It could be argued that GWB plan in the middle east is working. Yes I said it, it could be working. What does the middle east want right now? Polls overwhelmingly show that the populations of almost all middle eastern countries want Democracy. Syrian leadership has just realized its its interest in a stable Iraq by building a freight line that goes from the Med sea to the gulf, linking the two countries in commerce. This is unprecedented. They are now fully supporting a stable democratic Iraq for their own economic and stability intrests. Soon they(syria) will follow suit.
    The population of Iran wants Democracy as we can see. (because they dont really have it now) Perhaps the notion that if we invaded Iraq, let them set up a democracy under our protection, then watch the other countries populations get jealous, we may find that democracy will spread on its own. i.e the Hated Bush Doctrine. Egypt is facing prseeure to democratize, same with Saudi Arabia. Every single middle eastern country is facing some pressure from either outside, but mainly inside, to open up the political processes that hold their populations down. This is a great thing and I think over time GWB may be vindicated in some way. Although he will reamin contreversial even in my eyes.

    McCain has the luxury of calling out Obama. he is a Member of Congress he speaks for Arizona not, the USA. In fact he was reffering to the crackdown on protestors by Iran which subsequently was harshly condemned by Obama. We cannot be seen as meddling in their afairs so as not to give the regime somone to blame (the evil empire) even tho I dont think the cosmopolitan Iranian population would ever buy it. McCain wants us to say we support the protestors for their fight for democracy. In time Obama will make that clear but, now is not that time. I dont think GWB would say it either. Yes I said it. I dont think he would.
    Obama is now tastin what its like to deal with these characters. Its not as easy as just talk to them. I wish it was
    "Inside Joke"

  13. #13
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jakers View post
    It could be argued that GWB plan in the middle east is working. Yes I said it, it could be working. What does the middle east want right now? Polls overwhelmingly show that the populations of almost all middle eastern countries want Democracy. Syrian leadership has just realized its its interest in a stable Iraq by building a freight line that goes from the Med sea to the gulf, linking the two countries in commerce. This is unprecedented. They are now fully supporting a stable democratic Iraq for their own economic and stability intrests. Soon they(syria) will follow suit.
    The population of Iran wants Democracy as we can see. (because they dont really have it now) Perhaps the notion that if we invaded Iraq, let them set up a democracy under our protection, then watch the other countries populations get jealous, we may find that democracy will spread on its own. i.e the Hated Bush Doctrine. Egypt is facing prseeure to democratize, same with Saudi Arabia. Every single middle eastern country is facing some pressure from either outside, but mainly inside, to open up the political processes that hold their populations down. This is a great thing and I think over time GWB may be vindicated in some way. Although he will reamin contreversial even in my eyes.
    I fail to understand how invading Iraq connects to a larger plan for democratizing the arab world. Iraq is still a disaster (72 people in a Baghdad bomb attack yesterday) http://www.reuters.com/article/world...55O1G620090625 We know that we weren't "greeted as liberators", and the whole neo-con justification for toppling Sadaam has been completely discredited. Arguably Iraq is less of a disaster than it was after the initial U.S. occupation debacle, but so what? That's like saying that serving a 70 year prison sentence is better than getting life. I don't think any of Iraq's neighbors are jealous of it right now, or will be so in the near future. The country has such a long way to go in terms of rebuilding its infrastructure and institutions of government in order to provide some measure of stability, and we'd be fools to think that democracy is that light at the end of the tunnel. The best we can hope for is just less bloodshed and that Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds divide out into their own fiefdoms thus leading to some measure of peace and stability. The idea of a central government in Iraq (without U.S. help) being able to acheive a system of trade with its neighbors and coordinate infrastructure is just a fantasy at this point.

    As for Iran, I hate to say it but it looks like lunaticaminajidad has tightened that place up pretty good.. bet on it being even more of a totalitarian regime now. And democratic prospects in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are grim at best (U.S. allies by the way- have we ever said anything about the dictatorships there?).

  14. #14
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I agree with hilldweller on the democracy in the middle east issue. That a majority of people in the region want democracy has nothing to do with any "plan" the US put forth. They just want a voice and a place at the table like so many people around the world and that is the case independent of us. If anything, our actions have muddied the waters and confused the issue because we, as a democracy, imposed our will on Iraq. You can't force democracy on people or shove it down their throats, or its not really democracy.

    As for "talking tough" I take anything that comes out of the official mouthpiece of any nation with a grain of salt. You can bet that there is a lot of communication and contact going on behind the scenes as well - this other stuff is largely posturing. This has almost always been the case with North Korea - they say startling things and threaten horrific acts, but privately engage the US or other foreign powers for things like energy and food aid which they desperately need. I'm not convinced we have the full picture of what is happening on that front and I think the recent statements from NK are intended to draw attention and deal making for something they desperately need like food, medical aid, etc. At least that is how it has gone down in the past.
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