Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel, Lebanon: US Foreign Policy: WHERE HAVE YOU GONE RICHARD NIXON?

Old School Playa's - Tricky D. And Henry K Had The Skillz To Play The Game... Bush and Company Have No Game


He said If
You're gonna play the game, boy,
You gotta learn to play it right.

You've got to know
When to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done.

Now every gambler knows
The secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep.
'Cause every hand's a winner.
And every hand's a loser


The Gambler, Kenny Rogers, copyright 1978.

Instead of Bill Kristol, the relative youngsters in charge of foreign policy need to heed that great American philospher Kenny Rogers, who on a train ride learned a life lesson in playing the game from the wizened and cynical gambler. Our foreign policy could surely do better than the knee-jerk unilateralism, tough absolutist talk, us vs them pigeonholing of just about everyone, a Carteresque single-minded insistence on regime change, and a Wilsonian faith in forcing Democracy. This muddle ends up creating the kind of Bush silliness that caused the mess in Iraq, and which is hindering the whole Middle East policy.

Don't Hate The Playa Hate The Game

Kissinger and Nixon looked at the world from the perspective of power politics. They saw it all as part of a big game, where everyone -big and small- had major and minor interests. The smart ones figured out what everyone more or less wanted, and playing cards right would play others against each other. They saw bluffing as a fact of life, but knew you kept a loaded gun on the table, and shot when it was necessary. But, by acknowledging these realities, they knew that they could create situations where people killed each other less, and which advanced the U.S. national interest.

Metternich Would Have Loved This!


In the middle of the Cold War, Kissinger was negotiating with the North Vietnamese to find a war out of the Vietnam quagmire, at the same time the Nixon administration was working on detente with the Soviets, as well as a strategic opening to China. Each communist power was kept on edge whenever Kissinger was talking to the other one. The Vietnamese in the middle of a fight with the U.S. were totally nervous about losing the support of their two main superpower backers. When Nixon went to China in early 1972, it so unnerved the North Vietnamese that they launched a large conventional attack on South Vietnam, which was smashed by a major U.S. bombing campaign. But the Soviets worried about a possible US-China alliance and SALT talks, did not cancel Nixon's visit to the Soviet Union right after. In December, when the North Vietnamese were being stubborn in negotiations, the U.S. bombed Hanoi into cutting a deal almost immediately. Had congress not unilaterally abandoned U.S. military commitments to South Vietnam as set out in the deal, the US-supported Southern regime might have avoided defeat at Communist hands. But all-in-all, Kissinger/Nixon kept the Soviets in line for several years, while opening a line to China, which counter-balanced Soviet aims for the next two decades.

Lesson 1, Crisis As Opportunity
Taking advantage of the Cold War and the Vietnam War, Kissinger/Nixon used creative diplomacy, which included the threat of force to force new realities on the larger stage which favored U.S. interests The current Middle-Eastern crisis has the opportunity to push through this kind of re-alignment. You need to resolve immediate problems, at the same time you set long-term goals, dealing with the overall picture. Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy between Israel, Cairo, Damascus, and Moscow, stopped the 73 war, leaving the Israeli's thinking they had won, the Egyptians that they had restored their honor, and de-escalated a US-USSR confrontation. Long term it ended up pushing Egypt into the U.S. camp, secured Israel's gains, lessened Moscow's influence in the region, and contributed enormously to what became the Camp David Accords. In this crisis we need to secure a cease in the hostilities, while advancing long term goals including securing Israel's borders, securing Lebanon's future as a democracy, moving towards a Palestinian State, reducing Iran's role, neutralyzing Syria, and enhancing chances for peace in Iraq.

Lesson 2, The Mad Bomber, Carry a Big Stick and Speak Loudly...and Softly
If you have a reputation for using force unilaterally when your bottom line interests are threatened, that is not a bad reputation to have. When everyone in the region, thinks you back Israel's use of force, then damn well use that threat with everyone. Tell the Syrians, that Israel wants to bomb Damascus if Hizbullah keeps on getting supplied. Inform the Iranians that the Israeli's have free reign to bomb their nuclear weapons facilities, scare them into thinking you will do it yourself if need be. There is enough U.S. firepower in the region to make life miserable for the Mullahs.
Hamas and Fatah, already think that Israel has carte blanche in dealing with them, don't disabuse them of that notion. To Lebanon and Hizbullah, tell them that after a cease-fire, you can not and will not restrain Israel next time there is a kidnapping or even one Katyusha falls in Israeli soil. Play the whole "regime change" thing as a weapon. Tell Assad you will try to subvert his regime by supporting anti-Baath political and military forces. Ditto to the Iranians. Play up the boycott/sanctions talk. Make the Israeli's understand that this whole situation in the territories and Lebanon requires concessions on their part. Scare them a bit, tell them that all this negative press on their actions, harms U.S. interests in the region, and indicate that a re-thinking of U.S. policy might be in the cards.

Lesson 3: Talk To Everyone
You talk not only to Israel and Lebanon, you deal with the Syrians you talk to Iranians you talk to Hizbullah, you talk to the Palestinians. If you don't do it overtly, you do it behind the scenes, but always carry the credibility that you can make changes stick. Israel wants secure borders and no rockets pointed at it. The entire Arab and Islamic World wants a Palestinian state.
You get the Syrians to stop backing Hizbullah and/or rein them in. Offer them the carrot of making them players in the solution, and opening up their economy to aid. Get them to help with Hizbullah and the nasty insurgents in Iraq. Get them away from the Iranians, make the Iranians nervous.
Talk to the Iranians, do it openly if you have to. Just talking can make Syria and Hizbullah nervous as hell. Try to get a working modus-vivendi where they give up their nuclear ambitions in exchange for a greater opening to the West. Stay engaged, say you will tolerate a certain Iranian influence in Iraq, provided they reign in the Syrians. The greater issue is you want both Iran and Syria to lay off Israel, offer them incentives to do so. Go to Lebanon and tell the Hizbullahs, that you will recognize both the authority of the Lebanese government and Hizbullah as a legitimate political force in Lebanon, if Hizbullah disarms -- or at the very least destroys their missle umbrella pointed at Israel and built-up fortifications in South Lebanon. Try to play Nasrallah against the Iranian's, he might even be usefull to solve things with Iraq's Shiites. Tell the Israeli's that they have to withdraw from the West Bank, with the understanding that this will not happen while the Syria and Iran continue to help Hizbullah or Hamas in their quests to destroy Israel.

In the end.............
regimes like Syria and Iran, terrorists like Hamas and Hizbullah are nasty. But, unless the U.S. and its few allies, really have the will and strength to confront them directly, you have to use the cards you have right now. Refusing to deal face-to-face with the nasties, because of some Neo-con principle is silly at this point. A realistic and creative carrot and stick approach, with all the bluffing and poker faces involved, that divides and confuse these nasty players, can put the U.S. in the best long-term position. As Kenny Rogers said you have to know when to "hold", "fold" and "walk away", Nixon and Kissinger would surely approve.

3 comments:

SOD said...

" Crisis As Opportunity"

in relation to China. The Chinese do not a word for crisis, their symbol for crisis is "when danger meets opportunity"

Boli-Nica said...

IIRC Kissinger used to quote that saying. Unfortunately the Bush administration thinks Crisis means, "disaster we can mess up worse"

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