Diplomacy Without Precondition

In my latest for New Atlanticist, “Preconditions, Preparations, and Posturing,” I argue that Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, and perhaps even Nicholas Burns are misreading the now 16-month-old debate over Barack Obama’s pledge to meet “without precondition, during the first year of [his] administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    You’ve been pounding this drum for some time, James, and I don’t think that anyone is listenting.

    What kills me is that you’re very obviously correct. On both the facts and the context of the facts.

    Obama goofed and should claim his goof and move on. His position, as is McCain’s is to initiate some lower level talks with adversaries such as Iran. Why he is reluctant to retract and clarify is puzzling.

    McCain and his campaign has every right to grill him on this until he fixes it. And he should.

  2. John425 says:

    The Foreign Minister of Iran set his “preconditions”. To wit: All US troops out of the Middle East and US to forgo supporting Israel.

    Is that what Obama is willing to sit down and discuss?

  3. Michael says:

    The Foreign Minister of Iran set his “preconditions”. To wit: All US troops out of the Middle East and US to forgo supporting Israel.

    Is that what Obama is willing to sit down and discuss?

    I think you are confusing preconditions to negotiation with the goal of negotiation. Sadly that seems to be a common trend among many people who think it makes them “tough” negotiators.

    Preconditions for negotiation are useful for setting up commonality and equality in the context of the negotiation process. As such you have preconditions about time, place, and collateral, but not on the end state.

    Imagine walking into a car dealership, and stating that before you talk to a sales representative, they must first agree to sell you the car you want at the price you want. I don’t know of any dealership that would agree to that, and certainly none of them would want to deal with someone who makes such demands.

    Or, from the other angle, imagine a dealership requiring that you agree to buy the car they want, at the price they want, before they will talk to you. Well, I don’t know about you, but that dealership doesn’t sound “tough” to me, and I certainly won’t be buying anything from them, even if it was a good car and a good price.

    Iran wants to see US troops out of the middle east, and they want to see us end support for Israel. But they’re not going to demand that those things happen before they negotiate with us.

  4. John425 says:

    Iran’s Vice President Sets Two Preconditions for Talks with US

    TEHRAN (FNA)- Vice President for Media Affairs Mehdi Kalhor said on Saturday that Iran has set two preconditions for holding talks with the United States of America.

    In an exclusive interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency, he said as long as U.S. forces have not left the Middle East region and continues its support for the Zionist regime, talks between Iran and U.S. is off the agenda.

    It is the Americans who are in dire need of reestablishing ties with Iran, he underlined.

    Iran is not obliged to reestablish ties with the U.S., he said.

    “If they take our advice, grounds for such talks would be well prepared,” he said.

    It is stupidity to hold talks without any change in U.S. attitude, he underlined.

    Now, English may be Kalhor’s second language, but he seems pretty clear on “preconditions”

  5. Michael says:

    Now, English may be Kalhor’s second language, but he seems pretty clear on “preconditions”

    He’s also clearly using our exact talking points against us. The message is between the lines.

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    Iran wants to see US troops out of the middle east, and they want to see us end support for Israel.

    Iran wants us to convert and all Jews dead.Why would anyone sit down with that at all?

  7. anjin-san says:

    In other diplomacy news, the Bush administration is actively considering entering into talks with the Taliban.

    When are McCain/Palin going to suspend the campaign to return to DC to demand Bush’s resignation?

  8. davod says:

    “The Foreign Minister of Iran set his “preconditions”. To wit: All US troops out of the Middle East and US to forgo supporting Israel”

    Is this what Biden was talking about – Obama’s method of responding to an international crisis which would not immediately be seen as the right one (Paraphrasing)- Leaving the Middle-East and forgoing support to Israel?

    After all, many, if not all, of Obama’s foreign policy advisers see Israel as the problem in the Middle-East.