Friday, December 29, 2006

More on yesterday's roundtable

Marisa Morrison has written a piece which examines the propositions put forward by David Rivkin and Ian Bremmer at yesterday's event:

n the sphere of high-stakes diplomacy, talk may not be so cheap after all—at least according to David Rivkin. The current partner at the Baker Hostetler law firm sparred with Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, over the utility of engaging rogue states. The debate, held at The National Interest yesterday, paid special attention to the Baker-Hamilton report’s endorsement of talks with Syria and Iran.
Rivkin expressed disappointment that James Baker—his former colleague in the George H.W. Bush Administration—did not examine more closely the consequences of forming relations with these states.

In general, the decision to foster a dialogue with hostile regimes must be made after a careful cost-benefit analysis. ...

In the same vein, discussions with Iran’s leaders will damage the hard-fought effort to forge UN Security Council-approved sanctions against Iran. As bilateral U.S.-Iran talks would amount to “throwing out” this already existing “multilateral machinery, however creaky”, the choice to press forward with engagement must not be taken lightly. If the costs of engagement are found to outweigh its benefits, the United States must seek to contain Iran within a regional security structure.

Bremmer dismissed as “foolish” concerns about granting legitimacy to adversaries. The states that care most about legitimacy, argued Bremmer, are those who already share common values with the United States. On the other hand, states that U.S. policymakers would classify as “hostile”, are unconcerned about obtaining U.S.-endowed legitimacy. Not only are these states indifferent to international scorn, but their rulers can actually employ forced isolation to shore up domestic authority. Unfortunately, the United States’ declining global influence reinforces this rogue tendency.

Nik - That was a terrific panel. Bremmer and Rivkin. Good show.
Anatol Lieven's short and to the point presentation came accross as the most forceful and interesting on television.
I think it is silly to declare this or that country "rogue" and then discuss whether it is prudent to discuss issues with the same such countries.

From a Realist point of view, there are no legitimate or illegitimate countries - only hostile, nutral, or friendly countries (depending on the dynamic context).

When did, for example, Fascist Italy become a "rogue" country? And why was Vichy was not considered so for the longest time by FDR?

I think you have, hwoever, touched upon the crux of the matter - costs. What are the costs of negogiating a settlement vs. the cost of benign neglect, or containment (if possible).

A fundamental short-coming of all these discussions is that we do not have any quantitative method of measuring costs.

In MBA programs, they teach you how to quantify costs - even as estimates.
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