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September 20, 2007



The US brought Milosevic and Tudjman to Dayton knowing perfectly well the amount of blood on their hands and the boost it would give to their domestic political fortunes, because that was the only way to end the violence - and it worked.

And did not the boost in Milosevic's political fortunes allow him to set the stage for the Kosovo conflict four years later? Do you think the world needs more such "successes"?

The Lounsbury

The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Maybe Milo was able to do Kosovo bec. of Dayton, but maybe it would have happened anyway. The logical fallacy is post hoc, ergo prompter hoc.

Aaron R

For those of us slower with Arabic, is there a "best of" of that youtube clip (meaning, for example, 2:41-3:30) you would recommend checking out? I can handle bits and pieces but it would take me ages to process all 45 minutes of it!


My impression is that while the American efforts to cooperate with Sunni Arab tribal leaders in Anbar has many cheerleaders among the political class here, the efforts themselves were almost entirely made by military officers on the ground in Anbar.

These are not the people influencing policy with respect to diplomatic contacts with Syria and Iran. Actually, I suspect that some of the Bush administration's strongest champions of cooperating with the Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar would have resisted the idea bitterly had they known in advance that it was being pursued.


Lounsbury: I am not reasoning by the logic of whether or not it makes sense to "make peace" with the unrepentent if in the long run it means enabling them so they can return to do more harm than ever before. It is a difficult question which demands consideration by every judge, not a logical fallacy - nor can such an error of judgment be dismissed as such afterwards.


solomon2 - I don't disagree that it's a tough call, and I was personally very uneasy with the Dayton invitations at the time... but it was also clear that without doing it that way, the bloodshed in Bosnia was going to continue ad infinitum... and (after Srebrenica) could be expected to get even worse very soon. I don't think that the path from Dayton to Kosovo was as direct or obvious as your first suggestion - a lot of contingencies along the way - not least of which being that if Albright had played the diplomacy better in 98-99, the worst of Kosovo would never have happened. The analogy isn't perfect to Iraq, but I think the core logic does apply: you can't get stability if the most powerful neighbors don't want it, and while serious talks don't guarantee anything they also seem to be a necessary condition.


Dr. Lynch - I also thoroughly enjoyed the conference and it was a pleasure to meet you in person. I too was rather surprised by the level of agreement on the panel including David's comments though I felt he was spinning an overly optomistic version of the future as Weekly Standard writers are wont to do.

As you indicated, Amb. Dobbins did indeed have the most salient comments. Here are a few quotes of his that I want to mention in particular:

talking about the important lessons of counter-insurgency doctrine he said: "you can not stabilize a 'failing' state if the neighbors don't want you to"

and... "if there is no plan - each state will back a local group"

and what I felt was the probably the most astute observation and analysis of our disasterous circumstances in the ME currently:

" We can either stabilize Iraq OR contain Iran - We can't do both"

I think if that particular piece of analysis was truly understood in the halls of congress and in policy circles around town - we would be discussing far different (and actually productive) policy options.

Pete Moore

Have you seen Jason Brownlee's World Politics review of the nation-building books? Dobbins' book is among them and Jason thoroughly tears it apart. To compare Dobbins' CATO comments with what he argued in that book is quite interesting.

Peter Principle

"We can either stabilize Iraq OR contain Iran - We can't do both"

The problem is that the US may not be able to do either. Because from Iran's point of view, the best way to guarantee the failure of the second objective is to ensure the failure of the first one.

Actually, the current situation may be the best case scenario -- compared to one in which the US gives up on Iraq and focuses all its attention, and power, on destabilizing the regime and/or knocking out Iran's nuclear program.

So it might be in Tehran's interest to pretend to cooperate in a regional diplomatic process, long as that process never actually leads to a stzble Iraq.


Milosevic. Dayton. There's nothing like boosting the domestic fortunes of blood dripping totalitarian dictators. Pinochet comes to mind. Pity Kissinger wasn't on the panel, he would have some keen insights to offer


bb - sorry, but the moral purity fails me when the only plausible alternative to such talks was continued slaughter, rape, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Bosnians. Reading about Milosevic drinking fine whiskey in Dayton was infuriating, but not as infuriating as watching Bosnians being butchered while the US did nothing.


I'm so sick of this manufactured outrage about how the US must not talk to "rogue states", or terrorists. One need not go even to Yugoslavia to find examples of where that has been done before. There are plenty of present examples where this so-called principle is being breached; in fact, it doesn't seem to apply anywhere except for a few places in the Middle East.

When it comes to states, it is bizarre that the US claims it is impossible for moral and political reasons to talk to Syria or Iran, but will happily chat away about nuclear issues with North Korea. Or think back a couple of decades: remember the Soviet Union? Should the US have withdrawn its Moscow ambassador to make a point about Good/Evil in international relations?

As for non-state actors, witness the moralizing brouhaha about isolating the Hamas government: there is not a single accusation that can be made against Hamas (terrorism, fundamentalism, antisemitism, non-recognition of Israel, etc), that does not also apply to the ex-SCIRI or the Mahdi army or whomever in Iraq -- but the US would not hesitate to sit down with them for talks if the need arises. Or take the "former insurgents" now acting contractor-militas in Sunni villages: they are doing that precisely because the US has been talking to them. In one theatre, drawing radicals into politics has been the guiding principle since day one; in another, the same policy team has decided to pretend the radicals do not exist and that the ship isn't sinking, and that any other conclusion would be an immoral concession to terrorism.

Maybe one can find a good reason to use different approaches in these different cases, but then that's politics. It's not morals, and the fake moral imperatives about refusing to talk to Evil People should be left out of the equation -- self-delusion is not to strategize from. The whole situation is maddening, as if US politics had moved into some virtual reality of its own, where long-term execution just doesn't matter anymore, and what does is to score cheap rhetorical points in the media. Worst on the right of the political spectrum, but Democrats seem just marginally better.

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