John Bolton's One Percent Doctrine
Posted by David Shorr
According to John Bolton, the split over the importance of negotiations in foreign policy is a difference of one percent. Apparently the foreign policy debate pits those, like Bolton, who believe negotiations can resolve 99% of international disputes versus liberals who are certain that negotiations can solve each and every situation in the world. These calculations raise an interesting accounting problem. Leaves me to wonder about 'international dispute' as a unit of measure.
I also wonder who these hundred percent-ers are. They must believe that negotiations could by themselves have resolved Bosnia, the Taliban's sanctuary for the September 11 terrorists, or Hitler's drive for domination. Talk about staw men throwing stones!! Bolton rejects the idea that this is a debate between reasonableness and unilateralist cowboys. Instead it's a debate between clear-eyed statesmen and pacifists!?!?
This is not a debate over whether negotiations will always work; of course they won't resolve every situation. It's a debate over when negotiations should be tried. Recent policy gives us a pretty good data set for the refuse-to-negotiate idea. The theory of issuing demands, standing tough, and waiting for the other side to capitulate hasn't been shown to work so well.
Let's take North Korea's nuclear program, an issue about which Amb. Bolton has strong feelings. What did they do when we refused to talk? Build nuclear weapons. Our demands and toughness didn't impress them very much. My favorite quotes on this subject come from Amb. Robert Gallucci in a 2005 Atlantic Monthly article on a North Korea war game they conducted. Rant is probably more accurate, but it's worth quoting at length.
"When I came back with the Agreed Framework deal and tried to sell it," he said, "I ran into the same people sitting around that table -- the general to my right, Ken across from me. They hated the idea of trying to solve this problem with a negotiation.
"And I said, 'What's your -- pardon me -- your ****ing plan, then, if you don't like this?'
"'We don't like--'
"I said, 'Don't tell me what you don't like! Tell me how you're going to stop the North Korean nuclear program'
"'But we wouldn't do it this way--'
"'Stop! What are you going to do?'
"I could never get a goddamn answer. What I got was 'We wouldn't negotiate.'"
To people who say that negotiating with the North Koreans rewards bad behavior, Gallucci says, "Listen, I'm not interested in teaching other people lessons. I'm interested in the national security of the United States. If that's what you're interested in, are you better off with this deal or without it? You tell me what you're going to do without the deal, and I'll compare that with the deal."
He was adamant that we were better off under the Agreed Framework -- cheating and all -- than we are now. "When the Clinton folks went out of office, the North Koreans only had the plutonium they had separated in the previous Bush administration. Now they've got a whole lot more. What did all this 'tough' sh** give us? It gave us a much more capable North Korea. Terrific!"
I agree with Amb. Bolton that time is a precious asset in dealing with situations like these. As Gallucci explains, the get-tough approach is a dangerous time-waster.