no offense taken - 22/10/08

From Buck on October 22nd, 2008

No worries, no offense taken. I already knew your thoughts on those particular issues which you mentioned and, in terms of American hypocrisy and nuclear weapons positions, to pretty much all of it I agree. The real point of the article though is inexperience going into negotiations. I'll respond point by point.

1) About the anti-American propaganda: I got the impression that it was meant more as Krushschev more personally engaging in the anti-American propaganda, which would indicate him as being a difficult figure to negotiate with (which proved to be true). Also, you're right to point out that both countries engaged in the negative propaganda, which would mean that Khrushchev shouldn't have engaged in direct negotiations either... unless he felt that he was more experienced and could probably out match the other. It's dangerous and possibly detrimental to engage in negotiations at such a high level with someone who clearly and publicly has a very negative perception of you and your country. The advice that he was getting suggests a more gradual strategy, to improve relations from the bottom up before engaging in such high level meetings.

2) I totally agree about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. It's something that I occasionally feel disappointed in my country over and I can put forward no defense of substance. I see that much is done to advance U.S. economic interests which helps American businesses and the American people. But as a believer in the free market, I believe that we should compete for our economic dominance, for example giving better economic incentives to trade with a latin american country for coffee... rather than use the C.I.A. to incite a revolt in favor of a U.S. friendly government. In the long run, I think this would help U.S. international business as it gives less of a platform for anti-american governments to run on (like many democrats strategies being something along the lines of "well hey, it doesn't really matter what I propose, it couldn't be worse than Bush...") like Chavez for example. Anyway, the main point I get from that quote is not "the hypocrisy of American foreign policy" but "Khrushchev lectured him" because when you go into negotiations you can't get pushed around or "get the hell beat out of" you. Because then it becomes a show of dominance rather than a negotiation. And as the following events showed, poorly held negotiations can result in the furthering and increasing of problems rather than at the very least a stalemate. The lecturing probably would not have occurred in negotiations at a lower level, or at least could not have been used as such powerful leverage because the pushing around of a low level diplomat has a much smaller impact than of those negotations held at the highest level. Kennedy should not have allowed it to become a lecture but rather a back and forth dialogue. There were plenty of things to bring up about Soviet Union hypocrisy, human rights violations, etc... To be the leader of a country and be lectured by someone else (from another country) on your own nations policies has a very demeaning effect.

3) Like I said, I totally agree with you on the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign and nuclear weapon policy. It's a really sad situation and ultimately self-defeating. But the point of this is that this was a negotiation that turned into not only a lecture but a "beating." This goes back to the problem that I said a while back about situations with arms races is that it's a game of chicken where you don't want to stop because you don't know if the other will stop too. For Kennedy to be negotiating, propositions have to at least be put forward and discussed, propositions where, presumably, both sides will have to make sacrifices. Simultaneously, the leaders respectively have to show clout in that if conditions are not met by one side, there will be repercussions. If the negotiator is not only unable to give off that impression but is even unable to put him/herself in a position to give off that impression then there are serious problems. As Kennedy admitted, "I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.” Thus you lose any opportunity to engage in negotiations because 1) the person who is doing the beating will sense a gaining of momentum and will not want to give that up as the situation could prove as vital in gaining ground even for positioning in future negotiations since in this game of chicken, since you can't be sure the other side will slow down if you slow down you need to take advantage of any opportunity to get ahead and 2) because perceived influence in enforcing agreements declines so why not try and win the arms race by out-gunning the other if it seems like you can. That's what the U.S. eventually did, and even though in terms of the world it's not preferable, we did end up as the only superpower. So the way I see it is it's a game of a chicken and without very skillful, delicate, and gradual negotiation will any side back down. I don't know a great deal about the Cold War, but at this time, there were no satellite states. They were recent results of the collapse of the Soviet Union when they broke off. I don't think there were any missile bases as close to Russia as Cuba, but I don't really know too much so if you have some information on that, feel free. Also, the Cuban missile crisis is pretty widely believed to have been the closest to an all out nuclear war between the two superpowers. It was a situation very similar to in Watchman, a sort of first strike scenario, where the U.S. thinks the Russians could fire so we should fire first and vice versa. The point the article was making is that this was almost a direct result of the disaster of a negotiation session, not so much: well it doesn't matter if we have nuclear weapons or not but you're not allowed. Poor negotiating can lead to things coming to a head much more quickly rather than improving things or a continuation of a stalemate. It would be a totally different article to focus on the rights of nations to have nukes, thus the author wouldn't want to focus on that. I actually didn't get much of an impression that the author favored one side or the other. It seemed pretty unbiased in describing the lack of judgement in rushing into high-level negotiations.

4) True, the rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and extremist Islam is different, but in terms of duration not so much. You can date this back to the 70's under Carter who had to deal with the holding hostage of the U.S. embassy in Iran. Then, closer to the present, you have the three bombings previous to 9-11 by Al-Qaeda: the U.S.S. Cole, the embassy in Kenya, and the truck bombing of the world trade center in the early 90's. So this is a very long term situation. Iran, Pakistan, Al Qaeda, etc... may not have the all out fire power that the Soviets had and that does change the nature of the conflict. There won't be the kind of Cold War style stand off but that doesn't mean there aren't serious threats. The difference between the two situations, though it does present different kinds of threats and may require different strategies, doesn't change the nature of the argument that rushing into high level negotiations, being relatively inexperienced, couldn't result in a worsening of the situation rather than an improvement. If Obama proves himself as impotent as it seems Kennedy did, maybe Iran will increase nuclear weapons research, funding anti-american terrorists (whether you like the U.S. or not, a lot of their targets/victims are Iraqis in a strategy to maintain Iraqi instability, and as is clear by the recent negotiations b/w Iraq and the U.S. if there is stability, we are willing to fully withdraw), etc... It's a lesson on being prudent, and that making hasty decisions, whether they are well intentioned or not, can have detrimental effects.

5) Love letters are awesome!

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