David Ignatius, writing in Real Clear Politics, provides a glimpse into the kind of template the Obama administration regards as a solution. He describes Washington’s efforts to create in Afghanistan and South Asia a stable division of spoils where power, influence and money are shared to the satisfaction of all. Then with everyone bought off, peace will return.
The U.S. recognized more than four years ago that the best way out of the Afghanistan conflict would be a diplomatic settlement that involved the Taliban and its sometime sponsors in Pakistan. State Department officials have been conducting secret peace talks, on and off, since 2011. That effort hasn’t borne fruit yet, as the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz shows.
But the pace of negotiations has quickened this year, thanks to an unlikely U.S. diplomatic partnership with China. A senior administration official said Monday that “we’re hopeful that there will be a willingness on the part of the Taliban to resume negotiations,” despite the intense fighting in Kunduz and elsewhere. Beijing’s involvement is a “new dynamic” and shows an instance where “U.S. interests overlap with those of China.”
In the process Ignatius illuminates the central paradox of a foreign policy at once rhetorically idealistic and exceedingly cynical. In this seeming contradiction is the key to the administration’s philosophy. There are no ordinary people in Obama’s calculus, only players of one sort or another. The fate of Afghanistan is to be Islamabad’s reward for agreeing to one of those “grand bargains” which lie at the end of every Obama rainbow. Ignatius explains how if the Pakistanis help him out they’ll be awarded regional power status.
The White House is also exploring what could be a diplomatic blockbuster: possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Such an accord might eventually open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was done with India in 2005….
Pakistan prizes its nuclear program, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it’s not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations that would be required. But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington Oct. 22. Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the U.S. detected Pakistan’s nuclear program in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998.
Conceptually the administration’s diplomacy is similar to brokering deals among criminal gangs. The key is for the Godfather to figure out who should control what so that a ‘natural order’ can established and all unnecessary internecine violence eliminated. The advantages of this approach must have seemed so self-evident to the president he chided Vladimir Putin on March, 2014 in a speech before the European Union, for not getting with the program.
Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future. …
And that’s why Russia’s violation of international law, its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, must be met with condemnation, not because we’re trying to keep Russia down, but because the principles that have meant so much to Europe and the world must be lifted up….
Understand as well this is not another Cold War that we’re entering into. After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology. … I believe that for both Ukraine and Russia, a stable peace will come through de-escalation, a direct dialogue between Russia and the government of Ukraine and the international community, monitors who can ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, a process of constitutional reform within Ukraine and free and fair elections this spring.
It was a speech that might have been creditably uttered by the head of the Five Families were it not marred as the Guardian notes in that it was delivered not by Vito Corleone but Mario of the Super Mario Brothers.