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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just an observation

Has anyone else noticed that most civilized countries don't list any designated 'negotiators' among their dignitaries? Last time I checked, none of the EU members, the U.S., nor any top tier Asian nations lists among their top political echelon anyone described as a 'negotiator'.

Yet if you look at the countries and entities who seem to have appointed themselves as designated thorns in the side of civilization, each of them has several prominently placed 'negotiators' listed on their letterhead.

For example, the Palestinian Authority has the perpetually shrill Saeb Erikat as their chief negotiator, the North Koreans have Kim Kye-gwan named as their chief nuclear negotiator and the Iranians have Saeed Jalili, installed as their top nuclear negotiator.

Doesn't it seem just the tiniest bit odd that these entities profess a desire for nothing more than peaceful coexistence yet seem to have mounted what amounts to pre-emptive defense strategies, complete with designated council, designed to block all attempts at indictment?

These oleaginous negotiators are invited by the world to sit smugly at polished conference tables wearing bespoke suits and sipping mineral water while playing us for the fools that we apparently are. Their intention seems to be to use the trappings of diplomacy to the same ends that the PLO, Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof Gang used grenades, AK-47s and hijacked passenger airliners back in the '70s.

In short, while they seem to have climbed a few rungs up the sartorial ladder and mastered the mind-numbing language of diplomacy, these self-described 'negotiators' seem to be nothing more than the same old practitioners of extortion, writ large.

Instead of doing their negotiating via angry communiqués handed out of hijacked airplane cockpits or published in left-wing Italian newspapers, they now deliver their ultimatums across polished conference tables in blasé Oxford-accented tones.

I know from looking back over this essay that I must sound like some 'old-money' country club snob who doesn't much like the idea of having to share his pristine fairways and greens with nouveau riche refugees from the public links. And I have to admit that there may just be a tiny bit of that in my present discomfort.

But by the same token, membership in this country club known as the family of civilized nations does come with a rather significant initiation fee. That fee is called conformity to the norms of civilized behavior… and one shouldn't be allowed into the club without paying it.

The population of North Korea would quite literally starve to death if the world didn't routinely step in with hand-outs. Yet over the course of the past two decades their own government has invested a staggering amount of money and resources in a nuclear program that has been proved to be military in nature. Now that they have the bomb, their negotiators sit smugly across from the world and ask calmly, 'What will you give us not to use it… or give it away?'

Iran is the world's fourth largest producer of crude oil and has the second largest reserves of natural gas… yet their 'negotiators' sit poker-faced at the negotiating table daring us to refute their claim that they need nuclear power to provide their developing nation with electricity. And all the while, as their well-dressed negotiators offer to consider responding (at some future date) to ever-tastier concessions and offers from the world, their leadership crows to the press about each new milestone in uranium enrichment... a program that can only be leading towards the development of nuclear weapons. And like the North Koreans, the Iranians require that the world simply take their word for any present or future compliance.

And the Palestinians… what of the Palestinians? They have raised 'negotiating for the sake of negotiating' to an art form. They have been offered sweeter deals than they had any right to expect… several times over. Yet each time they have come up with ever-greater (and unreasonable) demands.

At Camp David in 2000, Ehud Barak decided to do what many Israeli leaders have only dreamed of doing: He offered the Palestinians 97% of the land they had been demanding, and threw in a 3% make-up of sovereign Israeli lands to balance the difference. He offered them East Jerusalem as their capital and control of Judaism's holiest site; the Temple Mount.

Barak offered them all this (presumably) based on the assumption that if they turned him down the world would finally have to admit that even their stated goal of statehood is not enough… and that nothing short of Israel's destructions would end the negotiations for the Palestinians. Their response to Baraks generous offer was the second (Al Aksa) Intifada which has continued, for all intents an purposes, to this day.

So getting back to the semi-official role of 'negotiator' among the thug-ocracies of the world, any thinking person is required to ask some unpleasantly direct questions:

- What, exactly, are they negotiating?

- Are their demands reasonable (especially in light of the price for not granting them)?

- Will giving in to their demands bring peace and stability to the region/world… or will it only create more demands?

- If any, or all, of the demands are met, is their any way of turning back the clock in the event that the entities represented by these 'negotiators' fail to live up to their end of the bargain(s)?


Just an observation on my part (so take it for what it's worth)… but when a country or political entity 'lawyers up' and begins trying to negotiate a sweet deal before it has crossed anyone's mind that charges should be brought… it should serve as a flashing neon sign that someone is up to no good.

Posted by David Bogner on July 27, 2008 | Permalink


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In other words, Mr Barak stopped treating the Palestinians as children, giving them pocket money for good behaviour a la Bibi, and showed the world how the Palestinians behave should anyone try to treat them as grown-ups.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Barak (who by the way ceded no territory unlike his predecessor).

Posted by: asher | Jul 27, 2008 2:09:25 PM

and by the way, who negotiated such things as SALT and START I, not to mention the Versailles conference, the Lausanne conference or even the Rhodes conference and Camp David and Sharm EsSheikh? That's right - negotiators!

Posted by: asher | Jul 27, 2008 2:22:18 PM

I would reckon that everyone knows by now, but if you don't, be prepared to shed a tear. Randy Pausch has passed away, and will forever be 47 years ageless.
Yihe Zichro Baruch

Posted by: asher | Jul 28, 2008 11:59:21 AM

Your phrase "lawyers up" really hits the nail on the head. Think of the Middle East situation as a gigantic episode of "Law & Order." The "rogue nations" and terrorist entities are the defendants. The "negotiators" are the lawyers who know their clients are guilty, and jump through every legal loophole in the book to get them off. The judges are the cynical State Department types who let the negotiators get away with it. The jury is world opinion. And the only real difference is that in "Middle East Law & Order", the victim is always declared guilty.

Posted by: psachya | Jul 28, 2008 4:40:44 PM

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