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Friday, October 01, 2004

John Kerry as negotiator

I've never owned a pair of striped pants; I've never been to, much less worked at, Foggy Bottom.  But for the last 24 years, people have paid me to be their champion and their advocate in lawsuits.  And although I've tried dozens and dozens of cases to a verdict — including "bet the company" cases in which my corporate clients' continued existence, and the personal careers of their decisionmakers, were on the line — nonetheless, the vast majority of the cases I've handled have ended not with a trial, but with a diplomatic solution, a negotiated compromise.  Negotiating with a wily adversary is a huge part of my daily professional life; and that perspective cannot help but affect the way I view politics and, in particular, foreign policy and diplomatic relations on the national and international scene.

So it was that watching last night's presidential debate between Sen. John F. Kerry and President George W. Bush, this line, from Sen. Kerry, jumped out at me (boldface added):

If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of [United Nations] resolution [sic], to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.

Oh, how I love to hear those exact words coming from my adversary across the bargaining table!

When I hear "How much more will it take?" and "What do you need?" coming from the mouth of my opponent, I know the case will settle on terms favorable to my client.  My opponent might as well have placed a large, blinking neon sign behind him that reads:  "I'm afraid to go to trial, and I'll do whatever it takes to avoid that risk."  He's just handed me his client's purse, invited me and my client to take what we want from it, and return it to him containing however little my client and I see fit.

Once my adversary has said those words — once he's revealed that he dares not fight, that he will, ultimately, compromise no matter how high the price — then they can't be unsaid.  No amount of previous or subsequent bluster will persuade me that my opponent and/or his client have the heart and the guts to risk seeing the case through to a verdict.

It matters little whether the person across the table is an implacable adversary (as, say, the North Koreans or the Iranians) or a sometimes-ally who nonetheless has potentially adverse interests and in any event will follow what it perceives to be its own self-interest (say, the French).  The answer to the question "How much more will it take?" is always — "Everything you've got to give, and more.  And more."

Posted by Beldar at 09:39 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), Trial Lawyer War Stories | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to John Kerry as negotiator and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» John Kerry as negotiator from The Pink Flamingo Bar Grill

Tracked on Oct 2, 2004 7:57:22 AM

» Post Debate Thoughts - Bush is Steadfast - Kerry Caters from bLogicus

Tracked on Oct 2, 2004 8:33:06 PM

» More debate debunk from Qur'an Project

Tracked on Oct 3, 2004 3:28:03 PM

» Beldar On Negotiations from Just Some Poor Schmuck

Tracked on Oct 3, 2004 6:20:08 PM

» Hewitt Symposium Question from EagleSpeak

Tracked on Oct 4, 2004 5:21:48 PM

» If you're considering Kerry..... from Media Lies

Tracked on Oct 4, 2004 6:10:08 PM

» Kerry on allies and would-be allies from Politicalities

Tracked on Oct 5, 2004 12:37:54 AM


(1) arb made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 9:45:14 PM | Permalink

John Kerry, the gift that keeps on giving...

(2) ctob made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:12:30 PM | Permalink

I don't have a great deal of experience in negotiating and I'm not particularly good at haggling. But I consider the subject of your post to be an obvious truth. It conveys weakness and I hope most people know bargaining from a position of weakness isn't good.

(3) gary made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:37:49 PM | Permalink

John Kerry using the Clinton style of negotiating with North Korea ...

"You can have anything you want, but that's my final offer."

(4) low26 made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:55:30 PM | Permalink

Excellent! My thoughts exactly but you put it so eloquently! Kerry will sell us all out and that is undeniable.

(5) Penny Silver made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 11:45:37 PM | Permalink

Great point. That's probably why France, Germany and Russia want Kerry to win. They'll be able to extract more concessions from us every time we sit down to negotiate.

(6) Dan made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 12:08:25 AM | Permalink

That stunned me, too when I heard it last night. I'm negotiating a small dollar problem between my company and another right now, before we go to court, hopefully, and I would love to hear that from them. But I didn't make that connection until reading your post.

What stunned me about it was how pathetic it looked. All I could think of was the US opening up it's purse strings, directly, or through sweet heart deals, to supposedly get an "ally." What kind of ally would you have? And isn't kut and run Kerry the one who was talking about a coalition of the coerced and the bribed? I guess that only applies if someone else does it. He is pathetic.

I felt worse about the debate last night than today. After Kerry's positions sunk in, I realized what a disaster he would be. And I hope enough people "get" that. One of my undecided reps was leaning Kerry today after the debate. But two hours to driving to a client site and I got him back in the fold. I was horse by the time we got back to the office. He said if I had been debating Kerry, I would have kicked his ass. But then what CAN he say - I sign his check!! ha ha ha

(7) Pottery Police made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 2:34:04 AM | Permalink

Kerry's Campaign owes Pottery Barn an apology for distributing bad information about their customer service policy. They quoted the mythical Pottery Barn Rule several times when spinning after the debate.

In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward quotes Colin Powell as advising the President on Iraq of The Pottery Barn Rule: You break it, you own it.

Pottery Barn was furious over this comment because this is NOT THEIR POLICY. Powell was forced to admit on several TV shows (ABC This Week), that there was no such policy at Pottery Barn.

(8) Peter Boston made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 4:39:06 AM | Permalink

I think that you're giving Kerry too much credit. His seeming obsession for French approval of American foreign policy (who knows, maybe domestic too), his stand on unilateral disarmament, his off-the-wall comment on subjecting defense posture to some "Global Test" suggests that Kerry views interntional relations as more collegial than adversarial. This guy is not only willing to give away the family farm but he'll remodel it to your specifications first.

(9) SteveWe made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 6:49:23 AM | Permalink

This is typical of Senators. It's how they scratch each other's backs to get their bill passed (though Kerry had damn few bills). It's also why Senators are seldom successful presidential candidates. May that be true again!

(10) Skip McRae made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 7:07:40 AM | Permalink

Someone once asked Jerry Spence, the noted trial attorney, "How do you manage to get those large judgements?". His reply was, "I ask for them".

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 8:28:33 AM | Permalink

Mr. McRae, if Spence was talking about "judgments" — as opposed to settlements — then presumably he was referring to asking juries for large awards in their verdicts (which the trial court then writes into a final judgment).

But Spence also settles lots of cases, and he does so on favorable terms precisely because of the credibility he has: During pretrial negotiations, when he expresses his and his client's willingness, indeed eagerness, to take the case to a jury, his opponents believe him because he has a demonstrated record of being willing to do exactly that. If the defendant has decided that under no circumstances can the case be allowed to go to a verdict, its counsel must keep that decision absolutely secret, and keep their game face firmly in place during negotiations, pretending convincingly that their client's equally willing, indeed eager, to go to take their case to a jury decision. If they don't — if they reveal or even telegraph their client's true position — Spence, or any good negotiator, will eat their lunch.

This is true, by the way, in all sorts of negotiating situations other than lawsuits. Deal lawyers use these same tactics — where the threat employed is to "walk the deal" (i.e., cease negotiations toward a contract that could be beneficial to both sides) instead of "going to the jury. Once one side communicates to the other that it has to make the deal, it's a certainty that it's going to pay a heavy price for that disclosure.

(12) Todd made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 10:55:36 AM | Permalink

Bill, that's a good point about Spence, and it makes a larger point about U.S. policy, to wit: unless the U.S. demonstrates a willingness to go to war on occasion to back up its demands, its threats won't have any credibility with our enemies. Speak softly, carry a big stick, and use it once in a while to keep 'em honest.

(13) Al made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 11:39:59 AM | Permalink

Todd, extend that to the UN.

-> Speak loudly, carry a very small stick, and promise to never use it on anyone that speaks decent French.

(14) Kathy made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 11:54:42 AM | Permalink

Kerry's debate performance passed the global test, but will it pass the American test? I doubt it.

(15) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 12:14:26 PM | Permalink

Real life blunder committed by an attorney for my adversary, to my attorney, who was threatening to go to court: "That's exactly what I want you to do."

Of course, if it had been true, he would have kept his mouth shut and allowed us to do so. We got a humiliatingly favorable, to us, settlement.

(16) Porcell made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 1:11:52 PM | Permalink

This statement of Kerrys about asking France, et al what they want at the U.N. is similar to his view of giving up our presently tough multilateral negotiations between the U.S.,China, Russia, South Korea and North Korea on the issue of nuclear weapons. Kim Il Jong fought for about a year for bilateral talks with the U.S. and Bush/Powell stiffed him.

Kerry, like Clinton, would be putty in Kim Il Jong's hands.

(17) David Blue made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 3:26:25 PM | Permalink

Two other problems.

First, Kerry is in effect making this offer only to obstreperous critics and hostile nominal allies. Trust me on this, the bitter envy of real allies who've practically given away what President Kerry would be buying dear would be like unto a faithful wife who discovers that her husband is spending all her money on prostitutes. Imagine Poland, which Kerry consistently forgot even after Bush reminded him of it, sending Kerry a bill he wouldn’t so easily forget.

Second, President Kerry wouldn't be able to pay his international and transnational creditors legitimately without control of the legislature, which he would not have.

This would get messy.

(18) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 5:02:28 PM | Permalink

You guys are making up spin here.

Kerry isn't talking about giving up multilateral talks. He's talking about having bilateral talks too. "If you give us what we want now, we won't call in China."

Of course, if the koreans decide that he's going to give them whatever they want and the bilateral talks break down, that's too bad but there isn't much wasted. We learn a little better just what they *do* want (as opposed to what's obvious to us that they ought to want) by listening to them before we say no. "We can't do that now, sorry. Maybe China will persuade us to give you that."

Agreed we have to sometimes go with our BATNA. And that isn't always outright war, but sometimes it will be.

I think Clinton had too much of a need to get agreements. NOrth korea is one example, israel is another. It's an awful thing to have no BATNA in mind. On the other hand, Reagan lost big by making his secret agreement about iranian hostages. Between that and Iran/Contra he was open to far too much blackmail.

And Bush lost big by being unwilling to negotiate with Saddam. Once we were nearly ready to invade, if Bush had called Saddam and asked, "How much money would you want, to sell iraq to me? You can take the money along with all the other money you've already put in swiss accounts and go to Paris or wherever. I won't have you killed. All completely public, I'd look bad if I broke the agreement. What do you say? How about a solid one billion dollars to split with whoever you need to make the deal go through?"

If Saddam gets greedy and insists on three billion dollars when his alternative is to see his country get shot up and wind up in a cage himself, that's *fine*. We use up no cruise missiles, no PGMs, probably take a hundred or more fewer casualties. We get a formal surrender. Saddam is utterly discredited as somebody who sold his country for $3 billion instead of fighting. Essentially no collateral damage. Essentially no iraqi casualties for them to have hard feelings over. The invasion would be *much* cheaper.

And if Saddam doesn't go along, then we go back to Plan A.

But I'm reasonably sure Bush didn't even think of it.

(19) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 5:48:53 PM | Permalink

J Thomas, thank you for your civil and articulate comment. But with due respect, I think you're hopelessly naive.

Three billion dollars wouldn't have bought off Saddam, nor would thirty, nor would three hundred. He had more money than he could spend in ten lifetimes, but still didn't cut and run, even after his government was toppled and US tanks were in the center of Baghdad. Bush did give him and his sons a chance to flee — that was the final ultimatum that preceeded the beginning of combat. But remember where they found him? Not on the French Riviera, but in a spider hole. Saddam still thinks he's the President of Iraq. Do you?

No sir, with due respect, Saddam was not someone with whom we could bargain. We tried that, but he lived up to none of the agreements in the cease-fire that ended the Gulf War. He literally broke those agreements every day for over ten years; it's frankly amazing that he never managed to shoot down a US or British aircraft patroling the no-fly zones, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Read Tommy Franks' American Soldier (beginning at page 142) where he describes his daily ritual of beginning each day by listing on one side of a 3x5" index card the five biggest challenges he expected that he might have to face that day, and on the other, the five biggest opportunities. The whole time he commanded Centcom until Saddam was gone, the loss of an American or British aircraft was always on the list of potential catastrophes he expected to face, every day.

Even if it could have worked, "buying him off," whether with cash or other inducements, would also have sent all the wrong signals to everyone else in the world. Bush might as well have changed his name to Neville Chamberlain.

Anyone who thinks the six-way Korean talks can proceed simultaneously with direct US-NK negotiations is living in a dreamworld. The reason the talks are stalled at the moment is that the North Koreans are hoping they'll get to deal with Richard Holbrooke come the end of next January instead of Colin Powell. They fully expect that if Kerry's elected, they'll be able to extort some incredibly wonderful "settlement" from the US that will allow them to thumb their noses at China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea; and the mullahs in Iran have pretty much the same hope and expectation. The awful thing is, I'm pretty sure they're both right in their estimations of what a Kerry victory would mean. For that matter, I wouldn't be surprised to see Libya suddenly begin to retrench if Kerry wins.

Kerry waffled on whether he'd ever use "pre-emptive force" for anything less than an "imminent threat" in the debate Thursday night. But his SecState-apparent, Holbrooke, has announced in no uncertain terms that a Kerry administration will repeal the Bush Doctrine and return to the notion of keeping terrorist-supporting states "in their boxes." You know, the way the Clinton administration (and, in fairness, the Bush-43 administration pre-9/11) treated the Taliban.

Finally, I'm reasonably sure you're wrong that Bush didn't at least think of the appeasement strategy you've outlined as an option with respect to Saddam's Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. But it took him less than thirty seconds to reject it as a ridiculous idea.

My friend, I'm afraid you're living with Garrison Keiller in Lake Woebegon. Or, as Lileks put it yesterday:

I’d really like to live in John Kerry’s world. It seems like such a rational, sensible place, where handshakes and signatures have the power to change the face of the planet. If only the terrorists lived there as well.

The bad guys really, really love to capture folks who argue for appeasement, you know. Makes great video — before the beheading.

(20) Porcell made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 6:48:13 PM | Permalink

Beldar's retort to J Thomas's very civil post is close to brilliant. The sad fact is that in the real world weakness often yields war, while strength may yield peace. Churchill argued cogently that World War II would have been unnecessary had England, France, and the U.S. stood up to Hitler in the thirties.

Anyone seriously interested in this subject should read Donald Kagan's book *On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace* Kagan was a professor of history at Yale whose basic theme is that, like dealing with the schoolyard bully, nations must clearly and decisively be strong in order to preserve any sort of peace.

(21) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 2, 2004 11:26:40 PM | Permalink

Beldar, you could be right.

However, Saddam could not cut and run without a guarantee of his personal safety. Say he had fifty billion dollars in swiss banks and he fled to france, is that enough to protect him from us, if we chose to go after him? Hardly. The point for him would be to actually get away safe, and the point for us would be to give him a token payment and show the world he'd sold out. Bush didn't offer him that. Bush offered to let him surrender to save his country. Something different.

Maybe he wouldn't have sold out -- but we wouldn't know until we tried. We had nothing to lose by making the offer.

And what signal would it give to other dictators? That they might be able to sell their countries to us? What's wrong with that? It gives me a little warm glow to think of Pinochet on trial, but what good would it do anybody? We've already seen that these guys aren't deterred at all by the chance that they'll lose someday. Each of them takes the daily risk that they'll get deposed and executed today. Buying them off may sometimes be the cheapest way to start toward a democratic government, and we don't have to buy off any we don't want to. Do a good job with a couple of new american territories, and that sends a *great* signal to the rest of the world. Get sold to us, we help you set up a democracy, then you can head toward independence, or toward american statehood, or hover somewhere inbetween. A few successes at that and we won't have much trouble with insurgencies in places we take over. Of course, the UN would take a dim view of us taking over other countries and maybe keeping them as american states. But who really cares?

As for stalled talks, of *course* talks will be stalled if they don't know who'll be president. If they negotiate and aren't done by the handover they might have to start over.

And why would iran or north korea want negotiations to go quickly? Iran sure wouldn't, the longer they can put it off the more nukes they'll have. Handy if the talks fail. If NK hopes for some great reward then they'd want it sooner than later, but what are the chances? In both cases *of course* they'd rather have Kerry. Bush called them Axis of Evil. Would *you* rush to make a deal with somebody like that when you might have an alternative?

A short additional time stalling the korean many-side talks is no problem while we explore things with NK -- provided we don't let it go on too long. If they offer us a verifiable deal better than we can expect from multilateral talks, that's great. Otherwise, go with multilateral talks. Show them right away that we aren't Clinton. It hurts nothing for us to say no and walk away from bilateral talks. A firm no with nobody else involved, and we lose a little time -- we decide how much.

No problem here unless we pull a Clinton, which you think Kerry would do and I think he wouldn't. Clinton thought he needed diplomatic victories to bring home and show to the public. Would Kerry think that? Did it really do Clinton much good.... I don't think Kerry would do that, but I could be wrong. I'll watch how he negotiates with Bush. Hmm. He did seem to back down a lot about the debates, but then it looks like he let Bush push him into things that turned out to be good for Kerry and bad for Bush. Hard to say. I'll keep looking.

I don't see that I was suggesting any sort of appeasement. If Saddam gives us his country without a shot fired, and he winds up in our custody to be freed into exile later (with the public announcement of the deal so we look bad if we welsh on it, and his honorable friend the king of Jordan backing it up), how is that us appeasing him? He winds up publicly discredited and no longer a politician or a ruler. It isn't an unconditional surrender, but how much is it worth to dig him out of a spider hole and put him on trial?

We couldn't use that approach in iran because the ayatollahs definitely won't sell out to have perverted french sex. It could be tried in NK, no harm trying.

Assad in syria might want a democracy -- he seemed to, though maybe it was spin -- but his supporters don't and he can't alienate them too much. Syria isn't much of a threat to anybody, and we can afford to wait awhile for them to head toward democracy on their own if we think it might work. They *have* democratic institutions, just they've been superceded for 40 years. Assad gets elected every 7 years with 99.5%, his party is guaranteed half the seats, that kind of thing. If we ask our experts on syria for ways to get syria to liberalise without starting a bloody insurrection, they might have ideas. I doubt it would work to buy the country from Assad, he hasn't been in charge for very long and a shadowy group of his father's people is mostly running things.

(Are you plagued with rude crackpots? Condolences if so.)

(22) Thomas J. Jackson made the following comment | Oct 3, 2004 8:21:52 PM | Permalink

I do have extensive experience with the US State Dept and the basic game plan is that any agreement is worth a promotion no matter how bad the terms. Kerry is aided by many in the cookie pusher brigade, in fact Foggie bottom is a nest of Kerryites. Any individual who believes he can negotiate with the North Koreans on terms other than you exist at my whim, is someone I'd like to meet in court.

(23) teethgrinder made the following comment | Oct 3, 2004 8:37:31 PM | Permalink

You lost me on this one - are you talking about Kerry or Carter?

(24) Josh Narins made the following comment | Oct 3, 2004 10:13:03 PM | Permalink

Beldar, you seem hopelessly ignorant, if you don't happen to be naive.
Why should we have been bargaining with Saddam Hussein al-Majid at all?

We put sanctions on him for not turning over weapons he didn't have. He didn't even have the _notes_ to his nuclear program anymore, even though Scott Ritter thought that was all he had left.

The UN disarmed Iraq before 1995, and the sanctions were still in place, eight years later.

The Kurds have had their own rule of law until the US invasion.

Why would we negotiate with al-Majid? Why would we have to buy him off? So he would do what? Stop imposing sanctions on himself?

By the way, the US considered buying Cuba, instead of entering the Spanish-American War (a war of choice, and no one cheered when our troops came home from the Phillipines). President Stephen Grover Cleveland talked about buying Cuba in his last State of the Union.

Cleveland knew the war was no good. Corporate whore McKinley, and his money-machine campaign manager Hanna (to whom Rove has compared himself with, on repeated occasions) got America into that war.

There was no _need_ to go into Iraq. 10s of thousands of Iraqis have died for it. Some of them, sure, would have been happy to lay down their lives for a free Iraq, but what they got instead was an open-ended US occupation combined with a CIA-asset as Prime Minister.

(as an aside, CIA assets are getting elected in places like Georgia (Shaskavili) on the cheap nowadays. Who just won in Slovenia?)

And, if you are _so_ deadset against appeasement, what is going on in North Korea, except that? It's been almost four years, and North Korea has officially done _nothing_ for us.

Perhaps Bush should have some brains, and not repeatedly send the discredited Mr. Kelly to six-party talks. Kelly has about the reputation,in North Korea, of John Negroponte (our Ambassador in Iraq, and former Iran-Contra figure) has in Nicaragua.

Can you say Kelly and "secret Taiwanese slush funds?" Can you say it and also "good diplomatic move" in the same sentence? How does Kelly getting called "arrogant and high-handed," and us sending him back, over and over, work for you?

I don't think you've ever asked yourself, and this is a most serious question, why a Republic should go to war.

I am quite sure it isn't on a go-it-alone mission to enforce an international bodies resolutions.

I am quite sure it isn't for profit.

And it certainly isn't to avenge your daddy.

(25) ATM made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 12:27:02 AM | Permalink

I'm sure the notes for the nuclear program do still exist. After all parts from the nuclear program were stashed away. The likelihood that he would be able to reestablish the nuclear program his fairly high in the absence of sanctions. The sanctions depend on British and US enforcement. Enforcing sanctions and containing Iraq made the US a terrorist target. The cost of containment became to high on 9/11 for just containment. Given the likelihood of reestablishment of a nuclear program, the only reasonable option once you have paid such a high price for maintaining the status quo and expect to continue being hit for maintaining the status quo.

(26) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 8:31:55 AM | Permalink

Josh, I'm not sure I got all your points. Let me see if I got some of them:

1. Say the sanctions stopped, would the inspections stop too? If the inspections kept going and we found he was doing nukes again then we could re-introduce sanctions or do an invasion then. So we didn't need to invade now. If he threw out the inspectors we could do sanctions or invasion then. Is that the gist of your first idea? You're implying that Bush's stated reason to invade iraq, to prevent Saddam from getting nukes, was bogus?

2. You say that Bush has incompetently handled the negotiations with north korea, particularly by sending Kelly to negotiate.

Are those your central points?

I think any reasonable person would disagree with the first implication. But we already know that the Bush administration only pushed WMDs because they thought it would get the best public response. They have announced many reasons they thought might get good public responses since then. We have to accept that they'll say whatever they think we want to hear to justify the war, and we might as well ignore their public justifications.

So the real question would be, do we think it was a good idea given everything we know about it? There could be valid benefits to the war that Bush can't admit because government leaders are supposed to be hypocritical. We have to accept that he's lying about why he did it. The important thing is whether he did the right thing, independent of what he said.

I agree that we could have put off the invasion. Without sanctions he could have built up his military some, and possibly made the invasion a little more expensive for us. It would have taken him a long time to make that matter. He knew we could get his tanks on the first shot so he used them only behind embankments, and we still got them on the first shot. His air force had no chance. There would be little risk in putting off the war for a few years, but if we put it off more than 3 years Bush probably wouldn't be president when it happened.

About NK, I don't see that we have any good choices. Us negotiating with NK to get rid of their nukes is a lot like china negotiating with israel to get rid of their nukes.

We can make offers and we can make threats. China could make better offers and better threats, and they don't. We could threaten NK with a full blockade by the US Navy and the japanese navy. But most of their trade comes through china anyway, and they're already under sanctions. How much difference would it make?

We can threaten NK with war. If it came to war NK could kill most of the population of Seoul with chemical weapons. They could nuke our staging areas in SK, maybe nuke japan or the US. Are we really going to risk nuclear war to keep NK from waging nuclear war? And would china go along? If china told us to lay off of their client state in their hip pocket, would we still wage nuclear war? I doubt NK will take that threat seriously, unless china is on our side.

(I note that the US army has rethought it. We used to have our troops at the DMZ to show north korea that if they invade they can't do it without attacking us and bringing us into the war. Now we've moved a lot of those troops far enough south to avoid the first engagement. If NK makes a surprise strike with chemical weapons, everybody on the front lines will be dead or captured. We do better politically to lose *some* troops and still have a fighting force, than to lose them *all* and have the enraged american public not sure whether to nuke or just froth, but sure we don't want to send more ground troops. If there's still a US fighting force in SK we have to support them.)

Of *course* Bush has stalled talks. There's nothing he can do. He can keep having stalled talks, or he can admit defeat, or he can get a fake agreement. Maybe something like Clinton did -- we promise the north koreans we'll do something nice for them and they promise to give up their nukes. It looks to the american public like something has happened. Then the NKs don't give up their nukes and we don't do the nice things we promised and it's just like having stalled talks except the president gets a temporary publicity boost.

North korea is firmly in china's sphere of influence and Bush doesn't want to admit it. And neither does Kerry, in an election year. But unless we can somehow get china to support us, NK is going to have nukes.

Just like israel.

(27) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 8:36:36 AM | Permalink

Oops, I was changing grammar and left it wrong. That should be

"I think any reasonable person would agree with the first implication." Of course the nukes weren't particularly why we invaded iraq. And it doesn't matter at all unless you have something against an american president lying to the american people -- which is the status quo, right?

(28) LazyMF made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 10:18:10 AM | Permalink

Apples and Oranges.

I don't think diplomatic negotiations can be equated with legal negotiations. The substantial difference is in legal negotiations the dispute can progress to a resolution if you impasse (there is always a court or arbitrator waiting there to resolve the dispute if the parties don't want to).

In diplomatic negotiations the dispute will continue to fester (or, in some cases, die a natural death) if an agreement is not reached. The people at the bargaining table know they will get something in diplomatic negotiations. Legal negotiators know they risk a zero-sum outcome if they impasse.

Beldar, like you I have been through many mediations in a legal context. When you have a wombat on the other side, you can just walk and let the problem take care of itself later at the courthouse.

I felt sorry for the diplomatic mediators that worked on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute during the Clinton administration. They worked with Arafat to get his settlement parameters, then worked their butts off to get the concessions from the Israelis. When the Israelis conceded 90%, Arafat rejected what he had previously asked for. At that point the mediators threw up their hands, knowing they had a womabt to deal with and an impasse was inevitable. No resolution in sight other than waiting for Arafat to lose power.

Now, you can criticize the diplomatic negotiations process itself (for giving away things when a hard-line approach may be more appropriate), or you can criticize the negotiators for having alterior promotion motives (as a commentor did above), but I feel it is unfair to impute negotiating weakness and ineptitude on Kerry the way you have when he was referring only to a diplomatic context of coalition building.

(29) holdfast made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 4:25:42 PM | Permalink

J. Thomas:

And how exactly would Saddam spend his $5 Billion dollars? Do ya think that any of it might end up in the hands of terrorists? And how would we stop this - I know, we'll start a UN program called "Cash for Saddam" and then Saddam can request that he be allowed to purchase items, and the UN will have to sign off on the purchases, and they'll inspect his purchases (for a very reasonably 5% fee) and then he'll never be able to do bad thins with the money.

Saddam's continued existence as a breathing member of homo sapiens was proof for all that wanted it that US threats were not to be taken seriously. Deposing him was mere recification rather than a true victory, but necessary nonetheless. Had he been allowed to walk, the world would know that the US had no BATNA.

(30) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 11:25:33 PM | Permalink

Holdfast, how much of Saddam's billions outside iraq do you think has gone to terrorists as it is? Do you think it would be worse if Saddam officially sold out?

We were fine with Marcos walking (rather, riding off in a US ship). We were OK with Idi Amin walking. We were a little embarrassed at the Shah of iran walking, but luckily he got a massive cancer immediately and died. We had no particular problem with Batista walking, or Duvalier, or a whole host of tinpot dictators who ran away from popular revolutions. Why should it bother us to let Saddam go after he publicly discredits himself?

It's just as effective for us if iraqi newspapers publish pictures of Saddam basking on the riviera as to show them pictures of Saddam in jail. More effective.

Where it fails is with US voters. We figured Saddam was the bad guy, the enemy, and we wanted to see him punished. Maybe ideal would be to run him over with a tank and have to identify his DNA from a gobbet of flesh scooped out of a divot. Better yet if we could televise him trying to run away while we shoot at him, and the mortar shells keep missing and he's zigzagging and finally just before he falls down exhausted we get him with a napalm strike or a flamethrower. Handing him over to the iraqis isn't all that good, they look like they're maybe afraid to kill him.

The USA doesn't make anybody think we have no BATNA if we give Saddam an offer he can't refuse. He can accept and we do it the easy way, or he can decline and we do it the hard way and get just about what we actually got. The only ones it looks bad to are US voters. Saddam was the fox in our fox hunt and we wanted to see him torn apart.

(Incidentally, say Saddam flew off and the iraqis got it to gether to sue for what he stole from them, could they win? The whole thing falls apart if he'd inevitably go to trial for war crimes. If he was going to die unless he owned a nation, then he'd hold onto that nation with a death-grip. But if they might successfully sue for all but the stipend we gave him, the odd extra billion would make a big difference to him. I'm real unclear about international law on such things. Would swiss banks etc cooperate for something like that? I read that the swiss bankers recently took all the money that was left by jews who died in WWII death camps or otherwise disappeared around that time, and gave it to the israeli government, an entity that none of those people had ever heard of. Would they give some of Saddam's money to iraq?)

(31) vader made the following comment | Oct 4, 2004 11:50:48 PM | Permalink

You kind of missed the point. Kerry isn't the clumsy lawyer with rotten negotiating skills who lets slip that his client can be taken for all he is worth. He's the sleazy lawyer working on volume whose only interest is settling the case as fast as possible so he can collect his fee.

(32) holdfast made the following comment | Oct 5, 2004 10:44:39 AM | Permalink

Um, the US never went to war with Marcos, Idi Amin, the Shah, Batista or Duvalier, they were, with the exception of Amin, our bad guys, mores the pity.

On the other hand the US (under UN auspices, but who really cares) went to war with Iraq in 1991, a war which ended with a ceasefire imposing certain terms on Iraq (no-fly zones, WMD inspections, limits on missile technology etc). Iraq spent the next 12 years violating almost all of those terms, essentially thumbing his nose at the US (and the UN, but again who cares; the UN certainly doesn't, they only care about vilations by Israel). Saddam demonstrated daily that the US did not have the will or the cojones to enforce the terms of the ceasefire. He was convinced that the French, Russians, Chinese and others would protect him in the UNSC (he was right) and that the US wouldn't move without UNSC approval (he was right before he was wrong). All this talk of finding or not finding WMD is so much Fanco-Demo-Leftie-MSM-Blix ("FDLMB") BS. The US/UN was never required to demonstrate that Iraq had WMD; rather Iraq was required to prove, through comprehensive, unhindered inspections, that it did not. Legally the burden was firmly on the Iraqis, though over the last 2 years the aforementioned FDLMB has managed convince the bulk of the public that the burden was the opposite. Again, Iraq was not in violation of the UN resolutions and the ceasefire because it had WMD (though every major intelligence agency thought that it did); it was in violation for failure to cooperate with the inspections.

My, admittedly limited understanding of international law (only took the intro course; highest mark in hte class) is that if an armed conflict ends via a ceasefire, and one party to the ceasefire subsequently chooses to violate its terms, then the non-breaching party may consider the conflict re-started. Thus the US needed no more authority at international law than Saddam's failure to abide by the ceaefire ending the first Gulf War.

By tolerating Saddam's: games with the inspectors; ongoing WMD research (though, apparently, no production;) ongoing long-range missile development in violation of UN rules (demonstrated on the first day of the war); illegal oil sales (aided and abbetted by those charged with enforcing the sanctions regime); ongoing ethnic-cleansing efforts in Kurdistan; and continued attacks on US and UK aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone, the US was losing all credibility. How can you "deter" or "contain" a regime like Saddam's when it knows (because it has seen) that America lacks the will to fight? The sanctions were leaking like a seive, and there was no will in the UNSC to tighten or extend them - rather France, Russia and China had already acted to weaken them to the point tha the oil-for-food program became the oil-for-pretty-much-anything (or oil-for-palaces) program and the France et al was working to remove the sanctions all together. Meanwhile, though the sanctions weren't restricting Saddam's shopping habbits, they were, due to manipulation by Saddam, causing the deaths of thousands of kids each year (though certainly not the wildly exagerated 50k figure trotted out by the left).

The whole situation was not only intolerable,it was literally unsustainable, and nobody, certainly not John F'n Kerry has offered a credible alternative solution. Again, arguing for the 2002 status quo is really no argument, since that situation simply could not be maintained. Saddam could not be kept in his "box", since his friends on the UNSC were preparing to spring him, and were not going to heed US requests to do otherwise.

(33) J Thomas made the following comment | Oct 5, 2004 2:39:32 PM | Permalink

Um, the US never went to war with Marcos, Idi Amin, the Shah, Batista or Duvalier, they were, with the exception of Amin, our bad guys, mores the pity.

Saddam was our guy in the '80's. We cut him loose after he stopped fighting iran.

The US/UN was never required to demonstrate that Iraq had WMD; rather Iraq was required to prove, through comprehensive, unhindered inspections, that it did not.

Iraq did that. Saddam did throw out the inspectors when the US inspectors were too blatant about going to sites that were probably not nuclear sites and taking GSP readings so we could bomb those sites easier. Of course they were spies but maybe they should have been a bit less blatant about it. He let in the inspectors again when they agreed not to be american spies. So our spies in other nations spots kept spying for us.

Again, Iraq was not in violation of the UN resolutions and the ceasefire because it had WMD (though every major intelligence agency thought that it did); it was in violation for failure to cooperate with the inspections.

Well, no. They *were* cooperating with the inspections. The inspections were finding no WMDs, probably because there were no WMDs. The inspectors hadn't finished the job but they thought they could finish it, and Bush told them to leave or be bombed.

I agree that the situation was unsustainable. We couldn't sustain the sanctions. We could sustain the inspections. Whether he'd try for nukes again and get caught would be up to him, what happened after he got caught would be up to us. His army would be stronger at that point; we'd be in a better moral position and possibly have a little international support. If we'd put our efforts into afghanistan in the meantime we might possibly have that one settled and the international troops who're there now might be available. More likely not. Assuming Saddam made another try at nukes, we might wind up with something similar to what we have now. But later, and more international approval for whatever that's worth.

The whole situation was not only intolerable,it was literally unsustainable, and nobody, certainly not John F'n Kerry has offered a credible alternative solution.

Wait, I did. But as far as I know I'm the only one. And mine might have collapsed into something similar to what we have, it's only a possible path and not a guaranteed sure thing. "The enemy gets a vote." Get the enemy in a trap and give them a single line of retreat and maybe they'll take it, but maybe they'll choose to stay in the trap and fight.

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