Clinton will prioritize diplomacy

Published 10:29 am Friday, July 15, 2016

Why do we talk to our enemies?

In a presidential election year it is certainly relevant to consider the contending candidate’s views and personal history on diplomacy, particularly given America’s recent history. During the first administration of President George W. Bush, America largely operated independently of the actions and decisions of our friends around the world. Bush, not known to speak in nuances, once said, “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.”

The term “Cowboy Diplomacy” was often used by Bush’s critics to describe his overly simplistic, dichotomous approach to world problems. This diplomatic approach brought with it the war in Iraq and the unsettling consequences that have followed that decision.

Email newsletter signup

While the Bush administration will never be remembered for its use of diplomacy, the administration of President Barack Obama has fully embraced the utilitarian view that all those who stand to benefit from a diplomatic policy should be engaged in the diplomatic process. Perhaps the most well-known example of this use of diplomacy was that which led to the Iranian nuclear agreement of 2015. The group of interested parties included the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China) with the addition of Germany. This group was known as the P5+1.

Crucial to the negotiations with Iran to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, was the foundation laid years earlier by diplomacy involving several of the participants in the final discussions.

With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading, the Western nations placed severe economic, trade, and financial sanctions on Iran in order to bring Iran to the bargaining table. While Israel and American critics argued that the sanctions were not successful, when offered the opportunity to discuss the issue of sanction release in exchange for an end to nuclear ambitions, Iran agreed to meet.

There is little doubt that, without the sanctions that crippled Iran’s economy and greatly reduced oil exports, Iran would not have been open to discuss anything with its enemy, the United States. So it was with this background that diplomacy aimed at granting Iran access to world markets in exchange for an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions brought participants to lengthy discussions, long meetings, moments when compromise seemed impossible, and, ultimately, to agreement.

In January of 2016, the IAEA certified that Iran was in compliance with the agreement, resulting in the release of Iranian assets, oil revenues, and cash in banks around the globe. The estimated total of the unfrozen Iranian assets was $100 billion dollars.

So how did this example of diplomacy succeed? Like most diplomacy, no one is completely satisfied, yet all continue to cooperate with the basic agreement. Perceptions of the overall outcomes include:

• Iran remains a sponsor of terror in the Middle East.

• Iran has tested missiles capable of delivering warheads including nuclear content, in violation of the intent of the agreement. This has resulted in new sanctions by the U.S.

• The rush to nuclear armament in Iran has been greatly diminished, making the very volatile Middle East, and our partner Israel, safer.

• Iranian oil sales have greatly increased, keeping world oil prices and American gas prices low.

• The Iranians and the U.S. have found themselves on the same side fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

• Boeing has agreed to sell as many as 100 airplanes to Iran, creating real economic gain for the U.S. based company.

In short, American diplomacy has brought mixed results, but far better results than war.

Hillary Clinton was a crucial contributor to setting the stage for this success. From this, it is fair to argue that Clinton will seek diplomacy before war, a policy most Americans would embrace after decades of war.

Donald Trump, in true Cowboy Diplomacy, would cancel the Iranian deal, build a wall separating the U.S. from its third largest trading partner, threaten to end NATO, and consider spreading nuclear weapons to more nations.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.