The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Big Stick

Two events occurred over the past few days that should give pause to anyone who believes that negotiation—and negotiation alone—is the way to handle terrorist regimes and to control their actions.

For six years Columbia (under past leadership) attempted to negotiate the release of 16 hostages, including three Americans, who were kidnapped and held by FARC, a Marxist group dedicated to the overthrow of the Columbian government. Didn’t work, so the current Columbian government under President Alvaro Uribe decided to act instead of talk.

The BBCBBC reports:
It has been hailed by Colombian authorities as "an unprecedented operation that will go down in history for its audacity and effectiveness".

Gen Freddy Padilla, the army's commander-in-chief, said Colombia had managed to penetrate "the highest level" of Farc's seven-member secretariat - its most senior governing body.

Intelligence operatives had also infiltrated the cell of rebels led by the man known as "Cesar", who were holding the 15 hostages.

Operation Check - as in "checkmate" - came after months of information gathering and preparation.

An aggressive intelligence and military operation with all of its attendant risks—not negotiation— lead to the release of the hostages.

A few days ago, the Jerusalem Post reported:
Iran expressed readiness to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for lifting the international sanctions imposed on it, Israel's Channel 2 senior analyst Ehud Ya'ari revealed

He cited unnamed Western officials as the source of the new development.

In the newly formulated deal, incentives were also reportedly discussed, including rebuilding Iran's fleet of aircraft and aiding the country with civilian nuclear technology.

According to the report, an initial six-week trial period would be implemented.

It seems interesting that Israel’s significant military exercises over the Mediterranian and the US Navy’s less than conciliatory comment that any attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz would be considered an act of war have gotten the Mad Mullahs attention. Recall that almost four years of negotiation yielded nothing, but 100 planes performing exercises over the ocean, Israeli sources suggesting that an attack was in the offing, and US commanders backing them in an indirect way seemed to accomplish what talking alone could not.

Knowing the duplicity of the Iranians, any agreement will likely fall apart, but the threat of action against them remains, and apparently it is having an effect.

Those who support Barack Obama’s contention that talking to your enemies is the solution to our problems should keep one image in mind.

You need a very big stick that sits just behind you at the conference table. You don’t necessarily have to use it, but your foe must believe in his gut that you will. Only then, can progress be made.

Will Barack Obama be willing to mount a risky military operation (like Columbia’s) after talks fail, or will he be Carteresque, looking to reduce risk to zero. Would he be frozen by inaction or worse, preside over a military debacle because he views the exercise of power as somehow inappropriate in the post-modern world? No one knows, but there’s absolutely nothing in Obama's limited experience, his thin record, or his rhetoric that would indicate that he would act in a manner similar to Columbia’s President Alvaro Uribe.

And when negotiation does occur, would Barack Obama ensure that the big stick would always sit behind the table? Don’t bet on it.