Re-inventing The Wheel: Foreign Affairs
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday August 4, 2010
Much of foreign affairs is about re-inventing the wheel. The same can be said about much of politics, in general. One has to ask why people appointed and elected to important office feel the need to re-try what others have tried before them - and expect a different, improved, outcome.
In foreign affairs creativity and outside-the-box thinking just don't cut it. That's unfortunate.
The approach of the current White House towards Iran is the perfect example of re-inventing the wheel. This White House was certain that if Iran was approached with a proper attitude and by anyone other than George Bush, the Iranians would whole heartedly change their point of view and adopt the US stand on how to develop their nuclear technology.
George Bush has been seen by the current president the American electorate as the resounding cause for the Iranian rejection of the United States' world view. It was assumed - however presumptively, egotistically and, alas, erroneously, that the new president, i.e. Barack Obama would be able to bring Iran around to the American point of view.
That did not happen.
Now, after the fact, the present administration will argue that they were always skeptical of Iran. But public proclamations and overt actions prove otherwise. In truth, the Obama administration simply started from the beginning and did much of what the Bush Administration had done. And the result is that the Obama administration has brought the US/Iran relationship right back to where it was ... just 20 months later.
The mistake that both administrations have been making is in thinking that the problem lies between our current administration (whoever that may be) and current Iranian leadership. No one has bothered to take a historical look at Iran. No one has thought to study or analyze Iranians and their history of reactions to change. Had anyone spent the time they would have concluded that there is no way that Iran could have been convinced that the Obama administration is any different than the Bush Administration.
Iranians have not changed and will not change because the Iranians do not change. Is that outside-the-box thinking, well then excuse me, please.
The metaphor of "reinventing the wheel" is so powerful and so appropriate for this analysis. The wheel is the archetype of human ingenuity. It is one of the earliest of all inventions and is the foundation point of nearly all subsequent inventions. The wheel has enabled man to take giant strides forward. Re-inventing the wheel, is, literally and figuratively a step backwards.
The problem is not unique to the arrogance of the United States vis a vis Iran. Turkey, too, has fallen into the diplomatic trap of assuming they can re-invent the Iranian wheel.
Turkey and Brazil sponsored a deal with Iran to export Iranian uranium to Turkey and, in return, Turkey receives 19.6% enriched uranium. According to the way the Turkish government thinks, this deal will push everyone back from the brink of war. In exchange for the deal Turkey and Brazil, who both sit on the United Nations Security Council, promised to vote with Iran against the new 4th set of international sanctions against them.
From the point of view of the Turks this was a perfect win, a spectacular negotiating feat. They are now positioned as major players in the world and their philosophy that the West cannot conceptually deal with Iran has been legitimized.
But - and it's a big but, when Turkey recently asked Iran to commence their detailed discussion of the agreement as was promised Iran said "not now maybe at the end of the summer." Now Turkey is livid. They sided with Iran and went to bat for Iran and now Iran has not changed their stance at all despite all the promises and the agreements.
Turkey should have known better. The United States should know better. Iran develops strategies that help Iran. Iran does not change.